|Small talk central at an SB tweetup|
Friend: Am I to understand from your blog that, "What did you think about last night's city council appointment?" is not a good icebreaker?
Me: Yes, that's typically not good party conversation. :-)
Friend: Life is not worth the small talk. Saying things like "Which dessert will you have?" just KILLS me.
Me: Small talk leads to bigger talk. You have to start somewhere, and not everyone is comfortable digging deep in the first five minutes they meet you.
Friend: But then again, that's why I'm a little awkward.
Me: Exactly, re: awkward. Believe me, I used to have the same attitude about small talk, and to some degree I still do. But IT'S NOT ABOUT YOU.
Readers of this blog have heard this from me before: It's not about you. And the point I was trying to make with my friend was that, it doesn't matter if small talk makes you uncomfortable or if you think it's pointless. In a networking or other social situation (if you don't want to alienate everyone you talk to), it's your responsibility to make the OTHER person comfortable.
Last night I held the first session of my six-week group coaching program. As the group members went around the table introducing themselves, one person's comment about small talk resonated with me.
Once again, here was someone uncomfortable with small talk (really, aren't we all?). But her attitude was about overcoming this discomfort. She said, "I want to care about small talk."
This is what small talk is all about, and it's simple: caring about another person, their dogs, their kids, their life. It's about showing interest in another person, and putting aside your own need -- for the moment, at least -- to be the center of attention, to demonstrate your cleverness or intellect, or to declare your opinions and beliefs.
Small talk is like dipping your toe into the pool, not jumping right into the deep end. It's like jogging around the track one or two times before you start your intense workout. And there's a good reason for it.
Debra Fine, in her book, The Fine Art of Small Talk: How To Start a Conversation, Keep It Going, Build Networking Skills -- and Leave a Positive Impression!, says:
"Small talk has a bad rap as the lowly stepchild of real conversation, yet it serves an extremely important function. Without it, you rarely get to the real conversation. Small talk is the icebreaker that clears the way for more intimate conversation, laying the foundation for a stronger relationship. People who excel at small talk are experts at making others feel included, valued and comfortable. And that goes a long way toward furthering a business relationship, closing a deal, opening the door for romance, or making a friend."
If you want to get better at small talk and reduce your discomfort, read my tips in the article mentioned above, or get Debra Fine's book. And understand that, if you want to build personal and business relationships, small talk is a necessary part of that process. It's the best (and only) shortcut to deeper, more meaningful, discourse.