‘Small talk’ Your Way to a Successful Career

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Small talk is the most commonly used form of human communication available to us. Most people, however, consider this sort of casual conversation a waste of time. They think of small talk as shallow, mechanical, meaningless chatter.
What these people don’t know is that effective managers, dynamite marketing personnel and other accomplished communicators often begin their more successful and productive conversations with small talk.
A period of small talk before a business meeting helps you:
How Small Talk Benefits You
Small talk is a natural prelude to any serious discussion. It provides you and everyone else involved with an opportunity to size up and evaluate the situation.
Small talk is the human’s way of sensing a situation before jumping in. But its effectiveness is not just in words you use. Small talk is most effective when your other senses are also on alert.
Through small talk, you can:
Put people at ease while creating a smooth transition from the initial greeting to the business at hand. Diving into a business discussion without a preamble makes people uncomfortable and results in a more strained interaction.
Persuade people to be more receptive to your ideas
Encourage others to reveal aspects of themselves
Initiate professional opportunities in situations even outside the structure of the business setting.
Some Tips for Success
To be successful at small talk, however, you must have something to say.

Here are some suggestions:
Some Topics to Avoid
When small talk is frivolous, meaningless and ineffective, it isn’t the fault of small talk, but rather the purveyor of the small talk. As with any form of communication, there are taboos.

Avoid the following in small talk:
Improve Your Small Talk Skills
Once you understand the importance of small talk, you’ll be much more aware of what takes place during these casual conversations.
Here’s how to improve your skills:
Practice, practice, practice – with friends, family members, store clerks, strangers at the bus stop, etc.
Join organizations where you receive training in speaking, Toastmasters International (Toastmasters), for example. Or enroll in a class or seminar in communication or interpersonal relationships.
Socialize. Accept more invitations, join a trade organization or a club that is in line with one of your hobbies or interests. Or go out and mingle in public places. Being with strangers who have similar interests provides the perfect arena for small talk opportunities.
Make a Smooth Transition
When small talk is a prelude to business, it will be necessary at some point to draw it to a close and begin the meeting. The best way to do this is through a purposeful transition. One way to learn to recognize good transitional points in the process of small talk is to watch television talk show hosts in action. Most of them have impeccable timing and great style in making transitions.
Here are a few suggestions:
Learn to lead. Although knowing how to follow is vital to successful small talk, leading is equally important, particularly when the transition depends on you.
Recognize an opening and jump in. Say: “Let me tell you what we’re going to do in the interview.” “Shall we get on with our meeting?”
Stop Monopolists in their tracks. If possible, wait for them to take a breath or to pause. Then break in with a comment about their topic and immediately lead the conversation in the direction that you want it to go.

Reprinted with permission from Communication Briefings ( http://www.communicationbriefings.com)

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