Small Talk

If you’re anything like me, you hate small-talk with a vengeance.  When it comes to meeting new people, you wish you didn’t feel so awkward, and could manage a few coherent sentences without wanting the ground to swallow you up.

Small-talk seems to come easy to some people – talking about the weather, or their journey to the venue or any number of other ‘trivial’ snippets seem to just trip off the tongue with no effort.

And then there’s us introverts, for whom small-talk is like wading through treacle.

Picture the scene ….

You’ve made it to the networking event – you walk in, grab your badge, and make it over to the coffee table hoping that nobody noticed you looking nervous.

You pour your drink as slowly as possible to kill time (even an extra 30 seconds of calm is better than nothing, right?!).

You slowly turn to face the rest of the room, palms sweating, throat dry as you’re thinking “Now what?”

Does this resonate with you?

When you’re a sensitive introvert not used to meeting lots of new people at once, of course you’re going to be nervous and feel awkward.

Small-talk feels so alien –  you’d rather be talking about stuff that actually matters, and that you feel passionate about.

Isn’t small-talk just a waste of time?

Well yes and no – you could argue that you’d rather only have deep conversations with people who are on your wavelength.

But I think you’d be missing out.

If you want to grow your business and let more people know that you exist, you need to

Learn how to make small-talk work for you.

Small-talk oils the wheels of social communication. It’s really just another way of engaging warmly with other humans you don’t yet know very well. It’s the signal to others that you’re non-threatening, open and friendly.

Small-talk is the necessary bit that comes before any fun and engaging dialogue with new people.

I’m not sure it’s possible to walk up to a complete stranger and start a deep and meaningful conversation. Until you know you have something in common with another person, communication tends to be superficial and ‘small’.

And small-talk is not just useful socially – it’s vital for your business

 Here are just a few ways that small-talk can be useful for your business:

a) Getting to know people who can help and support you in your business journey (and who may well become friends)

b) Finding resources or people who know people whose knowledge and expertise could be useful to you.

c) Finding potential clients or collaboration partners.

Ok, I get it, I need to learn how to make small-talk for my business. But where do I start?

Well, I don’t enjoy small-talk but I know how valuable it is so I’ve learned how to switch it on when I need to. Here are my tips for easing into it, and making small-talk work for you!

Firstly start by making a promise to yourself!

Acknowledge that it’s tricky and you hate doing it, but make a pledge with yourself that you’re going to work at it by practicing making small-talk with people you don’t know.

Secondly, find a low risk place where you can engage warmly with other humans

This means having empathy, imagining how life is for that other person (the good news is that empathy often comes naturally to introverts).

Choose a place that’s not business related and where no-one will even remember you, so it doesn’t matter if you mess it up.

Perhaps the supermarket check-out line – while the cashier is preparing to scan your stuff.

Smile and ask the person how they are.  If they’re looking tired, ask them how long they’ve got until their break time. When you’ve paid, look them in the eyes and say thank you.

Hopefully you’ll get a warm response in return, then you’ll feel good and be more likely to want to do it again.

These tiny little actions will prime your subconscious to be more open and friendly with people you don’t know, so when it really matters you’ll be able to do it more easily.

Finally, when you can make small-talk with different people in different situations, you’ll find it easier to run the networking scene again…

but this time play it a different way.

This time, you’ll make your drink and then smile at the person next to you and say

Hi, my name’s (Ann), what’s yours?

Then you could ask any number of questions, keeping the focus on the other person and being genuinely interested in them.

Small-talk doesn’t have to be torture, but it does take practice.

Remember that you’re not the only one who finds it difficult – but when you commit to practice, you’ll find the benefits outweigh the discomfort.

Wishing you many happy, warm engagements with other humans you don’t yet know very well!

I have a feeling that both you and your business will benefit!

Over to you:

Do you have any tips to share on how you make small-talk with people at networking events?

Please share by leaving a comment in the box below. Remember you might just help someone else!

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