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Small Talk Gets The Big Guys!

No matter what position you hold, professionally or socially, you will need to engage people with little more than “business” to get what you need

Oct 19, 2010 14:27 IST
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Small Talk Gets The Big Guys!
Small Talk Gets The Big Guys!

No matter what position you hold, professionally or socially, you will need to engage people with little more than “business” to get what you need

If you thought that getting the job done in a matter of fact way was not only efficient, but kept that no-nonsense image intact, then it’s time to think again. Interpersonal relationships, at the workplace and in informal interaction, are governed by much more than speaking of all the necessary stuff. You need to package what you say neatly between inquiring about how the other person is and then about what you have in mind.

For its own sake

Conversation for its own sake, sometimes made up of perfectly obvious statements, can form the informal type of discourse which very often puts you in a better position to negotiate what you really want. The way to approach functional topics in a discussion is a social skill, and one of the many soft skills which are assuming a greater importance with corporate houses and professionals today.

Listening between the lines

Small talk has its unsaid uses. What generally seem taxing in isolation are in fact a collaborative bonding tool and a way of negotiating interpersonal distance. Not only with people are you already familiar with, but also with new acquaintances. You will need to maintain a positive outlook and your failure to mingle smoothly will often draw criticism in unrelated ways. People assess each other’s social position through informal conversation. In this way, reaching the point in the conversation first needs you to establish a rapport with the other individual, and only then can it achieve the desired effectiveness.

Beginning, middle and end

When you are starting a conversation with someone you already know, small talk can help form a soft introduction before you move onto the discussion at hand. You can also judge the mood and the attitude of the person at that time and concerning that topic.

You might have had a certain share of awkward silences even in the middle of important and interesting discussions. It is fine to give a calculated pause when you are thinking undisturbed, but in many situations, such a silence might be the cause of some tension. Hence, it is safest to start some general talk before a substantial point arises.

Ending the conversation abruptly will not only mark you out as rude and ill mannered, but will also leave the other person with a feeling of having been used. It might even breed rejection, and you will find it unusually difficult engaging the person again. You can easily soften the parting by some small talk, inquiring after family or work, and this will emphasise the mutually rewarding nature of the discussion.

Middle, middle and middle
Some conversations might comprise of only small talk or no functional and informative details at all. This is called chatter, and it has its uses also. It is a necessary social function and centers mainly on topics which are common to the respective individuals.

In the workplace, employees of the same level share such a relationship. Managers use it sometimes to gain more leverage over everyday interaction, and also to project themselves as team players. In this case, authority can be exercised by your ability to end the small talk and get down to business.

Remember that details shared in such conversations should not exceed the shared space. It would be inappropriate to give information which was uncalled for by a simple “how are you”. A reply that goes into one’s recent personal history might just mean that you take on a level of familiarity which the other person is unwilling to share. This would be counterproductive to the objective of affecting small talk.

Predictable? You bet!

People engaging in friendly chatter use a series of measures that prove a sort of theory about how small talk operates. The first question is designed in such a way that the other person agrees to it. No one would complain if the weather was really nice and you pointed it out. This first statement may also be one’s opinion followed by an “isn’t it?” or “don’t you think?”

Remember that politeness in small talk requires you to respond with a slightly substantial answer. A monosyllable would only mean that you don’t really care for the statement and are not open to any further conversation. Sometimes you will have to resort to what is called “idling” behavior such as sounds of agreement.

It is this predictability of small talk that gives the confidence that both parties need to engage in topics of functional use. It might also mean that you keep your interaction with colleagues refreshed until a time when you actually need them. It will make you seem pleasant and people or co workers will be more than glad to help the person who’s been asking after them.

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