Tips for Successful Small Talk

Posted by on Jul 20, 2011 in ComLead

There is a lot of truth to the adage “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know.” This means that is not only important to use the connections you have, but to make smart moves when it comes to networking. The art of small talk can is essential if you want to have any hope of generating new contacts in order to open your career to new opportunities.

Dr. Rosanne Hartman and Dr. Melissa Wanzer, professors at Canisius College, sat down to discuss tips for successful  small talk.

1. Use names and use them soon after learning them. The use of names reinforces that you are present and listening to the conversation. Plus, it is embarrassing and can hurt your cause if you forget the name of the contact that you are looking to establish for the future.

2. Be aware of non verbal communication. Be aware of eye contact and the body positioning. If you look uncomfortable, that will resonate with those around you. While conversing, make sure that you are facing the person talking and look attentive.

3. Find common ground and establish similarity. Asking questions that give you more of an idea of interests and area of expertise. By establishing a common ground, it enhances liking and positive affect.

4. Ask open ended questions. By asking questions that don’t provoke a one worded response, it makes conversation flow smoother and with more regularity. Some examples of open ended questions are:

  • What are your thoughts?
  • How did you come to realize that?
  • Can you offer any advice?

5. Be aware of what is culturally appropriate. For instance, in the United States, eye contact is a form of respect and demonstrates attentiveness. In Japan, eye contact is perceived as disrespectful. It is also appropriate to talk about personal details such as family in professional setting in the United States. This is not true in all cultures, so it is suggested to make sure to be aware of norms.

When networking, there are many tips and tricks to gaining new contacts and professional resources. By strengthening skills at creating small talk, it will help to foster communication and make networking events less difficult, and more enjoyable.

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