Mastering the Art of Small Talk – Tips for Networkers

Small Talk

From an article by James Adonis for the SMH:

“For those like me who are too shy, too awkward, too bored or too incompetent to engage in small talk, here’s a selection of tips courtesy of Debra Fine from her bestseller, The Fine Art of Small Talk, published a decade ago.

Talk to a stranger: Rather than waiting to be introduced to someone, just walk up to a colleague you haven’t met and start chatting. Make an effort, too, to remember their name and to insert it occasionally into the conversation.

Arm yourself with icebreakers: A few suggestions from the author include:

  • “How did you come up with this idea?”
  • “What do you see as the coming trends in your business?”
  • “What’s the most difficult part of your job?”

She suggests a question should always be prefaced with a statement so that it doesn’t sound too full on. The first bullet point, for example, can begin with “I love your idea”, before leading to an enquiry about it.

Infiltrate a group of people: Fine recommends this can be done by standing close to them and making it obvious you’re listening. Then, and this is the important bit, be cognisant of signs they want you to join them, such as when they start “asking your opinion”. An easy one to miss, that one.

She has many other ideas, many of them useful. Ask open-ended questions (those that can’t be answered with just one word). Ask probing questions (those where you seek to hear more about a particular point). And observe what people are wearing, how they’re acting, where they’re working, and ask questions about that stuff as well.

There’s a theme here, I think. It seems to be linked to the old truism that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason.”
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