TIPS TO GET BETTER AT SMALL TALK

Women drinking coffeeI recently published a blog titled, “8 Personal Habits That Will Ensure A Good First Impression.” Number 8 on that list was “Initiate Relevant Small Talk”.  I discuss the need for relevant small talk and how it can create a connection and lead to building a relationship.  Effective small talk can provide clues in providing a deeper understanding of that person.

Recently I came across an article titled; “15 Tips to Get Better at Small Talk”written by Patti Johnson with SUCCESS Online.

I wanted to share it with you as I found it to be a great companion article addressing the issue of small talk.

1. Get your mind right.

If you spend the week anticipating and worrying because you know you will feel uncomfortable, you’ve set yourself up for failure. Remember why you are going—to celebrate a friend on his or her special day, to meet others who share your interest or connect with your co-workers.

2. Decide who you’d like to meet before you go.

Take a look at who else will be there and plan to meet those who might share something in common. This might be someone who knows a mutual friend, a fellow baseball fan or a business owner living your dream.

3. Make a game out of it.

Trick your mind into making it seem easier and more fun. Commit to at least an hour. Plan to meet at least five people.   Challenge yourself to learn two new things  This mind shift can help tame the anxiety and make the conversation more fun.

4. Take responsibility for meeting others.

Don’t wait for others to approach you. Say hello first. When you expect others to make the first move, you’ll be disappointed. And the more you do it, the more comfortable you’ll be.

5. Don’t be the sidekick.

Rather than being the shadow of the one person you already know, branch out.

6. Have your “go-to” questions ready.

Starting a conversation with a new person can be hard. Try, “How do you know _____?” “What is keeping you busy these days?” or “What brought you to this area?” It doesn’t have to be complicated, just something to get you started if you you’re new acquaintances.

7. Be interested. Listen more than you talk.

Asking questions is the secret ingredient to interesting conversations.  Stay away from yes/no questions. You can naturally start with easy questions that feel natural, but listen for an interesting comment to explore and build upon.

As an example for how your questions might flow:

  •  How do you know Allison?
  •  I didn’t realize you were a graphic designer. What kind of design do you do?
  •  Why did you decide to get into graphic design?
  •  Oh, I went to school in Miami, too! Where are your favorite places to go when you go back?
  •  Do you think of Miami as home? How did you make the move from there to here?

Within a few questions, you can move to more substance and a real conversation.

8. Be yourself!Business people discussing

No one likes the fake networker. In the interest of being more outgoing, don’t be someone you aren’t. Putting out effort doesn’t mean being fake.

9. Compliment and shift.

Find something that you can genuinely compliment the other person on and then shift to a question so it isn’t awkward.

10. Plan a graceful exit.

Every conversation runs its course, but a natural end is hard. Just say, “It’s been great to meet you, and I hope you have the best vacation next week.” Excuse yourself to do something else and move on.

11. Look for others who want to connect.

I recently went to a large celebration event and only knew the busy host. I noticed another guest taking her time at the snack table and introduced myself. We had a great conversation while those around us caught up with longtime friends.

12. Be an introducer.

If you are talking with someone and another guest looks a little uncomfortable, invite him or her into the conversation. Remember the times when you were that uncomfortable person and try to include others.

13. Don’t be the “hammer looking for the nail.”

Your favorite topic isn’t everyone else’s. You might love your new grill or your favorite book or TV show, but don’t assume everyone else is interested. Gauge the conversation and flow with it.

14. Don’t expect too much.

Not every get-together will result in new friends. That’s OK. You still accomplished your goal of going when it was easier not to—you were there supporting a friend or a co-worker. And that is enough.

15. Get in the habit.

Don’t constrain this habit to social events. Say hello to the person next to you on the plane before you grab your headphones (I’m working on this). Talk to your waiter. Ask your Uber driver about his day. The habit of saying hello and listening is a muscle you can develop by working on it every day.

Try some small talk. You might be surprised where it takes you.

8 PERSONAL HABITS THAT WILL ENSURE A GOOD FIRST IMPRESSION

Make a Good First Impression

“I’m not judging you!”  Yes you are.  Let’s face it, we all judge people to some degree.  It may be an internal thought or it may be a vocal expression of our thoughts.  Either way, we each have a seat at the judge’s bench.

