How to Master the Art of Small Talk
Small talk may be written off as irreverent and superficial but facts as ever speak louder than unformulated opinions and in today’s society, there is just no going around it. You will have to master this very basic skill and have at your disposal for a lifetime’s worth of business meetings, weddings, job interviews, family gatherings and even that time you tried to chat up that girl at the bar and failed miserably. When small talk goes wrong, it can be excruciatingly embarrassing. Personally, I can’t think of anything which will make my toes curl tighter than an unexpected and unbearably long 30-second lift conversation with an extremely casual acquaintance.
So why is small talk of more significance than the name suggests., akin to Robin Hood’s Little John who wasn’t so little? And mastering this will leave others perfectly charmed and you never know when a casual conversation could lead to a change of career, a business deal, or even your future partner.
Topics of Conversation
A rule of memorising by heart, five gentle topics of conversation to have in your tête-à-tête pocketbook at all times is well worth the initial effort. These will ease your nerves, after all, a man forewarned is forearmed. Stepwell, that is well away from politics, religion or sex, unless you happen to find yourself in a Kubrick-esque Eyes Wide Shut party and in that case, good luck vanguard!
Beware of being a narcissist
Shakespeare famously wrote 'Have more than you show, Speak less than you know.' And there is nothing worse than the conversational narcissist in small talk who dominates the conversation. Although you might be dying to show off just how witty, articulate and charming you are, the best conversations are an even paced dance between two people where no-one takes the lead. But there is good news for those who are used to hogging all the attention, you might actually gain something in return for this generosity in speaking less. The Dalai Lama said 'When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.'
Cut out the job title waffle
Be short and succinct when asked the dreaded question, ‘So, what do you do?’ One big mistake people believe is that their job is far more interesting than in reality. In all honesty, it’s just a conversation segue. Keep your job description short, succinct and to the point. You don’t want to bore people with tedious details or make your job sound so utterly confusing that the other person simply can’t follow and will reply with the basest small talk response back of ‘oh. Interesting.’
Be curious and compliment
Ever wondered how people are so charming? It’s partly down to the fact that they actually seem genuinely interested in the other person they are talking to and take notice of details. I once read in GQ that Jeff Goldblum like catnip, to both women and men alike. Liam Hemsworth said of his co-star that, ‘we’d get into an elevator and by the end of that elevator ride he would have made at least three or four women in there be Jeff Goldblum lovers. Often it will have something to do with what they are wearing or their shoes, or their nail polish.’ The route to success for most is one step at a time, and clearly, Goldblum is a few steps ahead by taking the elevator both literally and metaphorically. Hats off Jeff!
Firstly, make yourself approachable. Nothing says ‘don’t approach me’ than a person with folded arms. And don’t forget limbic synchrony. Sounds like a chronic illness it’s true, but it’s actually the key to successfully connecting with someone by subtly mirroring their body language with your own. And don’t forget your footwork, subliminally if your feet are pointed towards someone it seems as though you are giving them your full and undivided attention.
A conversation piece
In fact, talking of footwork, (I can’t help it I’m a cobbler!) let your shoes be your conversation piece. As we have mentioned countless times before, your unique style is your calling card to others. And when someone asks ‘Hey man, where did you get those shoes?’ you can proudly say that you designed them yourself.
How to make an entrance…and an exit.
How one ends a conversation is as important as the beginning. Like with all enjoyable exploits, there’s got to be foreplay followed by an even better ending if you want to be remembered for your charm. Wandering eyes should be your first clue to end the conversation and if you’re the one with itchy feet, just simply say after a brief pause, ‘It was an absolute pleasure talking with you, but I have to dash.’
And my final words to you, practice makes perfect. See every misstep as a step forward and you’ll see how far you can go.
Here’s to good health, good principles and above all, good shoes!