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How To Master Small Talk!

Mar 30, 2017 Posted by Anders Östlund
Moving from a greeting to a conversation to a relationship is key to forming friendships and relationships related to business or other affairs of life. Small talk is what makes that progress happen.

How To Open Up A Conversation?

Of course you start with introducing yourself. I simple “Hello, my name is [INSERT YOUR NAME], how are you?” is a good start.  

Ask open questions – questions that cannot be answered with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. By asking open questions you trigger more of a conversation than with closed question as the other person has to respond in a way that you can follow up on. Try to avoid any matter that can be perceived as sensitive.

Examples of open questions that are soft and non-sensitive:

  • How did you find this event?
  • Where are you from?
  • How is it there (where the person is from)?
  • How often do you come here?  
  • What can you suggest in terms of activities in this city?

Then you listen and ask follow up questions. Listening is very important and everybody enjoy when somebody listen to them.
 

How To Deal With Rejection

What if that somebody you introduced yourself to stonewalls you or even walks away right then and there? Don’t get bothered by this but consider the rudeness to be the other person's problem. It can also be that the other person has a really bad day, is crazily busy or preoccupied with some serious issues. If you have acted with curtsey and not been too intense you should not let any of this get to you. Just turn around and proceed to the next person.
 

The Emotional Aspect Of Small Talk

Making somebody feel comfortable when talking with you makes the whole process of getting somewhere in your relationship building much easier than if the other person feel uncomfortable because you rush or are too intense.

Giving positive attention by being a good listener, asking follow up questions and follow the other persons mimic – laugh when they laugh, smile when they smile, lean forward when they do, lean back when they do etc - are good ways to make somebody feel comfortable.

Acting in this way makes it easier for the other person to open up and share more of his or her thoughts and that is when you know you are onto something, then you can also open up more and then you are in the friendship-making territory.
 

Expanding To Real Friendship

Once you have reached friendship-making territory you are still not friends. You need to follow up and continue to build on the relationship.

Maybe you can suggest having lunch or a coffee? Those are low-key activities that might just be about business but can also be a way towards friendship. The more often you meet the person the better you will know if this is a friend or if you will end up being acquaintances.

Not getting to a real friendship is not the end of the world. Most people you know are probably acquaintances and not friends; you can’t be best friends forever with everybody – that kind of close relationship is probably reserved for a small amount of people.
 

Conclusions

  • Small talk is an essential part of networking.
  • Bringing a relationship from ‘hello’ to a real relationship – whether it is an acquaintance or a friend – is something everybody can do.
  • It is just about taking that first step, introduce yourself and initiate a real conversation and you are on the way.
  • As with everything else practise makes perfect, you really need to get out there and do it, this is one of those things that cannot be mastered just by reading about it.
  • This article is not a comprehensive guide to how to form relationships, just an outline of some common features of how to get started and how things might proceed.
     

Anders Östlund
Founder of Fryday, An International Network Of Professionals

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