The Art of Small Talk

Networking: everyone does it. Not everyone likes it. Here are some tips from Debra Fine’s book Small Talk: How to Start a Conversation, Keep it Going, Build Networking Skills – and Leave a Positive Impression.

  1. “Use small talk as a picture frame around business conversations.” Begin and end an important meeting with small talk. Fine refers to a study on doctors. Doctors who spent a few minutes talking “small talk”, like asking their patients about their summer plans, were less likely to be sued. People tend not to sue those they care about. And we care about those show they care about us.
  2. Express Empathy.
  3. Greet people warmly and with eye contact. Approach people first. Say hello and sincerely smile. People reciprocate gestures unconsciously.
  4. Use the person’s name in conversation.
  5. Be interested in others and show it. Ask them about themselves.
  6. Dig Deeper. Ask follow-up questions if it seems appropriate.
  7. Listen and respond with verbal cues. “What happened first? What happened next? That must have been difficult…” Continue to look at the person instead of letting your eye wander around the room.
  8. Stop being an adviser. Do NOT offer unsolicited advice. People don’t want to hear it.
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