Does the thought of small talk make your blood pressure rise? Whether it’s from annoyance or fear, this is a common reaction. However, mastering the art of polite conversation about unimportant or uncontroversial matters (as defined by Oxford Dictionaries) is an important part of succeeding in the business world.
How can you turn small talk into big opportunities?
- Pay Attention to Your Surroundings: Does your company’s CEO have memorabilia from a baseball team in his office? He’s probably a fan. When you share an elevator ride with him, that’s a good topic to bring up. Note what your co-workers display in their work areas; these items are usually important to them and make excellent conversation starters.
- Listen: We’ve talked before about the importance of listening, but we can’t stress its benefits enough. Be present in a conversation. Don’t spend the time someone else is talking forming your response; listen to what she’s saying. It could be interesting, it could be useful and it could even lead to an opportunity. Perhaps Sally in accounting or a fellow business professional at an event has a connection to a job opportunity you’re eyeing or with a company you’d like to bring on as a customer.
- Have a Conversation, Don’t Pitch: You’re heading out after a long day, and the CEO happens to be heading out at the same time. Be friendly, say hello and put your aforementioned knowledge of his favorite baseball team to use. Don’t spring your great idea on him as he’s heading to the parking lot. Use chance meetings or opportunities to say hello and build rapport. You’re more likely to be given a platform for your ideas if the right people know who you are and what value you bring to the company. Aggressively cornering them at the Holiday party isn’t the right way to make that happen.
- Help Others First: Influential people, online or in real life, are used to being asked for favors by people they don’t even know. Be different: offer to help people in your network when you can. Be genuine, show interest and care about other people. Don’t offer to help someone only to expect something in return, or only offer assistance to those in a position to help you. We live in a global, mobile world today, so you never know when you’ll need someone’s help later on — like Sally in accounting.
Related reading: How to turn small talk into smart conversation
Start viewing small talk as an opportunity to get to know others around you instead of a waste of time, and you may be surprised at the results. Remember to pay attention to your surroundings, listen, be conversational and help others first. Your efforts will pay off in the long run in business and in life.
What small talk tips would you add?
Do you enjoy networking events?
A converted networker,