Monday, April 25, 2011

Turning Small Talk into a Conversation

Let's face it, few of us can truly say that we enjoy making small talk. It may be a necessary part of the meet-and-greet process, but most of us are simply biding our time until we can get to the 'real' content, the business dialogue. However, much of the success of that business dialogue rests with how well you manage to connect with the other party...while making small talk!

Although there are a number of tips and techniques to help make those magical first moments work for you, one overlooked element revolves around the small talk itself. Most people make the mistake of allowing the conversation to remain light and superficial... how was the drive, how is the weather, how are you feeling... You get it! However, you both want and need to have the opportunity to show interest in the other party as a person, to get to know more about them and what matters to them. In order to do this you must shift the small talk from a dialogue like any other they have had when first meeting someone, to a conversation more reminiscent of one they would have with a friend. This then, in turn, leads their brain to believe that you too much be a friend. And...don't we all prefer working with people we like?

To get this edge, employ a technique that I refer to as 'clicking'. When reading articles on the Internet, we have the ability to 'click' on different words embedded within the content of the article that allow us to go deeper into that subject. In doing so, we gain deeper and richer information about that word or concept.

Consider doing the same while in conversation with someone. When listening to them, mentally 'click' on a word or phrase they used and formulate a follow-up question around it. Asking these questions provides you with a number of benefits...

  • It allows you to go a level below the original superficial statement.
  • The other party now has to begin thinking, which means they have now become engaged in the process of speaking with you. It forces them to become present to the conversation.
  • You demonstrate to them that you were listening to what they had to say. This shows respect.
  • By 'clicking' on a comment of theirs you are showing your interest in their thoughts and what they have to say. Showing interest in them makes you appear more interesting in turn.
  • When you shift to the 'business' portion of your conversation you will already be conversing at a deeper level, and will be more likely to experience a greater degree of openness and rapport in that dialogue immediately.
Give it a try.  You may find that 'clicking' on an element of their content allows you both to 'click' more fully.

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