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Making Small Talk Workable

Apr 28, 2016, 08:27 AM by Kathleen Kontos

Small talk - sometimes you just can't get away from it, or perhaps you're interested in connecting with your colleagues but don't know how to begin. It helps to understand that despite appearances, a great deal of us sweat at having to make small talk. It's a skill that does not come naturally to everybody. So what can you do to get the conversation rolling without stepping on anyone's toes? Here are a few tips on how to get going.

Start the conversation.

Make the first move. Introduce yourself if you haven't already done so. It makes a good impression to be the one who takes the initiative. Carry on with a simple, generic statement along with an open ended question or begin with a broad question. For example, you can express your views on the weather or ask your companion about his or her day. If you are a new hire, you can also ask helpful questions to learn more about the company culture. For instance, what are the rules for drinks and snacks or how are employee anniversaries being recognized. People enjoy talking about themselves so you can also ask simple questions to find commonalities between you.

Keep your observations and questions positive or lighthearted. Ask a question that you know has an answer and be aware of the time, place and situation when you begin. For example, the elevator is not the right time to ask your coworker about suggestions on your next project. Avoid subjects on politics, religion, company gossip, excessive complaints, health issues and money. Additionally, be cautious and mindful of questions about family and career unless your companion brings it up first.

Be a careful listener.

Naturally, when you ask a question you listen to the answer. Once the conversation gets going and you dish out the first couple of necessary questions, listen to your companion instead of contemplating and worrying about what to say next. The conversation will progress much easier if you're showing genuine interest. Give verbal cues as in repeating what you heard to demonstrate that you are paying attention or to prompt for clarification. Also, pay attention to nonverbal cues to gauge the effect of what you said and what your companion is saying. You can collect bits of information that will be useful for you as go-to subjects to update on or bring up when you meet again.

Manage the flow.

Ask follow up questions. Dwell on a topic that connects you. Discovering some common ground can help you to relate to your companion and set the flow of the conversation. However, do not assume people will always agree with you. In circumstances where differences arise, do not be afraid to prudently embrace it. You can use it to your advantage by following up with or asking for advice, insights, tips and recommendations. While listening and paying attention to your surroundings, nonverbal cues and responses, shift the conversation to a safer topic if necessary. Avoid making quick judgments about your companion. You can also give compliments when possible.

Small talk, despite being nothing more than minor and polite conversation, is not easy. Perhaps more than a few of us prefer to avoid it, but in some instances as in business meetings, networking events, or that one time when you're stuck in an elevator with your boss small talk is necessary. Just remember that you don't have to be a pro at it and give it a go.

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