The subtle art of small talk
This article will come into practice the next time you are in a networking event, someone asks you how you are, you need to answer a person starting up a spontaneous conversation with you, and when you are aiming to build rapport with anyone.
This question often comes up in the Empire Life Female Founders Club, the members asking, how to make small talk successfully.
When we are hyper focused on our goals for the day, our companies, supporting others in their companies, our families, and future advancements it is often challenging to muster up an answer about, for example, ‘the weather’, a ‘sports team,’ or a ‘celebrity relationship’ in a spontaneous conversation.
THIS IS WHAT YOU MIGHT BE THINKING RIGHT NOW
Our Female Founders Club Members and Facebook Group Members have relayed information to us on exactly how they view small talk. They strongly requested we write and publish this blog article.
You may feel that small talk is a waste of time and prefer to talk about deeper topics. Imagine conversations as the small talk is the building foundation, eventually then the house. We need to first build upon the ease of connection and getting to know someone before launching into deeper topics.
When someone you barely know, asks you about the weather, such as saying something along the lines of, “Wow, it’s a crazy day outside today, huh?”
You might be thinking in your head, ‘What? I don’t really care about the weather. I care about the state and health of the Earth, innocent people dying, women finding support in abusive unhealthy relationships, my company reaching it’s financial goals this quarter, my current workout goals, supporting more people in their businesses, and improving my skills…’
You also may feel and be thinking, oh no, why is this person asking me this, ‘I’m not good at small talk.’
I used to feel the same way too.
I used to tell people exactly this, ‘I am not a person who enjoys small talk, I’m not interested in small talk, or small talk is just not for me!’
I have said all of these at some point.
What we often do not realize is when we say these above we are also dismissing the opportunity to connect, to be vulnerable, and to listen to something I was not interested in.
While you may not care about what this person is asking you in the moment, as long as the person is not a threat, or super creepy, we are capable to utilize the small talk as an opportunity for more connection.
As humans we need connection.
We are deprived of connection in today’s world.
We are missing connection in our lives, with most of us being on our computers or phones for hours in the day.
Personal connection has become stark.
Vulnerability has become rare and truly listening to someone, being seen and heard by another person is a gift.
As it states in the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” people love talking about themselves and they love to be called by their names.
Imagine if we took this opportunity to learn someone’s name, ask them about themselves, and then truly practice active listening.
We will have made a new connection, who most likely will help us if needed, later.
Now you might be thinking, and I’ve heard this from our members, ‘I’ll never see this person again, what if I don’t ever talk to this person, I don’t need anything from that person…’
I’m here to say from experience, ‘Yes you do, and even if you don’t see this person again, it is an opportunity to connect. We will often be surprised where connection leads us and how it opens doors we didn’t know existed until we were in that particular conversation.’
SMALL TALK OFTEN LEADS TO CONNECTION
There is a great method to focus on drawing a person out in the small talk. First focus on the shared reality, such as saying, “Have you been enjoying this gym?” or “What’s your favorite class here?”
Then focus on sharing something about yourself to help the other person feel at ease, such as, “Oh you like that class, I have yet to try it, need to try that one, I love the spin class on Tuesday with Sharon.”
After this focus on asking follow up questions, such as, “Which instructor is your favorite, what time does he/she teach?”
About three years ago before I hosted our first Empire Life events. Empire Life is a tech and digital marketing company supporting entrepreneurs in scaling massively impactful online empires. When I got home it came to me that I desired to go to an entrepreneur event, I needed to connect, get outside for a bit. I then logged onto Eventbrite, searched the area for events, saw one stating it was for entrepreneurs, and I got ready and went. When I arrived at the event, I then realized it was for real estate agents, and real estate investors. I thought to myself, ‘Ok, maybe one day this can come in handy.’
In one of the intermissions of the event I was walking around, not knowing anyone, eating some snacks, and a lady stopped to talk to me. She introduced herself, she was (*shockingly*) in real estate, everyone at the event was mostly, I started talking about the event space.
I said, “This event space is nice, and I’m liking the snacks, you know what, I had no idea this event was for real estate agents, I saw entrepreneur on the event listing & came on over! You know what, I’m finding the speakers super interesting even though I know almost nothing about this topic…I find it inspiring how someone can put this event together, what a great space, and a great turn out! How are you liking it so far?”
She smiled and said, “Oh!! I’m the organizer of this event!”
I said, “Wow cool! You know I have been wanting to organize an event and I have felt intimidated too! I have felt, ‘can I do this, will people com?’ I admire you organizing this, and tons of people are here and great speakers, great job!”
She said, “Yes, I thought the same thing a few years ago, I would love to give you open access to our meetup groups to post your events there, we already have thousands of members in both groups. How does that sound?”
I said, “Wow, yes, will love that!”
She said, as she was making a smooth transition to greet more guests, “Ok, awesome, yes, this is awesome, please send me a message to this email (as she hands me her card) and we’ll get you added as an admin. It was so great to connect with you, Allison, you’re going to do great things.”
After you have established moving up the ladder of small talk to eventually deeper topics, make sure to have phrases for a clean smooth transition.
Recently I was at the gym and as my daughter and I were leaving about four people along the way stopped to talk to me.
She replied, “Mom, wow, it seems you know everyone here.”
However, every person felt seen, heard, and acknowledged in our conversations.
Some phrases to say when you need to make a smooth transitions are, “Guys, time to get to it, have a great night everyone,” as you stand up and leave an area after talking with a group of people.
Another phrase to utilize when talking with one person is, “It was great to see you, need to get going to cook dinner, have a great rest of your day!”
What not to do, is to cut the conversation short because you see someone else you need to talk too.
If this is needed say something along the lines of, “Oh my, I need go ask them something, sorry to cut this short, it was great seeing you, see you soon! (as you leave quickly)”
Then speedily catch up with the other person you need to talk too.
When we aide smooth transitions it allows everyone to feel heard, seen, and acknowledged.
Active listening is, by definition, being truly engaged, while doing nothing else. Fully tuning into the person talking, without immediately interjecting your feedback, opinion, or thoughts, unless asked. Giving the person the space to fully finish their thoughts and express themselves.
HOW TO GET IN TOUCH
“Active listening is, by definition, being truly engaged, while doing nothing else.”
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