The art of small talk
Small talk is greatly underrated. Most will think that it is superficial and insignificant. However, small talk is in reality the most important talk that you will ever make with a person because it determines the depth of relationship you can build with him or her.
As Dr Beh, Managing Director of EDB, wisely pointed out, “the ability to start and carry on conversations with corporate heads and industry leaders the world over is what differentiates a stellar salesman from a mediocre one.”
Here are four simple yet powerful strategies to make a lasting impression with small talk.
1. Start strong
The key reason why people fail at small talk is because they do not know how to start strong. So here are three types of openers to get you started.
a) Address an immediate situation
The most natural way to connect with a person is to talk about the immediate situation because it is on their mind – “You look flustered. What happened?”
b) Compliment the person sincerely
When people feel good about themselves, they feel better about you too – “You look great in this pink dress. Where did you get it from?”
c) Ask for opinion or feedback
Asking for opinions allows people to express their values and thoughts, helping you to understand them better. Furthermore, people feel valued when you seek their opinions – “Who are some interesting people you have met at this event (and why?)”
Notice that all the openers are open-ended, which prevents a monosyllabic reply that makes following up difficult, like ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘good’ or ‘bad’. For the same reason, cliché questions like “How are you?” should also be avoided.
2. Keep them talking
Dale Carnegie, who wrote many books on communications, once stated that “when a person does most of the talking, he will feel that it is the best conversation he has ever had!” Hence, it pays to keep them talking.
An easy way to do so is through physical attention. Robert Bolten of People Skills defines this as “listening with the whole body”. So this means leaning forward and giving eye contact to show interest. Encouraging body gestures, such as nodding and smiling, are also useful.
You can also keep the conversation going by asking open-ended questions or prompting with words like “And then?”, “Really?”, “Tell me more!” This extends the conversation and makes the person more comfortable to share.
3. Add these power seeds
Power seeds amplify your connection with a person.
(i) Establish common ground fast
Before you can get the person to say “I like you!”, you need to first show the person that “I (AM) like you!” Commonality breeds likeability. Hence in your conversation, you want you to establish common ground as fast you can. They can be in one of the following categories: passions, challenges, values, opinions or experiences.
(ii) Find opportunities to give
When you give a person something, he is psychologically obliged to give something in return. It’s the law of reciprocity at work. Hence, find opportunities to give in your conversation. They include compliments, attention, energy, and knowledge. Giving invokes an atmosphere of sharing, making the other party more comfortable with you!
(iii) Show genuine care for the person
People do not care much about what you have to say until you show them how much you care. Place yourself in the person’s shoes as he shares his experiences, or simply be present to him. Focus on the person, and revolve the conversation around him. He will then be more comfortable to converse freely with you.
4. It’s not about you!
Ultimately, the conversation isn’t about you, but the other party. So instead of manipulating the conversation, focus on the person and be genuinely interested in him. You will be amazed how interesting someone can be if you give him a chance to be known. Let me leave you with a final tip that will win people over effortlessly. The key to unlocking your charisma isn’t trying to make people feel good about you. It’s about making them feel good about
About The Author
Eric Feng is a leading authority in the topic of public speaking and business communications. He is the author of four communications books including ‘Get To The Point ®’ which has sold 12,000 copies till date.
Well-known for his practical insights and humor, Eric has worked with many well-known companies like IBM, AIA, Pfizer, Credit Suisse, Shell and FedEx.
“Unlock Your Personal Charisma” is his signature program which has been attended by close to 5000 executives and salespeople from Singapore, Malaysia and China. Common results reported include reduced inertia to selling, doubling of sales production and improved relationships with clients leading to repeated businesses.
The principles that he will be sharing with you in this program has also helped him gain many unfair advantages in his career including being awarded the “JCI Ten Most Outstanding Young Person Of The World” title, “Business Week Top 25 Young Entrepreneurs of Asia” title and the “NUS Outstanding Young Alumni” title.