Why The Successful Bother With Small Talk
It’s more than a matter of why but what the small talk comprises of too.
For years, I can understand why so many people groan at the idea of small. The mere question of “how are you?” is by far one of the most worthless three-word combination questions to ask in the known world.
It establishes no connection, typically prompts the person to lie or make a half-baked answer, and doesn’t really provide many conversations that’ll go anywhere.
The sheer thought of small talk having to start with that question is probably why so many people detest small talk.
But over the past few days, I’ve started to realize just how important small talk really is. But also why successful people bother with this tactic. It may seem pointless at first, but it’s a matter of what the small talk actually is as well.
Why Bother With It
The biggest thing about small talk is that there is a fair bit of research behind the benefits of small talk.
In Karen Wickre’s book Taking the Work out of Networking: An Introvert’s Guide to Making Connections that Count, Wickre explains that small talk forms a momentary bond with those around you. For introverts specifically, this is essential since even though they don’t rely on being around others to feel energized, introverts still need connections.
Avoiding small talk like it or not is a tool that everyone needs to be using as it sets a foundation for people to trust you.
Take building customer trust. In a report done by Salesforce, 79 percent of customers stated that “it’s absolutely critical or very important to interact with a salesperson who is a trusted advisor — not just a sales rep.”
And part of that interaction is of course small talk as people are aiming to find common ground with one another.
This is part of the same case when it comes with coworkers as well. Wickre states in her book that small talk creates a bond and even puts people at ease.
Because deep down we’re all social creatures and the more that we understand someone and their motivations, the more comfortable we will be around them. So by avoiding small talk, you’re not giving people the opportunity to understand you and get to know you. By avoiding something as small as this can lead people to think you’re rather cold or distant which really doesn’t help you in any situation.
But at the same time as this, the effects of small talk will vary from person to person. Again, asking someone “how are you?” may not establish a deep connection. After all, people are programmed these days to say a typically positive word and the other party involved doesn’t really care about their answer.
It is worth looking at the quality of the questions that you are asking.
Why The Successful Bother And How They Apply Small Talk
Successful people bother with small talk for the reason that I’ve mentioned above. Making connections.
The more people you know and the quality of those relationships the more things can get done. Not to mention the connections that we all make determine so much about our lives.
The successful people in the world understand this but they also understand that in order to really use small talk they have to use more tactics. They can’t rely on simple questions about the weather, traffic, a sports team, or anything of that nature.
Successful people tend to do follow up questions. Not necessarily deep and personal conversations. That’s not what small talk is all about.
Small talk is just as important as any conversation but it’s meant to strengthen the bonds between people.
It’s what we do that can lead to something deeper.
And that’s what successful people aim to do and ask.
In terms of questions, they first establish a connection through A.C.T:
- There is authenticity.
- There is a connection.
- People get a taste of who you are.
So questions that are good to ask when breaking the ice are things like this:
- “How are you feeling about your work right now?”
- “What’s something you are looking forward to this week?”
- “You remind me of a famous person, but I can’t quite recall who it is — Is there someone that you relate to?”
As you can tell those questions are a lot deeper and can grow into a variety of other topics. These are stronger conversation starters than compared to the typical go-to topics.
Successful people understand they need to ask these questions because people get bored of talking about the weather, traffic or sports. So they tend to avoid those topics entirely. Unless of course who they are talking to is really into sports or something and there is a genuine connection there.
What’s also important is to be observant of the person's life. Even if you’re talking through video chat there are some things that you can make a mental note of. If it’s been a while since you chatted, make sure you bring the topic back up.
And if you’re talking face to face with someone, pay attention to their surroundings. As Gary Burnison once said:
“Open your eyes before you open your mouth.”
Sometimes meaningful and deep conversations can happen if one pays attention to what’s around them.
But above all of this, one golden rule that successful people ensure in having quality small talks is not just the question they ask. It’s also about how they say it. They’re careful about tone and they also make sure they have eye contact and are aware of their facial expression. They make sure to smile as it instinctively makes their voice warmer and friendlier.
It’s Better Than Saying Nothing
Silence is important, but there needs to be a balance as well. I’m not saying you need to be constantly talking. That would be too exhausting. Instead, focus your attention on building strong relationships with the people that you want to build connections with.
But at the same time, recognize that you’ll have to start with small talk if you want these connections to bloom and flourish. After all, the most successful people out there know how to do it.