How To Do Small Talk and Why it Matters

By April 6, 2022Well-Being
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Small Talk Matters

Small talk matters. It is magic. It has the potential to spark new connections and it nourishes established connections. Small talk is where we discover things in common, which matters because we like people like us.

Stories of Our Everyday Lives

Small talk used to be easier when it seemed we could freely talk to anyone about anything. The good news is that there are still large swaths of conversational space where small talk can flourish with anyone. It’s called the stories of our everyday lives.

This is where we express interest in–and empathy with–people’s day or week, including what’s behind and in front of them. It provides a context for us to share as well. The conversation flows naturally from unfolding curiosity and cross-sharing.

Small Talk is Simple

The questions are simple. For past events: How did that turn out? Regarding upcoming events: How do you hope that turns out? For references to people that matter: How are they doing? Of course, things go best when we listen without interruption, interpretation, or intervention. We also get extra trust bonus points when we use some of the language others use.

Small Talk is Brief

Small also means brief. Just two minutes of small talk can have a value of ten or more. It’s a connecting point. A connection can happen in .05 seconds. Studies show that most of us wrongly predict people will be unreceptive to our invitations to small talk. The more we practice small talk, the better we get at it. All it takes sometimes is a single, caring, unassuming question we could literally ask anyone literally anyone on the planet: “How’s Your Day?”

Small Talk for Leaders

Small talk is particularly useful when leaders do check-ins with people on their teams. Inviting and engaging in small talk creates trust because people trust people interested in their experience and who are equally willing to share their experience. People are more likely to be open, honest, and receptive to those they trust. As with every dimension of leadership, the small things are the big things.

Looking for Guidance on How to Better Connect with Your Team?

At Thrive at Work, we’re fortunate to be working in all of these areas of culture and leadership development. We’d be happy to chat further with you about your own ideas, or new ones that you’d like to pursue.

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About Jack

In my late twenties I had the good fortune to have mentors who were practice leaders in what was then called the Human Potentials Movement. They inspired me to help organizations and communities realize their potential in ways they never imagined. It became clear this was the core gift that would shape the past 40 years.