It’s December – the holiday season! Through the next several weeks, you will find yourself invited to holiday work celebrations. Filled with small talk, cocktail chatter, kibitzing – it’s the communication staple of parties and of networking. Many clients confess that they are not very good at this type of interpersonal communication so they end up either avoiding it completely, eating and drinking more so they are unable to contribute, talking on and on about things that hold no interest for anyone , or making as sales pitch as soon as they are introduced.
Shooting the breeze EFFECTIVELY is strategic and focused. You can use small talk to help develop an existing relationship, create and strengthen new relationships, obtain leverage to help secure support informally, or simply make your professional relationships more pleasant.
If you enjoy the art of conversation, it is probably because you like learning about others. But many people enjoy the sound of their own voice and hearing themselves talk! Not that there is anything wrong with that – but if you want to harness the power of small talk and enhance your relationships, improve the work environment, or just have a more enjoyable time at the holiday work celebration, you will have to give up listening to yourself and begin learning about others.
Reduce the amount of declarative sentences you speak and increase the number of questions you ask. Shift from “Hey Mike! I just saw the new Star Wars movie over the weekend,” to “Mike! Do you like movies?”
You already know what you like and don’t like. Rather than use up valuable air time repeating what you already know, use small talk to learn something new. If knowledge is power then the more you know about Mike, the stronger your basis for communication with him.
Small talk allows you to learn the wants, needs, goals, desires, thoughts and hot buttons of the people with who you work, and those with whom you want to work. The more you know about these folks, the more effectively you can communicate with them.
It is to your advantage to appeal to the self interest of others and small talk is the vehicle that can help you learn about their self interest.