 

The first 3-5 seconds of an initial encounter is sufficient time for a person to form an initial opinion.

We form these opinions through observing a person’s approach, body language, mannerisms, accent and the way they dress.

So how important are first impressions?  Well it determines if you get the second interview for your dream job or acceptance in the college or university of your choice.  A good first impression can mean a second date and who know what happens after that.  Making a good first impression gets you a meeting with the senior partners in the private equity firm evaluating your business proposal.  No doubt first impressions matter.

1. SMILE – “Your smile will give you a positive countenance that will make people feel comfortable around you.” Les Brown

A warm smile is a great start to a good first impression. A warm and confident smile will put both you and the other person at ease. When I interview potential job candidates, the first thing I look for is a genuine smile.  It tells me the person is excited and eager for the chance.  However, any overuse of a smile will come off fake and insincere.

2. BE PRESENT – “As youngsters, my mother taught her children that while we might not be the smartest people around, we could be courteous, polite and considerate of others.” Zig Ziglar

Be attentive to the person or person(s).  Put down your phone and focus on the person and conversation in front of you. Give yourself 100 percent to that other person.  Anything less and you will ruin your chance for a good first impression.

3. BE ON TIME – “I’m on time even when I try not to be.” Diane Kruger

Meeting someone for the first time is not the time to be”fashionably late”.  Save that for your high society meetings and events. I always try to arrive a few minutes early.  Although, not too early.  You don’t want to come off overly eager.  Just remember that people are busy and their schedules are usually full.  One late appointment will affect the whole day’s schedule.  If you’ve ever gone to the Dr., you know what I’m talking about.  Being on time is a show of respect.  That goes a long way in making a good first impression.

4. BE YOURSELF – “Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.” Bruce Lee

People can smell a fake.  They know if you are authentic.  Being yourself allows you to be confident and at ease.  This can go a long way in making a good first impression.  However, you need to remain appropriate for the particular situation and express yourself appropriately.

5. SHOW CONFIDENT BODY LANGUAGE- “Body language is a very powerful tool. We had body language before we had speech, and apparently, 80% of what you understand in a conversation is read through the body, not the words.” Debora Bull

As the quote says above, about 80% of what we say is non-verbal.

A business handshakeStand confidently with your back erect and your shoulders square. Hands to your side and feet spread just inside both shoulders.  This is known as the Presidential Stance.  Greet each person with a firm (not hard) hand shake and make eye contact.  Be aware of your nervous habits and move slowly, smoothly and confidently. All of this will help you project confidence and encourage both of you to feel at ease.

6. ASK SMART QUESTIONS THAT INDICATE YOUR’RE LISTENING- “There’’s a difference between listening passively and listening aggressively. To listen with your heart, you have to listen actively.” John C. Maxwell

Be an active listener.  The way you achieve this is by asking questions relevant to what the person is saying.  This indicates your engagement in the conversation.  Resist distraction and resist the temptation of putting yourself first.

7. SHOW SINCERE INTEREST IN PEOPLE – “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” John C. Maxwell

My wife and I went to one of those home improvement stores shopping for a refrigerator.  As we entered the appliance department, a sales person immediately approached and asked if he could help.  We excitedly replied “yes”, and said we are looking for a refrigerator.  As we began giving him our specifications, his phone rang and he immediately answered it!  Without any apology, he began talking and walked away.  The best way to show sincere interest in other people is to show them you care and that they are important and have something unique to offer.  A sincere interest in people will go a long way in making a good first impression.

8. INITIATIVE RELEVANT SMALL TALK – “I’m not great at small talk.” Courtney Cox

I think Courtney’s quote above is probably true of most people.  However, small talk is present in almost every first meeting and we must successfully push through it.  A person’s ability to maximize the content of small talk can provide very useful information in establishing a connection and a good first impression. Small talk can provide clues for relevant questions that initiate a deeper understanding of that person.  How many business deals are done based on attending the same college?  Small talk provides those small details that typically have big results!

CONCLUSION

Making a good impression is simply using common sense and being intuitively aware of the situation you are in. Develop these 8 habits and use them next time you meet someone for the first time.  It could be a life-changing event.