Small talk may seem trivial but it is the first of all action you can take to start a relationship. It can be with your future friends, colleagues, bosses. The small talk is used as the first impression in any relationship you will develop.
While in the corporate world, small talks are constantly used, sometimes over-used they are necessary to break the ice in any conversation. From the outside the small talk could look superficial but in reality, it is the bridge to get deeper.
If not well done, the small talk will be the only talk you will have with someone and will define that relationship with that person.
Even if you try hard, with some people you will have a hard time to pass over this small talk relationship. In any case, what you need is trying because you never know where beforehand where this relationship will bring you.
How do you kick off your small talk? What are the elements that make a small talk great? What should you do to enable the small talk and most importantly what are the little things that will help you to move your conversation from small talk to trusted relationships.
Hi Jeff, how are you? You seem quite happy today, is the sun shining where you sit? Absolutely, weather is amazing today and it is already Thursday, the week-end is just around the corner.
How does this small talk sound to you?
I bet it sounds ok but not very engaging, right? let’s see together how you can add up to this small talk so it does not seem boring.
The first point overall, in a small talk is the asking question part. Avoid directly speaking about you and telling a story if you have not met the person before. The most typical questions in small talk are: How are you today? How was your day?
One way to make sure your opening is successful is to keep your questions open, so the person can respond by something else than just a Yes or a No.
Another reason you want to keep it open is because it will help you bounce back on other information the person will tell you from the answer. For instance, I am doing fine and I have had a great day so far, going back from meeting to meeting but very nice outcome today. What about you?
Listen to the response & bounce back
This part is very important; what makes a small talk superficial is when people stop there; the answer should be listened to and as the time allows it; ask another question based on the additional information the person shared with you. For instance, I am glad to hear you have had a good day and most importantly great outcome, it feels very good those days where things move forward. I have got positive news just today as well. I will be presenting in our next all employees meeting; this makes me glad, I'll be able to try out my presentation skills.
There are many angles you can take to bounce back in a small talk, but what really matters here is that you care about what the other person says and continue the conversation. The worst thing for small talk when you want to make it engaging is when the person jumps to another topic or stops the conversation there. It feels very uncomfortable.
Emphasize your body language
Additionally to asking open questions, listening and bouncing back in a small talk. Use your body language to show interest in the conversation. Even if you are on the phone; the way you stand will be felt through your voice. Control your body language and smile even. People love to talk with others who care and are genuine, your body language translates all of those.
Small talk can take so many directions, small talk is actually a powerful tool to know someone better and gets a feel on how you could develop the relationship. Very often the small talk defines the type of person you are, and as mentioned in the introduction it will also tell you if your relationship with the person will go further or not. Even in the corporate world; where networking is the center of efficiency, your small talk will be your open doors to connect and create relationship.
Share about yourself
Another important engaging element in small talk is also for you to reveal some information about you so the person can also know you better. Relationships are never one way. When you are asking the questions and the person shares a story or information with you, you can bounce back another time by sharing a connecting story to what the person is saying.
For instance when the person speaks about the back to back meeting and the almost coming week-end, you can say something like: “yes indeed, week-end is just around the corner and I am planning a little week-end with my best friend, in Bruxelles, this year has been so intense we had no time to catch up since then.”
Eventually the person will respond to you giving you tips about what to visit in Bruxelles.
Keep it positive
Once again small talk can take so many directions if you listen carefully and ask open questions but one last important thing, small talk should not jump straight away into very deep conversation, try to keep it light and nice. By switching to very deep conversation, for example starting complaining or raising concern, it sets a different energy. It can also remove the positive effect that a small talk should have in order to help the relationship move forward.
To have efficient small talks, practice open questions, listen carefully, share story about yourself and keep the talk positive.