Unless your chosen career is ‘hermit’ or ‘horse whisperer,’ small talk is likely to be an inescapable part of your professional life. (Perhaps even if you’re a horse whisperer – who knows what those guys are whispering about, anyway?)
But the very thought of ‘small talk’ can terrify the best of us. Small talk, it seems, is a trap we might not be able to get out of; a test of our humanity; a chance to prove that we would be great employee material (or otherwise).
If you’re starting on your career, you’ll need it at interviews. If you’re an office worker, you’ll need it in the elevator, at the water cooler, and in the boardroom. If you’re in sales, you better have some small talk in your arsenal for meeting with customers. Heck, even if you’re the CEO of it all, you’re not going to want to look inhuman when cornered by the intern during Friday night beers.
But just because you’re good at your job – or even at job interviews – it does not follow that you’re good at small talk. This can be one area that lets you down – maybe because you’re so good at your job, and haven’t attended to the minutiae of human interaction!
And if you’re an introvert, you’re sure to find it especially draining, trying to come up with something to say and the energy to ‘give as good as you get.’
So here’s a thing: it’s just small talk, right? We’ve been doing it for millions of years. The campfire was probably rife with it. So we know a thing or two about it, as a culture, even if it feels alien to you as an individual. If that is the case with you, here’s a great opportunity to learn how to do it: a set of small talk skills you can learn in an hour and use for the rest of your life (hint: these tricks work in the real world as well as the world of work).
For example, learning to listen makes you better at talking at the same time as reducing the need for you to say anything! That’s because small talk is actually about engagement rather than content. If you can demonstrate that you’re listening carefully by making good eye contact (the infographic below shows you how) and repeating back elements of what the other person’s saying, then congratulations: you’re making small talk.
And even if you do need something original to say, you can base it off your deeper understanding of what the other person’s just been talking about instead of ransacking your brain to come up with something original about the weather.
Easy, huh? It can’t fail. Unless the other person is a horse. Get stuck in with the rest of these great small talk tips!