Party Persuasion: Small Talk for Big Gains
Those for whom “small talk” is a natural extension of their personality or interests are more likely to be more naturally persuasive.
Dad was a great salesman, an extremely successful entrepreneur and businessman, but hated small talk – at least of the kind that accompanied non-business situations . My mom, on the other hand, could teach a master class in small talk. And I’ve come to understand that if my mom had had business aspirations of the kind that fueled my father, she probably would have been more successful than he, simply because of her remarkable skill at small talk.
Mom’s ability to broaden her network of contacts in virtually any situation that includes other people – I’m talking the doctors office, the grocery store, her many volunteering efforts – is legendary. She literally makes friends everywhere. The fact that her “agenda,” such as it is, has more to do with social business than commercial business, is beside the point. When asked what makes her so good at meeting people – at the icebreakers and small talk that so readily paralyze or bore the rest of us – her answer is both simple and genius:
I'm really very interested in other people.
Not everyone can get out of their own way in social situations even if they are genuinely interested in other people. Still others are just not that interested! And that’s okay. But if your business depends to some extent or at some point on engaging the interest, cooperation, and facilitation of other people, it’s vital to appreciate the value of the social currency we call small talk.
How valuable is it? Neuroscience says it’s critical. Breaking down skepticism and fear, putting people at ease, is the only doorway to trust, which is the foundation for one of the most essential emotional triggers associated with cooperation, support, and decision-making.
The Friendship Trigger
Relationships are more than rapport, and friendship is more than friendliness, but icebreakers and small talk are the garden gate. And if you’re in a business – or at a point in your business – where you need to build networks, you’ll want access to a lot of gardens to leverage your chances for a bountiful crop.
So, what can we do to be more effective in those awkward first-meeting moments?