Scientists Bernardo Carducci at Indiana University Southeast says, “Every great romance and each big business deal begins with small talk.” I could not agree more!
If you’ve ever been stuck at the baby shower, or the office holiday party talking about the weather, you know small talk isn’t as easy as the name suggests! Yet it’s the very foundation to what we all need in order to get what we want: relationships!
It doesn’t matter if you’re recruiting volunteers for the next Girl Scouts cookie drive or negotiating a merger, building trust and acceptance begin with the little things: small talk.
Perfecting the fine art of chit-chat – about the weather, movies, culture, books, or industry news – we begin to make a non-familiar relationship more familiar. Familiar people, places and things make us feel safe. When we feel safe and cared about, we tend to relax and listen to whatever someone else is “selling.” You see where I’m going here, right?
If you struggle with small talk, here are some tips to get the balling rolling and create a real conversation:
- On the way to a function, think of three easy conversation openers. Maybe even do research ahead about who will be there and what you might have in common.
- Give the other person a little information. Now, I’m not talking TMI! I’m talking about expending your pitch to include something the other person can work with. If someone asks what you do, don’t simply give your job title – expand on it like, “I’m a writer – specifically, I focus on young adult romance novels,” or “I’m a stay-at-home dad; I’ve got 3 kids under the age of 4,” or “I’m an elementary teacher, but I just got back from an African safari.” Now THAT gives the other person key topics to launch a conversation.
- Ask open-ended questions. People usually like to talk about themselves, their passions or their expertise. Ask them what the biggest change in their industry in the last 10 years, or if they’ve seen a popular play that’s been in town. Ask someone where they got their scarf or necklace or tie!
- Remember that you’re not alone! We tend to get caught up in thinking we are the only one feeling awkward, and it’s our sole responsibility to mingle and make all the small talk – but the other person is focused on how THEY are going to make small talk too!
- Make a goal to find common ground with each person you meet – you’ll not only learn something new in the process, but you’ll realize how big small talk really is!