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Making Effective Small Talk

When it comes to networking and building strong relationships at work, it doesn't matter if you're an introvert or an extrovert. In a professional role, you probably need to make small talk from time to time. Small talk also enhances your personal relationships. Using small talk to advance your career and personal goals is the subject of this blog.

Making small talk is an important skill to have during a conversation.

The importance of small talk in building rapport is evident in many business and personal situations. In an office, sales environment, or other places where people encounter people they don't know very well, rapport is the natural positive relationship that begins between them.

During a conversation, rapport is established early on. You might only have seven seconds to establish rapport in a sales call before you lose the opportunity. Managers who are savvy will spend some time at the beginning of a meeting building rapport with attendees and among themselves. The rapport that develops between two people in the initial networking process facilitates interactions that could prove beneficial to their careers for years to come.

Small talk and positive body language are usually the first steps in building rapport. The basis of verbal communication between two people is small talk, which plays an important role in relationship development. It is important to ask the right questions, with the right level of interest, and at the right time to lay the foundation for a positive relationship.

Small talk tips

Here's how to make small talk step by step:

1) Devices are down

2) Take a moment to listen

3) Ask open-ended questions

4) Respond with enthusiasm

1. Devices down

Putting away your devices is the first step to making small talk. We live in a world that's totally connected through a digital network, so this is a small yet meaningful gesture. Putting your phone, tablet or laptop away shows that you are fully focused on the person you are speaking with and are not waiting for something to interrupt your conversation. If combined with active listening, giving your full attention to the person you are speaking to is not only good manners, but it also gives you the opportunity to establish a rapport.

2. Listen first

Engaging your full attention when you're in a social situation shows that you're giving it your all. Talking and listening should be equal parts of a conversation. By practicing nonverbal cues like nodding and making eye contact with the speaker, you can demonstrate that you're paying attention. Giving small summaries of what someone has just said is also a good active listening technique.

For instance, if someone says, "Wow, I haven't seen you in three years," say back, "How long has it been?" This shows you are actively listening and ready to engage when it makes sense.

3. Ask open questions

Ask open-ended questions about the person you are speaking with. "How have things been?" is a better question than "Have you been all right?" The latter requires a binary yes or no response, while the former encourages open-ended discussion.

4. Respond enthusiastically

Respond enthusiastically when someone tells you something in a small talk conversation. Positive reinforcement can not only make people feel valued and validated, but also show them you are paying attention. If you don't know someone very well, this can help you establish rapport with them.

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