I have the opposite problem that you have - I find it difficult to make small talk with other Westerners and I get bored and say nothing most of the time. Thankfully, I’m too old to worry about it and it’s fine with me! However, I have done fairly well with conversation classes with Taiwanese adults.
It took me a few years to figure this out in a fundamental way, but generally speaking, it seems that most adults in Taiwan had a “teacher talks/students listen” education. For every subject, including English. Most students were/are punished (in one way or another) for making mistakes and the adults are especially aware of and concerned about losing face by making any mistake at all. Most students are (at first) afraid to talk or voice any opinion that has not been pre-approved by consensus. At least, that’s what I saw happening when things were not working in my classes before. I figured that most students were more comfortable memorizing vocabulary than just saying a few of their own words!
So, I had to find my own way. And I’m aware that I’m possibly breaking a cultural practice/attitude. I treat this seriously, and it could be a whole other essay to describe the thought that went into this decision, but …
With permission and awareness from my superiors (after explaining that, as a foreign teacher, I think it is acceptable to make mistakes when under pressure to speak spontaneously) I explain to students, that if they try, it is better to make some mistakes than to say nothing. I spend more than a few minutes on this (with both superiors and students). At first, I won’t correct too much. I just want them to say anything! And, I am genuinely interested in hearing how they try to put English words to their thoughts, so I like to get them to just blurt out things if they want to. There’s a bit of discretion involved too. I have a very informal approach that needs a bit of time, acceptance and permission, but my “approval rating” from ex-students (and most, but not all, superiors) keeps me happy and employed.
One of my first lessons is to tell students to never say, “I am sorry, my English is so bad.” Why? blah, blah, blah … If they are quiet, I speak some of my badly enunciated and mangled Chinese to them. I’m still the teacher, but I’m not too proud to admit my Chinese is horrible. That usually breaks the ice (no matter how long I’ve taught them). I then (naively) ask them why my Chinese is so bad: but, they have to answer me in English! And then I/we maybe can get going. I don’t find it demeaning at all if I have to do a little bit of a Mr Bean act. I guess I’m a bit of a wannabee stand-up comedian. Here in an adult conversation class, I know I’m playing to an easy crowd compared to a roomful of drunken hecklers! I wonder what they’re thinking of me and I think it out loud. That further breaks the ice. I try to make it clear that (at least for now) I’m not there to judge them, assess them or tell them their English is bad. I’m there to help them progress. (A point I try to stress with my superiors if they question my attitude.)
I teach them “Hi! What’s happening?” or “Hey! What’s new?” as an open-ended greeting until they freely suggest a topic of their interest. Hard the first time, but it gets better quickly. I love it when (finally) a student is so excited to tell me something, I don’t even have time to say anything! That takes a little time, though.
Any coursebook I have used always has something in it that let’s me go off on an interesting (to me and to the students) tangent. Even the most basic stuff! I role-play talking to myself, imaginary introductions, job interviews, funny social encounters, unique experiences in Taiwan … and I watch them for a reaction … cause timing is everything! Do some more maybe, or, I shut up.
Their turn to talk!