Why Small Talk is Critical to Success
Small talk has been proven to be more of a success factor in business and at work than education or background. It is a key factor in achieving success at work, job interviews, social situations and personal relationships. In this article, we reveal the number one crucial step in successful small talk. Do this and you can throw all the books and lessons and coaching out the window as you will always be in control of any conversation. After discussing this crucial technique, we talk about how to apply it beginning with small talk tips, moving on to some practical conversation starters, appropriate body language, and then discussing small talk in business situations. Lastly, we conclude with several small talk no-no’s—things you should never do when engaging someone in conversation for the first time.
Why Small Talk Feels like a Chore, But Shouldn’t
Despite its importance, for many of us, small talk is a chore or source of severe anxiety, and fear of it needlessly holds us back. Perhaps it is the term “small talk” itself that is misleading. People think it means mundane, pointless conversation and who wants to engage in that? In reality, there is nothing small about small talk – it is all about connecting with another person under any circumstances. Even a person who is a complete introvert can make conversation appear very natural.
The Secret to Small Talk Demystified
Let us first demystify small talk by revealing what it is and why it is important. For example, when on a job interview, whoever is doing the least amount of talking is actually the one in control. If you find yourself talking excessively during an interview, you will likely get confused, ramble, bore your potential employers and so forth. Answer quickly and follow up every answer with a question. Same thing applies to conversations!
A friend once gave me valuable advice after she watched me in a few conversations. She noticed I was always answering questions, letting the other person dictate the topic and terms and I didn’t ask questions back. (Mostly it was because I wasn’t really interested in the person, and I thought asking questions would lead them on in a sense. On the contrary, what actually was happening was that I was revealing quite a lot about myself and completely off balance in the conversation.) The one piece of advice she gave me was useful and I had to get comfortable with it—if someone, a stranger, asks you a question, don’t answer. Don’t feel compelled to answer. Turn around and ask them the same question. You don’t owe them an explanation, if they say I asked you first (kind of childish of them!) you can shrug or say they must have an interesting answer to that question for them to be asking you. Whatever it takes, get them to answer first, then ask them another question!
And there you have it. Asking questions is the number one key to successful small talk. To engage with another person, be the one asking the questions and you will be fine. Even if you forget all the tips and topics and strategies to help you get through initial conversations, just remember that one. You won’t feel put on the spot and you will control the conversation. Now, if you are wondering what kind of questions do you ask in various situations or what simple steps you could take to ensure you are never without something to say in any situation, then check out our Nine Successful Small Talk Tips for Every Situation, Ten Small Talk Conversation Starters.