Mastering small talk is harder than it looks. When we were interviewing people for a sales job recently, it dawned on me after a few candidates came through that most people had trouble making small talk; that is, carrying on an interesting conversation that had little to do with their job.
I began wondering whether it was because we were so dependent on computers and technology. Had we forgotten the art of small talk? Then along came a more seasoned candidate. Not only did he nail the job interview, but he smoothly moved into small talk, chatting about issues ranging from kids to the economy. It was refreshingly entertaining as he danced across several subjects, easing the tension.
People who can make conversation easily with strangers tend to be more successful, studies show, but where to start? Many of the same speaking tips apply to making small talk: good eye contact, smooth body language and gestures, speak directly and simply, pause and so on. And of course it helps to have something to say, a list of interesting subjects. But there are other factors as well. The author of Never Eat Alone suggests sharing information, opening up and even showing vulnerability--"expose your interests and concerns," he suggests.
The book addresses the so-called Johari Window, which has to do with the level at which people will open up and share. Some people are introverted (think engineers) and more closed; others (think salespeople) are more open, chatty and sharing. The idea is to be aware of the different styles and adapt to who you're interacting with--in other words, align the windows. It doesn't help to come across like a showboat if the person across the table is closed as a clam.
Last, be sincere. Some books suggest laughing at all their jokes and faking sincerity. But people can smell a phony. And, oh yes, remember their names. Forget their name and the best speaking skills in the world won't save you.
Technorati Tags: small talk