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Small talk is defined as the polite conversation we share with others in impromptu social settings that are light and casual. It’s making conversation for the sake of conversation with another human being or small group. It’s often with people we don’t know, or don’t know well.
In a business setting we make small talk during meetings, conferences, at our office space or in the elevator. At lunch we make small talk with a client or our team; or during an interview with a potential employee or employer. In personal situations we make small talk at dinner parties, at our children’s games or parent conferences, or with the new neighbors. In all aspects of our life we make small talk.
Why? Because it’s anti-social to ignore those around us; as human beings in general we enjoy and crave one another’s company. Small talk is important professionally to connect socially with your colleagues, managers or clients. It can help create a connection with new friendships. It’s a way to discover and learn new things. It’s a way to pass time and it puts others at ease.
Just how do you make small talk? Here are some tips:
- Introduce yourself
- Maintain eye contact
- Have a purpose or an objective
- Ask lots of questions
- Relate an interesting experience or story to the topic at hand
- Talk about safe, trivial subjects
- Stay engaged
- Say things that leave a good impression
- Filter your thoughts
- Be gracious
- Be a good listener
- Take cues from those around you
If it’s uncomfortable for you to make small talk with new people, practice with loved ones or friends, and then practice some more. Soon you’ll be a pro at it.
In our world of downward facing communication via our devices, it’s refreshing and endearing to have a new and enlightening conversation with someone we just met. You just never know the door it may open.