Imagine these scenarios…
- Attending a birthday/dinner get together in the larger interest of marital bliss..
- At a conference in a new city in the midst of people you do not know..
- At a training in a room with people who you see every day but have not spoken to..
- In the elevator alone, it stops at a floor mid-way and one of your CXO’s saunters in…
- Waiting to catch a flight and the person next to you smiles, wanting to initiate a conversation…
What do you do next? Apart from checking your phone of course!
Piece of cake… SMALL TALK.
Confession time now…how many of us do this well?
A vast majority of us don’t. Why? Because we feel it is fake and a waste of time. I mean there is only so much you can talk about the weather right?
The benefits of small talk are many fold though. Small talk can help build relationships. It can lead to real opportunities in the business world. It can be an eye opener, listening to other people’s experiences.
So hold does one make these conversations more meaningful?
I believe there are 7 dimensions, which if we pay attention to, can make small talk conversations more meaningful. For ease, I am using the BIG DEAL acronym for these because small talk is a big deal at the end of the day.
Show, through your body language, that you care about what the other person is saying. Eye contact, nodding sincerely, smiling are some ways to depict interest.
Ask open ended questions so that the other person is at comfort that they are talking about something that you are interested in. A simple “What are you looking to learn from this training session” would be much better than “Are you here for the training?”.
Give up distractions
WhatsApp forwards can help solve all the problems of the world, twice over, but they will do nothing for a great conversation. Lose the phone and other distractions when the other person is speaking.
Desist from talking too soon
This is a tough one. As the conversation progresses, give the other person some information to work with so that you don’t come across as hijacking the conversation.
“Oh you like traveling? Me too! I just came back from a vacation from…”..now that is heading nowhere as far as a conversation goes.
Building on what the other person says is great way to move the conversation ahead. Open ended why and how questions are really useful. A “How exciting was your day?” can yield more interesting answers than can move a conversation forward than a mere “How was your day?”
Ask for Advice
Most people love to talk about themselves and their experiences so keep an open mind and ask for advice and you might just learn something incredibly valuable, while keeping the conversation going.
Listen. Listen. Listen. Listen..enuf said
Small talk can be of incredible value. But as with everything, it is simple but not easy. As the old saying goes, you have to wrestle some gators to make gator soup, so conscious practice is the key. Thankfully, whether you are a student or working or in business, there are no dearth of opportunities to engage in small talk and make the most of it.
How do you go about small talk and how have you benefited from it ? Would love to hear from you.