Small Talk, Big Results – Allegory Inc.

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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.


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