Join Tatiana Kolovou for an in-depth discussion in this video Making small talk, part of Communication Tips Weekly.
- You know networking events are good for your career, but is there anything more painful than standing around with a plate full of appetizers in a room full of strangers trying to strike up a conversation? Or sometimes I find myself waiting for a meeting to start with a handful of people and there is that awkward, uncomfortable silence. I was always envious of those people who just seemed to be able to chat it up with anyone anywhere. Then I discovered the most fascinating research study that took the mystery out of small talk.
Making a conversation can get a whole lot easier for you with five simple steps. Let me start by explaining the study. People were asked to come to a certain building to participate in some sort of experiment. But when they arrive, they have to wait for about 15 minutes in a lobby area. Now the secret cameras are rolling and this room is the actual experiment. People who made small talk engaged in a few simple behaviors that we can all emulate.
First, they introduced themselves. All right, we can all do that no matter how shy we are or how painful we find small talk to be. Hi, I'm Brenda, what's your name? Easy. Second, the best conversationlists make fewer context comments than those of us who struggle with small talk. A context comment is discussion about the immediate situation or environment. So people in the waiting room might say, "So I wonder how long this is going to take?" or maybe they comment on the fish tank that is in the waiting room, or the weather.
Weather is always a great icebreaker, but it's only an icebreaker. Conversation will dry up quickly with such superficial topics. So your third step is to introduce a topic of more depth, or better yet, ask people questions that get them talking about themselves. That's a topic a lot of people love to talk about. The study took place on a college campus, so the best conversationalists would say, "What's your major?" or "Did you see the game last night?" You can actually prepare ahead of time by thinking of five or six topics that would be relevant to the context you are in.
Are you at a conference? Talk about the keynote speaker that opened. Or talk about exciting things you've heard to do in that city. In the case of waiting for a meeting to begin, you can chat about interesting local or company news. A quick scan through your news source before the meeting should give you some great ideas for conversational starters. Fourth tip, if a subject of conversation doesn't seem to be going anywhere, introduce a new one. If the person in the lobby said, "No, I didn't see the game.
"I'm not really a sports fan," let it go and introduce another of your topics. Don't try to recycle rejected topics. Finally, as you get people chatting, listen with verbal and nonverbal encouragers. More introverted people tend to listen like this. Extroverts and those who make conversations flow easily listen like this, "Really? Hmm-mm. Hmm." Five easy steps.
Introduce yourself, break the ice with a context comment or two, then introduce a topic with more depth or ask a question, introduce new topics when one is worn out, and listen with verbal and nonverbal encouragers. May your next small talk encounter be your best yet.
- Understanding introversion and extroversion
- Persuading people
- Negotiating your needs
- Making small talk
- Saying no
- And more…
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