​How to Improve Your Small Talk with One Simple Formula

Executive Speaking
Executive Speaking

Anett Grant has 40 years of coaching top executives, leaders, and emerging leaders from 61 of the Fortune 100 companies, as well as countless midmarket and small businesses from all over the world.

Whether you’re beginning a new job, starting a new project or attending a networking event, you have to meet so many new people. And for some of you, worse yet, you have to talk!

If you are wondering what to say in those agonizing first few minutes, here’s a no-fail formula that not only gets you through the minutes, but actually stimulates interesting discussion.

Match

The first step to better small talk is to m atch: connect with the other person’s content and rhythm. To connect with his/her content, simply show that you were listening and incorporate part of what he/she said into what you say next.

Connecting with rhythm is a little more tricky, but it’s equally important. If the other person is very short with their responses, you need to match their rhythm — don’t just launch into a long soliloquy. Keep your response short, but just a little longer than his/her comment. You want to stimulate longer responses, but you need to go slowly. Here’s an example of matching in action.

You: Traffic on the way over was crazy, huh? Did you drive?

Him/her: No, I actually took the bus. The traffic was pretty awful, but at least I didn’t have to be behind the wheel.

You — [ Match]Oh, yeah the bus can definitely be convenient. Nice to able to check your email or read a book on your commute.

Shift

The second step to better small talk is to s hift. If you are engaged and interested in the topic at hand, add something else to the discussion. If not, change the subject to a more compelling topic. I’ll continue the example:

You: Oh, yeah, the bus can definitely be convenient. Nice to able to check your email or read a book on your commute. [ Shift]I’ve actually been reading the new Bruce Springsteen biography.

Pass back

Finally, you want to p ass back: Give the other person an opening to either continue the conversation or change the subject. If you stick to the formula, you’ll eventually find something you can both talk about with interest, establishing a deeper connection. Finishing up the example —

You: Oh, yeah, the bus can definitely be convenient. Nice to able to check your email or read a book on your commute. I’ve actually been reading the new Bruce Springsteen biography. [Pass Back]: Are you a fan of The Boss?

So when you find yourself in a situation that calls for some small talk, remember to m atchshift, and pass back. By making stronger connections in these informal situations, you can build a strong foundation for lasting relationships.

Executive Speaking
Executive Speaking

Anett Grant has 40 years of coaching top executives, leaders, and emerging leaders from 61 of the Fortune 100 companies, as well as countless midmarket and small businesses from all over the world.

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