Do You Struggle With Small Talk at Networking Events?

There has been little serious research into the art of SMALL TALK and there are few reliable theories, but here we share some PRACTICAL TIPS from THE COMMUNICATION BOOK


Ask for advice

People love giving advice. So, start your small talk with a request for advice: ‘I want to buy a smartphone [or a cocktail or a book], but I can’t decide which one.’ Most people will happily open up. The psychology behind this: if you ask for advice, you create intimacy: intimacy makes rejection difficult. Therefore, if you want to influence someone, it is a good idea to ask that person for advice first.

Notice the little things

Listen out for details and pick up on these later. This makes it easier to ask questions ‘You mentioned that you spent a lot of time as a child at your grandmother’s – what kind of relationship did you have with her?’. And it lets the other person know that you were really listening. People forget what they talked about with you, but not how they felt in your presence.

Don’t start a conversation about things that interest you

Most people like to talk about themselves. This leads to us not listening any more, but simply waiting for our turn to speak. Be the one person in the group who is interested in the other person’s topics. The supreme rule: enter every conversation assuming that you have something to learn.

Be a friend, not a judge

Resist the impulse of giving the other person advice – unless of course they specifically ask for it. Instead, take the conversation back to an exciting, important part of the story: ‘Earlier, you said that . . .’ Take the person away from the smooth surface to deeper levels: ‘How was it for you, when you . . . ?’ Or encourage the person to keep talking by simply asking: ‘And what happened next?’

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