Small talk is not something that comes naturally to me. I’m more of a listener. Someone that likes to sit with their own thoughts and keep things close to themselves.
But my job has required more and more sales over the years. And with that you encounter a lot of people. Including those that like to small talk.
Have there been times when I’ve sat there rolling my eyes and looking at the clock in the corner of the computer screen? No doubt.
But in recent years I’ve tried to open my understanding of small talk. I’ve tried to see it from the other person’s perspective and try to figure out the importance of it.
And the reality is that small talk is important.
Small Talk Is A Test
The other person is testing you. Not in any trying way or anything of ill intent. They’re just trying to see what kind of person you are in relation to their past interactions. They’re testing to see if you have listening skills. They’re possibly seeing if you have patience. They’re seeing what your communication skills are and how those might align with theirs.
Small talk is kind of an initial relationship test. Before the person commits to some kind of business arrangement, they want more information about what the relationship might bring. They want to know if they will get along with you. They want to know if they will be able to reach you in an emergency. They want to know if they can rely on you.
Small talk isn’t a fool proof way to get this information, but it’s not bad. You can learn some things about people by spending a little time small talking with them.
Small Talk Is An Opportunity
So as the other person is trying to learn more about you with small talk you’re able to learn about them as well. They are likely opening up a bit to start the small talk conversation. The more people are willing to share the more you will learn about them. So it’s not just a one way street of them trying to get to know more about you. You can do the same.
So there is a win-win scenario for both of you. You can get some insight into whether the person is a good fit for how you operate. You can look for some possible red flags that may lead to major headaches down the road.
Here is one thing I learned about myself and the struggle with small talk. Some of it is about my introvert nature. I just don’t like talking with people that much. But another aspect, one that is larger than I realized, is preparation.
I never prepared for small talk in my life. Probably because I never liked it. I just avoided anything to do with it at all costs. I never thought about the questions and topics somebody might want to engage in. I never practiced small talk such as how to speak a phrase or how to keep things short and sweet and to the point.
These days I think about what topics the person may want to talk about. I practice a little bit. For example, I might talk to the person at the grocery store check out or the person behind the desk at the golf course when I’m checking in.
The more you do these little things the more you learn. What works. What doesn’t work.
For some of us, preparation is key for successful small talk.
Final Takeaway – Curiosity
A final takeaway for small talk might just be to bring some curiosity with you to the conversation. Not to the point where you become the annoying person asking too many questions and never getting to the point. But feeling out the situation and if the other person wants to chat a little bit, taking some time to be interested. Try to learn something from them. Try to use the entire situation as an opportunity for all involved.