Get over it. Small talk is a way to create social cohesion. Think back to the last time you went into a meeting where the other party got right down to business. No small talk, no, “How are you?” How did that feel? Now contrast that with the meeting that starts with, “Hi how are you? Is there anything we need before we get down to business?” How did that feel.
If you are in touch with your feelings the second felt a little warmer while no less professional. There is still a focus on the business at hand. AND the other party indicated a genuine concern for you. In showing concern they triggered a chemical response in your body. This positive feeling releases oxytocin a feel good neurochemical that is closely tied to social interactions. This in turn activates parts of our brain that are collaborative, creative and innovative.
So when we engage in small talk we are creating a connection that facilitates trust and inclusion. Which allows us to actually get more work done. Our brains are distracted by the primal desire to know, “Am I safe? Am I part of the group?”
I do get it though, there is only so much, “How’s the weather,” that some can tolerate. Here are some thoughts on other simple questions to spark a small conversation that can lead into a bigger conversation:
- What brings you in to…today?
- Is there anything that you need to clear before we get started?
- How is your work on project— going (This is a project unrelated to your own agenda)
- How is (someone who is personal and important to them)
- Be prepared with something positive and generic to start with such as, “I hear that our client XYZ, is expanding…, it’s nice to think we played a role in that.”
In a social setting the same principles apply. Ask a personal question, listen for the answer. Drill down another layer to show you were listening and then move on to the agenda.
I realize as I write this that it looks formulaic and for some that may feel uncomfortable. I can tell you that it used to be for me. But as I learned to practice this and became more social at networking events and conferences, the number of people willing to help me increased.
Over the next two weeks practice taking a moment at the beginning of each encounter to connect. And then reply here to let me know if you notice a difference in the ease and productivity of your interactions.
If you would like to learn more about how communication can help your teams align, engage and execute please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Image courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/ghozttramp/15390041831/in/photostream/