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How To Skip The Small Talk And Connect With Anyone

In All, Communication by Anna PangelinanLeave a Comment

Tedx Talks: Kalina Silverman


Kalina Silverman is a story teller, community creator, and actress/model who is the founder of MIXED and BIG TALK. As a student at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, she discovered her passion for telling stories and listening to people tell theirs. She has traveled the world telling her story and the story of others through Big Talk and she’s been featured in USA Today College, Lifehacker, Right This Minute, Huffington Post, and more. You can find more at her website Kalina Silverman.com

Skip the small talk with Kalina Silverman

Kalina opens up her Ted Talk by asking the audience the following questions:

  • Are any of you going through any sort of personal struggle right now?
  • Do you feel as though you have someone in your life with whom you can share that struggle?
  • Do any of you guys watch Mad Men?

She then describes how alone she felt her freshman year at college and how she felt as though she had no one to share her experiences. She then began interviewing other individuals in college sharing experiences about how lonely they felt that first year in college. After that Kalina joined a sorority, founded a new student organization, and was adjusting well to college, and yet still was feeling alone.

One day, while having a deep and philosophical conversation with her friend, she asked the following question:


“What if, when talking to our friends, co-workers, or even complete strangers, we could skip the small talk, and instead talk about the things that really mattered in life?


This was the seed that started to germinate as “Big Talk”.

skip the small talk make big talk

Travel in Ecuador and Germany

During a 3 week trip in Ecuador for a Journalism course on education reform, she was tasked with asking anyone and everyone questions about education reform. Kalina had the experience of a lifetime and dreaded that fact that she had to move back.

While on another trip to Germany, she was confronted with the question, “What do you want to do before you die?”

When she came back, she combined her desire for serendipity, her wish to create a YouTube channel, and this idea of Big Talk into the following video.

Skip The Small Talk – Make Big Talk

After posting the video to YouTube, a friend of hers from the Huffington Post wrote a story about her, the video, and the idea of “Big Talk”. People all across the world began reaching out to her. They loved the idea of skip the small talk and make Big Talk and wanted to get on board with this idea of Big Talk.

She then took a semester off from school in order to scale Big Talk. Kalina created Big Talk workshops and began traveling across the world in order to share this idea.

She created a deck of mini Big Talk cards and every question had to include the following elements:

Universal – any human could answer it.
Meaningful – though provoking
Open ended – elicits a story (not just yes or no)

make big talk cards

These questions include:

“What do you spend too much time doing?”
“What is a new habit you want to form?”
“What is your biggest fear?”
“When was a time you felt most creative?”

You can find more examples and get your own set of Big Talk questions from her site makebigtalk.com.

She then held Dinners with Strangers and helped people make their own Big Talk questions. After having spent over a year working on Big Talk, Kalina then realized she needed to answer her own Big Talk questions and re-asses her life and why she was doing this.

In assessing her life she came to realize the vision of Big Talk. That vision is:

Use Big Talk to build global empathy through the power of connetion over sharing stories about our universal human experiences.

Conclusion and Thoughts

How can you use Big Talk with the everyday people you meet? How can you ask deeper questions to form more meaningful relationships? How can you skip the small talk with the people you know already to learn more and give more to the people you know?

When you’re with the people in your network, try to ask Big Talk questions. Go deeper than the surface. Take the time to truly learn about your relationships.

Here are some additional Big Talk questions you can ask the people.

1. What do you wish you had more time to do?
2. What do you think you spend too much time doing?
3. What is something new you recently tried and enjoyed?
4. What is one thing you want to accomplish before you die?
5. Can you describe something you achieved that you didn’t think was possible?
6. What gives you hope?
7. What is a new habit you want to take up?
8. What life advice would you offer to your 5 year old self?
9. When did you last cry?
10. What matters to you and why?
11. What holds you back from doing the things you really want to do?
12. What is your greatest accomplishment?
13. What is something you know you do differently than most people?
14. What is your next great adventure?
15. What is one thing that could happen today that would make it great?
16. What inspires you?
17. What does home mean to you?
18. How do you show your love?
19. What scar do you have has the best story?
20. What is your biggest regret?
21. What was your most interesting “thinking along” moment?
22. Where do you feel most free?

We’ve included the video below so you can watch the entire Tedx Talk at your own convenience.


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