Small Talk – Yes, It’s Worth It
Small talk – we all make it day to day, whether we’re checking out at the grocery store, giving a polite hello to a co-worker we pass in the hallway, or bumping into a mutual friend. Interactions with strangers and acquaintances are bound to happen. For the most part, we have become socialized to respond to be cordial. However, I’ve come to realize that the value of small talk can be a fairly controversial opinion. Some people enjoy it; they take a genuine interest in talking to others and find that it often brightens their days. Others find it monotonous or forced – Do you really care about my day? Or, yes, everyone knows Mondays are hard. Regardless of one’s opinions, it turns out these seemingly unimportant conversations can actually have some pretty profound impacts.
It is no surprise that humans are social beings. Contrary to what we have been conditioned to believe, introverts and extroverts alike enjoy time alone and benefit from social interaction. So, if we know that human connection is so powerful for us, why do we so frequently avoid it? (Think silent elevator rides or avoiding eye contact in public) Initiating or even participating in a conversation with a stranger insinuates a level of vulnerability; however, the benefits make engaging in the conversations well worth it!
For one, small talk shows a gesture of respect. At the very least, it shows that you can take some sort of interest in someone’s life and well-being, helping them feel both seen and heard — two things that we do not intentionally do enough. Further, small talk enables you to be more present. Rather than staring down at your phone and aimlessly scrolling through social media or checking emails, small talk challenges you to engage with those in front of you.
In addition, you never know who you are going to meet! Small talk, even if it doesn’t seem like it, builds your network. It can forge a connection and set the foundation for authentic conversations. Even the most minuscule relationships are worth investing in. In the book, How to Get a Job on Wall Street, Scott Hoover says, “In trying to generate business, the deal pitch is obviously critical. What is not so obvious is that simple, seemingly innocuous conversation with potential clients can be just as important. Companies want to hire people who can think on their feet.” Small talk can be an excellent skill for business, but also a great skill for life! You never know who you might meet and where it may lead down the road.
So while small talk may seem redundant or unnecessary, I’d encourage you to start making the most of it! At the very least, you will learn how to navigate different situations, conversations, and people…all fundamental skills for leaders.
As leaders, one of the greatest ways we can make an impact is through connection. Small talk is one of the simplest ways to channel that connection. When engaging in conversation, channel some of these tips:
- Be intentional – You cannot not communicate. Even by not saying something, you are saying something in itself. Start genuinely listening to people, make eye contact – it will show people you are interested.
- Be curious – You never know what you might learn or what you might connect about. Rather than just trying to ‘get through’ the conversation or avoiding silence, see what you can learn about them or from them.
- Change it up – Ask new questions. You don’t have to go too crazy with this if you don’t want to, but simply changing up how you phrase questions can break the ‘typical’ small talk conversation. For example, “how are you?” or “how was your weekend?” might come as routine. A simple change to “How are you doing today?” or “What was the highlight of your weekend?” can change it up.
*Meet the Author*
Caroline has been with Leadership Inspirations for two years. She is currently pursuing a Masters in Leadership Development and holds B.A.’s in Psychology and Integrated Educational Studies.
Favorite Quote: “You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make” – Jane Goodall
Fun Facts: 1) I’m from Seattle 2) I LOVE Golden Retrievers 3) I have celebrated Holi in India