June 6, 2013, 6:00 am

How Can We Master Small Talk?

by: MD    Category: Financial Planning
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“You’re wonderful. Tell me more.” — Keith Ferrazzi

Apparently when all else fails, these five words never do. I’ve been looking over my copy of Never Eat Alone recently. It’s one of my favorite books ever and I would recommend it as mandatory reading for all high school seniors. We all need to learn how to get better at interacting with each other. This is especially true for young folks trying to get through their 20s.

I was looking over the section small talk and it really got me thinking.

I must admit that I’ve never been a fan of small talk. Actually, I’ll take it a step further with this…

I used to go out of my way to avoid casual friends when I ran into them in public. I would cross the stress or pretend that I didn’t see them. Why? I didn’t want to go through the torturous small talk. I used to find small talk to be so awkward. I never knew what to talk about. I didn’t know what was taboo and what wasn’t. I was worried that I would say the wrong thing and make a fool out of myself. I also didn’t want that whole fake vibe of pretending to care when you really didn’t. I just wasn’t a fan of small talk.

Did I get better at small talk? I would like to hope so. I’ve gone on probably just under 20 trips and have met all kinds of characters in my life. I had to learn through trial and error (and running away like a coward!). Now I embrace small talk. I look forward to running into friends. I always have a story to tell and am excited to listen to a story.

I wish that Never Eat Alone was available to me when I was a high school senior. The good news is that we can all learn from this book and avoid the trial-and-error process.

How do you get better a small talk?

What are some tips from this book on mastering small talk?

  1. Become interested in others. It’s okay to actually care about what others have to say. Try to become as interested as possible in everything that people tell you. They’re telling you for a reason.
  2. Be a good listener. Open your damn ears and absorb the information.
  3. Smile. Turn that frown upside down! Who doesn’t enjoy the company of someone that smiles constantly?
  4. Talk about their interests. What does the other person care about? Talk about that!
  5. Give honest appreciation. Be genuine and try your best to show appreciation when someone does something for you.
  6. Gracefully exit. When it’s time to leave, be authentic about it. Don’t cling on for dear life while trying to extend the conversation.
These 6 tips alone will go a long way.

What about body language?

I decided to look into further tips on nonverbal language.

  • Make eye contact.
  • Unfold your arms.
  • Nod your head and lean in.
It’s pretty much common sense here. The only here take-away is to maybe practise in front of the mirror. You might have a habit that makes you look like you don’t care when chatting with others. I used to chew gum like a cow.

How to not be a fool!

Now it’s time to put everything together and not make a fool of yourself when it comes to making small talk/conversation in general.

Be honest.

My biggest problem is that I always feel the need to be “on” and full of stories. I need to learn to be more vulnerable. There’s no sense in always trying to be the star of the room or to be full of energy. If you’re tired, it’s okay to admit it. It’s okay to be a little self-deprecating.

Drop the buzzwords.

Hanging out with friends is hanging out with friends. Nothing else. You’re not “networking” or any of that crap.

For example, my cousin always invites these super-weird dudes that he met in school over to our place. He claims that they’re networking. He obviously doesn’t like these guys. They have nothing in common. It’s like a chore to hang out with them for him. I don’t get why he bothers. I personally don’t believe in networking for the sake of networking.

If you want to hang out with your friends, that’s awesome. Don’t spend time with people you don’t like and then convince yourself that you’re networking.

Time to switch gears now.

I really got thinking about this topic with the following post…

Newsflash: You can’t have it all @ Financial Uproar.

My favorite line is:

“We’ve become a society that places so much emphasis on being productive that we have to schedule time to hang out with our friends like it’s a goddamn dentist appointment.”

Very true. I need to get better at this — or maybe those people aren’t my friends? I have buddies that I haven’t seen in months. Maybe we no longer have anything to talk about? Maybe we have gone in different directions?

Anyways, what do you guys think about small talk? Do you have any tips? Perhaps, you avoid small talk like I used to…

“The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” — William James

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I used to be better at small talk. I think the best way to get better is just to do more of it. Lately, I haven’t had much opportunity to small talk and it’s becoming more difficult. I’ll have some opportunity to practice at WDS though.

I don’t know if I am good at it, but I am better than I used to be. I have trouble chatting with people I do not find interesting because I am poor at faking it. Over time, I learned how to diplomaticly exit a conversation without be offensive.

I guess I never thought about whether I was making small talk or not. Just usually say something If its needed. The one thing that annoys me about some people is when they talk just to fill a space. It feels fake and contrived sometimes.

And when they talk, look them in the eye. Not all throughout the conversation but do so. It helps you stay focused on what they are saying as well.

I thought I wasn’t good with small talk but I realize that I tend to be better at it with certain people. I think people I have more in common with the small talk is easier. As I have grown some things just don’t interest me and hearing the same thing over and over again makes me want to avoid people as well.

I have to admit I was never good at small talks but when I started working with a big team, it is most helpful to start learning small talks to begin a good relationship with my teammates.

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