The Power of Small Talk
As an executive coach, I have often witnessed companies withholding promotions from individuals who cannot relate to others on a personal level.
The smart and the savvy know a conversation that starts as simply as a comment about the weather can be the beginning of a great friendship, a creative collaboration or a lucrative contract. Those who proudly proclaim, “I don’t do small talk,” are missing out on a world of opportunity. The true benefit of small talk is that it leads to big talk. Like anything, you first have to commit to investing the time and effort.
If you have you ever found yourself tongue tied at a networking event or new client meeting, join the human race. We’ve all been there. Here are some techniques to help you.
Adopt the likeability factor. Likeability is simply helping others feel good about themselves when they are with you. Try treating others like they are a guest at your party and you are honored to have them attend.
Weather the first five minutes. Five minutes is a generous estimate of how much time you have to make a connection with someone before they start looking around for the bar, or even the exit.
Embrace an attitude of genuine curiosity. Next time you find yourself in a conversation with a new customer, acquaintance or stranger, try engaging them genuinely with a few curious questions –to get to know a person. Remember, start small. Then use open ended questions. That allows you both to continue the dialogue.
Listen with genuine interest. Focus on the person and what they are saying. Use your eyes to reflect sincere interest; make them steady, sincere and warm.
Use the technique of paraphrasing. After you ask that curious question, paraphrase the other person’s response back to them. Not only will this ensure you understood them correctly, it shows them that you are truly engaged.
Find common ground. The ultimate goal of small talk in any situation is to establish common ground. No matter how different from you anyone seems, there is always a way to connect. Sometimes the tiniest twig of commonality can begin a fruitful relationship because people like people like themselves.
Lend a helping hand. When appropriate, you could offer to send along some information or make an introduction. This establishes you as someone who is interested in his or her success.
So, my friends, I encourage you to get out there, physically, into the world of opportunity. Blackberrys, iPhones and iPads can never replace a handshake, a warm embrace or an inviting smile. They are powerful tools, but they are not a substitute for human conversation over lunch. At least I haven’t yet heard my BlackBerry ask to pay my bill!