Friday, March 12, 2010

Making Small Talk

Small talk is a dilemma that isn’t reserved for large events or only with strangers.

We struggle for the balance between small talk and genuine connections. Between selling the services, products and ideas that keep the roof overhead and our desire to just enjoy others.

Traditional approach to small talk is to make it about them – ask the person in front of you questions about who they are, what they like, etc. and appear fascinated by the answers.

Sometimes that works but usually I find it tiresome. It’s hard to believe (when someone does this to me) that anyone could be that absorbed by my life. While I love talking about myself and my kid, I don’t believe you want to hear it – unless you’re my mother :-)

I say let’s make small talk about us, together.

Use the circumstances that brought you together: the speaker’s topic, the food on your plates, etc. There’s a reason you’re both in the room; start there. You don’t have to pretend an interest since you can start with a real one.

It’s not the small things you have in common that build an initial bond - it’s your attitude towards those things. That’s why sharing a laugh or a knowing glance builds a relationship much fast than finding out you both work in Insurance.

Imagine you both speak the same language but different dialects. Small talk allows you to catch each other’s rhythms before trying more complex discussions.

Small talk simply allows you a mechanism to share your humour or perspective and build some credibility before you try to borrow on that credibility.

We’re impatient – wanting folks to trust us and wishing we could skip the interview part of getting to know someone. However, even with good friends, spending the time to talk about the little things and place ourselves in the same emotional or mental space as our companions brings more rewards and deeper connections.

Small talk is more than social lubricant – it’s the human element. You don’t walk up to a friend and launch into a tirade or request or offer (not if you want the friendship to continue :-) It’s equally important not to do this with strangers.

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