If You Hate Small Talk Read This
Small talk creates advantage.
You harm yourself, limit opportunities, and frustrate your career when you avoid polite conversations.
Who enjoys more opportunity? The person who avoids people or the person who gets to know people?
4 reasons small talk is a big deal:
#1. Healthy relationships are never all business.
Very happy people tend to be highly social. Unhappy people have social relationships that are significantly worse than average.
Social relationships are not sufficient in themselves to produce high levels of happiness, but they are an essential ingredient. Diener and Seligman
#2. Thin social connection comes before deep trust.
We get to know people before we trust them.
#3. Collaboration includes chitchat.
We collaborate with people we know. Laughing together over lunch is one way we get to know people.
#4. Lighthearted conversation sets a positive tone.
A kind word and a smile say you care. We let people know we care about them in casual ways.
5 steps to successful small talk:
#1. Show up with a plan.
Planned spontaneity is better than winging it.
- Reflect on ways to put others at ease.
- Determine the goal of casual conversations.
- Show up with a set of questions.
#2. Deal with discomfort by turning outward instead of inward.
Dwelling on yourself shrinks your world. Small talk expands it. (Potentially)
#3. Talk to yourself in helpful ways.
Tell yourself ‘you can’ when your inner critic says ‘you can’t’.
#4. Show up with a set of questions.
- What do you do? How did you get interested in that?
- Where do you live? What was your hometown like?
- What place would you love to visit?
#5. Share a bit of yourself.
You’re nosy if you only ask questions.
Bonus: Give yourself an exit strategy. “Great to meet you. Please excuse me, I want to greet some other people.”
What small-talk-tips can you add?
Still curious: Please Stop Talking about Work for 10 Minutes
Great blog. I like your 5 steps to successful small talk.
Thanks Paul. Cheers!
As a an executive recruiter who struggles with small talk (haha, yes I know), I needed to hear this.
I am driven more by intellectual depth and some days 15 conversations starting with talking about the current temperature makes my head want to explode 🙂
Showing up with a set of questions is helpful. I try to ask things about recent challenges, successes, what they are excited about right now, and their families.
There are indeed ways to have small talk outside of weather. Great stuff as always, Dan.
I’m with you, Rich. I’m uncomfortable with small talk. Your suggestions to get beyond the weather are helpful. One of my favorites, “What are you excited about?” I wish you success.
I hate small talk, but I understand how not engaging in it limits opportunity. This is a good guide to keeping breaking the ice.
Thanks, Chuck. I think it’s worth the effort. Steady on!
EXCELLENT POST! My wife is the master of small talk. Everywhere she goes she manages a conversation. I usually have to force myself; mostly because of previous experience and level of awareness.
For us introverts, it’s not the small talk it’s self but getting the ball rolling. It’s hard to engage in small talk when your first inclination when walking into a room is finding the spot farthest away from another human.
“Talk less. Smile more.” Aaron Burr to Alexander Hamilton.
Small talk is facilitated by smiles and questions. Smiles, you’re approachable, not closed. Questions, you’re curious, not judgmental.
I encourage you to read Susan Cain’s book called Quiet:The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. It will help you to understand the biases toward introverts that you have.
Its amazing what can be learned from small talk and you neve know who you are having that little chat with. It could surprise you.