Monday, May 21, 2007

When Small Talk Can Be Big Talk

Sometimes small talk can be big talk.

How do I define small talk? It is conversation about the day-to-day happenings of life — e.g., stories about our families, ourselves, sports, commuting, articles in the media — that quickly establish common ground. I also call it “fun talk.”

Small talk is what we do when we are out with friends, chatting over the phone, bumping into someone on the street, etc.

Generally, we need things in common to establish a level playing field. It happens naturally with friends, but it may not happen as naturally in business, where we often have “bigger” things to discuss. So you may have to look for an opportunity to break the ice.

To ignite a business relationship, we often have to build a bridge. Don’t you like to do business with people whom you feel a sense of connection (although, obviously, that alone is not enough)? For example, assume you meet a new recruit or the CEO or head of corporate communications of a potential client. After an initial greeting, you might discuss the weather, the pictures on his or her desk, yesterday’s baseball game if you note an autographed baseball on the desk, last night’s episode of the Sopranos, golfing, or skiing — depending on how the conversation flows. It establishes a rapport, a comfort level, thereby putting both parties at ease, and it makes it easier to segue into the purpose of the meeting.

Someone once said: “Don’t knock the weather. Nine-tenths of the people couldn’t start a conversation if it didn’t change once in a while!” In most cases, big talk often follows small talk.

Technorati Tags: small talk, The Sopranos, business, communications, public relations


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