Ask the grumpies: How do you make small-talk?

Leah asks:

Do you have any techniques for keeping conversation going without being overly personal or monopolizing the conversation? What do you do when chatting with really quiet people?

#1  A lot of this is going to vary by region of the country (or world, even!).  It’s polite to ask extremely intrusive questions in Los Angeles, for example, but you should MYOB about so many things in the Midwest.  Where you are will also determine if you volunteer information or ask direct questions.

We LOVE LOVE LOVE talking about the weather, like any true midwesterner!

#2:  We’re so introverted. I hate small talk. If people are really quiet, I leave them alone. I guess you could ask about books or movies, or comment on the weather? If you wanted?

#1:  My ability to keep conversation going has a lot to do with how much of my own introvert energy I’ve depleted.  One good thing to do is if someone asks you a question, to mirror it back to them after you’ve briefly answered it.  “So, what about you, [repeat question]?”  People seem to like that.  I will often leave really quiet people alone too, because when I’m really quiet it’s usually because I want to be alone or to just listen.  I may try a polite question/comment about the weather in case it’s just that they don’t know anybody, but if that ends up as a dead end, I’ll take the clue and move on.

How does the Grumpy Nation keep up civilized discourse?