Inc. Magazine: How to Become Skilled in Small Talk (and Why It's Valuable for Business)
On the list of things that people hate, making small talk ranks right in between Congress and receiving spam. Small talk can be awkward, uncomfortable and even intimidating. After all, there are far more enjoyable ways to spend your time than trying to force conversation with someone you do not know well. But life doesn't operate in a vacuum and neither does business. And for better or worse, mastering the art of small talk will help you better navigate both.
As both a compliment and an insult, people who know me well have called me the king of small talk. They marvel at my ability to somehow make conversation with anyone on any topic but roll their eyes when they consider that I spend invaluable time talking about things they deem less than valuable. In my view, however, there is nothing more important in business and in life than developing genuine connections with people. A person skilled in small talk holds the key to opening up a limitless number of relationships.
Take a Genuine Interest
To excel at making small talk, you must first and foremost dismiss any preconception that the conversation itself is meaningless. Every new person you meet represents a new opportunity, as he or she can enrich your life in some shape or form. Maybe they can become your friend; maybe they can become your client or customer or maybe you can learn something valuable from them. Any time you converse with a person who is new to you, you are in a natural position to develop and grow.
Rather than entering new conversations with dread, approach them with excitement. I love meeting new people and have a genuine interest in getting to know, learn about and learn from the people I meet -- and you should too. When you are happy to talk to talk to someone and enjoy what you are talking about, no talk feels like small talk.
Play on Their Turf
Secondly, consider the talk itself strategically. People like talking about what they are interested in much more than they like talking about what you are interested in. There is a good chance that the person you are talking to also disdains small talk and is not in a natural comfort zone either. You can more easily warm him or her up -- and in turn, lay the groundwork for a meaningful connection -- by shifting the conversation to a topic that he or she is excited to talk about.
Ask questions to discover what topics interest the person you are speaking to. At a minimum, most people like talking about themselves, so even the process of inquiring will help engage the other party. Intellectual curiosity is a key driver to building rapport. And the more knowledgeable and conversant you are on as broad an array of topics as possible, the better equipped you will be at not only making small talk but making small talk enjoyable.
Transition From Small to Big
Finally, the secret to pivoting from small talk to selling big is recognizing that all conversations are meaningful. People like doing business with people they like. If you can develop rapport, your ability to cultivate meaningful a business relationship will be significantly strengthened. By demonstrating a genuine in interest in getting to know a new person along with active listening skills, you can display surprisingly rare and important qualities that others value.
A person who likes you is more likely to listen to you, trust you and to give you the benefit of the doubt. Building trust is a critical part of the sales process. And by revealing positive elements of your character at the formative juncture of the relationship, you can more easily win over your new friend, acquaintance, customer or client. If you can master the art of small talk, no transition is needed, as your talk was never really small.
Adam Mendler is CEO of The Veloz Group and founder of Beverly Hills Chairs, Custom Tobacco and Veloz Solutions