I Hate Small Talk

23 Oct I Hate Small Talk

Is small talk really so small? Chitchat about unimportant matters provides warm-up time for more meaningful interaction. During small talk, shifts in several dimensions of interaction can occur-from discomfort to comfort, mistrust to trust, im­personal topics to personal ones. Then talkers turn to their real business.

Jay, an intense engineer who wanted to meet his soulmate, refused to make small talk. He insisted, “I like to walk up to a woman and say, ‘I’ve been divorced three times, and I finally know myself well enough to sustain a close relationship.'” Unfortunately, he turned off more women than he turned on with his direct approach.

How to Make Your Peace With Small Talk

  1. Appreciate small talk as a normal, necessary stage before a more meaningful exchange. Without small talk your style of interaction will seem rude or cold.
  2. Use small talk time to convey warmth and interest in your conversational partner. The content of what you are saying matters little. If someone makes an inane remark, it’s fine to make an equally insipid comment to get the dance of conversa­tion going. Make eye contact, wear a warm, involved expres­sion, and nod your head to show interest.
  3. After introductions, think about what you have in com­mon with the other person to decide what to say. You will even have certain things in common with strangers. At a beach party, for example, there are the physical surroundings, the host and guests, the food, the music, and yes, the weather. Try a simple comment:

“Incredible day!”

“Have some avocado dip-it’s scrumptious.”

or  a question:

“Who’s winning in volleyball?”

“Are you another longtime friend of Patsy’s?”

4.  The small-talk phase is usually short. In business there should be a maximum of five minutes before getting to your real purpose. Allow the same amount of time in social situa­tions before turning to the really interesting stuff. Whenever you’re feeling frustrated with the degree of small talk, use a transition such as:

“So what exactly is your role at ZYX?”

“I’m really glad you invited me here to discuss your marketing plan.”

(You wouldn’t normally make such comments first thing.)

Remember: Don’t worry about being clever. Just enter into the game of conversation, starting with the little moves necessary to get the game rolling smoothly.

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Laurie Schloff
laurie@speechimprovement.com