I was always a very direct and to the point. As a young person, I thought that small talk was for small people with no ambition. I was going into business - where facts and figures are important. I had a great memory for these things and thought I could build a logical case to support what I wanted, so who needed small talk?
- When I was about to launch into the market with my MBA, a career counselor told me that small talk is what allows you to make a personal connection your interviewer so that you can do business. My first interview was two days before Thanksgiving. My interviewer and I started by talking about our favorite Thanksgiving foods and the interview went well. An offer arrived the following week.
- Throughout my career, I have found that when I’ve rushed in and gotten straight to the point withpeople that weren’t on the same page as me, results haven’t always been as good as I would like. When I have taken the time to start the conversation on a personal note, and built that personal connection, meetings have been more successful.
When we meet someone or talk to someone who may have different interests than we have, they don’t always come to the table disposed to trust what we have to say. In fact, their inclination is probably not to trust us. Effective small talk establishes that personal connection that tells our brains that the person that we’re talking to is a friend rather than a foe. Once we believe that we’re talking to someone with whom we have a connection, we’re more receptive to what they have to say.
As an introvert, small talk didn’t come easily to me. Here are some suggestions:
- If you know something about the person you’re meeting, you might ask about recent news relating to that interest or hobby. If you don’t know the person, checking out their profile on LinkedIn can be a way of seeing what you might have in common.
- Clothing can sometimes be a good place to start. Asking about a piece of jewelry or an accessory that your counterpart may be wearing could get things started. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright wore interesting brooches in part as conversation starters.
- Of course, there is always the weather, their weekend or plans for the upcoming holiday, but a good conversation starter is an open ended question that requires more than a yes or no response. Open ended questions start with how or why.
For some of us conversations with people that we don’t know well require effort, but the results are worth the investment. In addition, we get to know others better which is good for everyone.
QUESTION: How do you get the conversation started?
Leadership/Career Coach Kris Ishibashi works with leaders to bring together their skills, their authentic selves, and their intentions to inspire their organizations to superior performance. Click here to set up a complimentary consultation.