Small Talk, Big Results – Allegory Inc.

Learning Resources

Articles

Small Talk, Big Results

By Christina Harbridge

Two hacks to improve communication at work or at home

hand raised

Just waiting for a bus, or a perfect chance to practice better communication? (photo c/o gratisography)

Small talk can have a big impact on a career, a relationship and/or a childhood.

A better question can increase comfort and interest in a chat. “How are you,” gives the obligatory “Fine.” but “Tell me about your day?” is more detailed and specific — and can lead to a more detailed and specific answer.

Two easy hacks to incorporate this into your everyday life

1. Practice asking better questions:

Just changing the tone of a question can change the outcome — by being more thoughtful about your inquiry, others will pause and be more thoughtful about their answer.

Instead of “How are you doing?” try:

  • “Tell me about a project that has you jazzed?”
  • “Tell me a story from your day?”

Or if you’re at a networking or social event, skip the typical “What do you do?” question and dig a little deeper:

  • “What are your thoughts on that last speaker…”
  • “How did you get into bail bonds?”
  • “Tell me about the pin on your lapel…”
  • “What piece of advice would you give someone new to this industry?”
  • “If you could go to any concert now or in history, what one?”

If you’re not around a lot of kids, it’s easy to slip into transactional conversations when they’re around. Kids build trust in the small moments and most of them love storytelling and creativity. Asking kids detailed and thoughtful questions will get you way better answers:

  • “If you were a cartoon character today, who were you?”
  • “What are 3 things you liked and one thing you didn’t today?”
  • “I was at the park this morning, what would you change about it if you were Mayor?”
  • “If you had to pick just one sport to play, which one and why?”
  • “Tell me about Minecraft, what is it and why do kids love it?”

If you are not getting the kind of answers you want from people, change the types of questions you ask.

2. Practice more often

Practice small talk in situations that have little consequence, like in the line at a coffee shop or waiting for an elevator. Folks often tell me I am good at small talk, I didn’t start out good at it, I am PRACTICED at it. I practice it all the time when the stakes are NOT high. I come up with new ways to create conversations. It is a practice in creating comfort for the other person so they are more open.

Getting better at connecting with people via small talk can not only improve your basic communication skills, it can also lead to deeper work or friend relationships and random human connection absolutely creates opportunity.

 

Join our Email List

More Articles

Tone Down the Attitude

Tone Down the Attitude

Tone is everything. Even without saying the actual words, people often call each other names with degrading or disrespectful tones. There is a wide palette of negative tones — sarcastic, passive-aggressive, cold and calculating, ridiculing — and so on. But they all...

You’re Not For Everybody (and that’s ok!)

You’re Not For Everybody (and that’s ok!)

That stuff you hide from others? Start showing them. People aren’t always committed to listen to what we say if they do not like us. Yet, our job as communicators is not to get everyone to like us. This is impossible, and in fact, could actually make people dislike us...

Throwaway Comments Aren’t, Really

Throwaway Comments Aren’t, Really

This is the third installment in a series on Irrational Habits, the very human stuff that messes with our desired outcomes. So far, we’ve covered eclipsing outcomes with feelings and crowdsourcing discontent. Let’s talk about another common habit: using broad,...