How to Make Small Talk

Conversational skills are very important in business and in life.  Those who are at ease conversationally have the ability to “connect” with others which builds rapport and, eventually, relationships.  Developing your skills at small talk can be an important step in your professional development and can help you get ahead.

Initiating small talk requires an opening line, one that sounds sincere and lets the other person know you’re interested in talking with them.  Don’t open up with a complaint, make sure what you say has a positive spin.  A genuine compliment about the other person can be an excellent opener.  A comment about a current event can also break the ice, as well as a remark about the event you’re at presently.  “What brought you here this evening?”  “How long have you been involved with this organization?”

The real art in small talk comes in how you keep the conversation flowing.  Good conversationalists don’t monopolize the conversation; they orchestrate it.  So ask a question of the other person and listen intently to their response.  Then elaborate on what they said with comments from your own personal experience and ask another question.  Be sure your questions are open-ended and not the type that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”.  No one wants to feel like they’re being grilled by a reporter, but your goal should always be to be more interested, than interesting.

Subjects to avoid include your health, your love life, gossip, and off-color stories.  The best topics for conversations are sports, books, theater, movies, food, museums and travel.  Good conversationalists are people who keep up with the news and are actively involved in life.  They read, have hobbies, take classes, try new restaurants, and travel.  If you’ve ever found yourself in a conversation where you didn’t have anything interesting to say, it’s time to get off the couch and try something new!

The final step in small talk is the ending.  Your final words should have a positive spin.  Tell them how you’ve enjoyed talking with them, then discuss the next steps you plan to take as a result of speaking with them.  “I’ve really enjoyed talking with you, but I don’t want to monopolize you.  I’ll send you that article when I get back to the office.” Leave a positive final impression with a smile and strong handshake.

Small talk may seem insignificant, but you can gather helpful information when you talk casually with someone.  Start a “mental rolodex” and store the important tidbits you learn about others.  When you see them again at a social gathering or in the elevator at work, you can inquire about their children or their recent travels and make another positive impression.  Intelligence, ambition and expertise will only get you so far.  Charm may be the one quality that gets you the job and promotion.

© 2017 Jill Bremer  All rights reserved.

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