By Rose Murdock – More on using language to cultivate self-confidence. Here we discuss the art of small talk and becoming a welcome guest who always knows how to handle herself among strangers.
The art of small talk
Small talk is essential for big talk – every relationship starts with a conversation. As John C Maxwell says in his book Everyone communicates, few connect (which is listed in our library as a recommended read), the art of conversation is to connect with others, not just to communicate with them.
The fact is that conversation is not a talent, it is an acquired skill that can be learned.
There are several steps to get into a conversation when networking among strangers.
- Get the conversation started. Making a comment lets others know that you are willing to talk.
- Say something about yourself, even if it’s just to give your name and the context for you being there. This gives others something to build on and creates flow.
- Prepare an opening line that will break the ice when you’re meeting new people. If you’re not prepared you may well end up talking about the weather!
- Throw out a topic, even if it’s to ask if anyone else has seen a new movie you enjoyed or read a new book you’re interested in.
- Express interest in the people around you; ask polite questions and be prepared to go where the answers take you.
- If you keep up to date with what’s going on in the world you’ll always have something to say for yourself. Prepare yourself beforehand with relevant current information.
- Exit a conversation by sharing your contact info or offering a business card. If you would like to take a meeting further with someone, it never hurts to say that it was good to meet them and asking if they’d be happy for you to contact them.
Tips for good conversation
- Dramatise the little things
- Use humour
- Lead with light topics that are safe and positive
- Disclose or share something about yourself
- Pay attention, listen, be sincere
- Make eye contact
- Ask questions without getting too personal
Avoid these actions
- Flaunting your opinion
- Dominating the conversation (the 5-minute rule suggests 5 minutes is long enough to hold the floor)
- Topping other people’s stories
- Being autobiographical
- Venting or (worse) moaning
- Saying, “I hope you can spare me a moment?” This is the attitude of a victim. Rather say, “Do you have a moment?”
Avoid these filler phrases
Using phrases like this add nothing and simply sound unprofessional
- You know what I mean. (No, they don’t.)
- Been there done that.
- There you go
- It is what it is.
Avoid personal questions by
Changing the subject, providing only the facts, leaving the conversation, or saying you’re not comfortable with the discussion.
As ever, we’d love your input so do feel free to share it with us.