Friday, June 17, 2005

Small Talk Can Be a Big Advantage

“Let’s skip the small talk, and get right down to business.”

That comment personifies the type-A, hard driving, make-every-second-count individual, who considers common conversation a waste of time. Judging by the twenty-three years I spent in management, and what I advised in my book-- The Complete Communicator: Change Your Communication, Change Your Life! --the colleague who allows no straying from the main topic misses some great advantages. Here are three of them.

  • Small talk creates a connection with people who would otherwise remain very unconnected with you. Imagine that your colleague Sally makes her decisions based on data, while you are more inclined to rely on your intuition and hunches. So how do you two interact harmoniously? Small talk certainly helps, such as “Last night we went to that new restaurant, Poor Richard's. Have you been there?” You establish a common bond. When conflicts arise, that bond makes both of you a bit more tolerant.
  • Small talk makes a person appear “up to date,” well informed. This is why it’s advisable to keep up with the news. When someone says, “Looks like there's a new storm brewing in the Caribbean,” you don’t want to be confined to “Oh, really? Haven't heard about that.”
  • Small talk relieves tense situations. Your sales manager calls you into his office for a performance review. Instead of confronting you instantly, he says: “We finally got some rain in our neighborhood yesterday. What happened over your way?” You breathe a silent sigh of relief. While you know he will move next to your slumping sales figures, you no longer expect a hostile scene.
When I coach executives about their communication skills, I discuss the value of small talk, and give them tips on how to talk about events not related to their work. For more about my coaching services, check the description on my Web site:

Maybe we should stop calling it "small talk," because casual conversation plays a big role in our personal and professional relationships.

For more information, please visit my Web site:


Blogger Donald Mitchell, Dream Concierge said...

Dear Bill,

At Mitchell and Company, we made a study once of the best practices in our company among those who work with clients.

We found that those who started out by asking people about where they live and following up with more specific questions did much better than those who raced through or skipped "small talk". People love to share about their homes, neighborhoods, hobbies, commutes and so forth. If you cannot think of anything else, just observe, "I don't know that area very well. Can you tell me more about it?"

With best regards, much appreciation and all good wishes,


12:54 PM  

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