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How about those Yankees? What about this weather we’ve been having?
That’s because you’re used to boring, pointless small talk about nothing. It takes up precious time and oxygen that you could be spending more wisely elsewhere.
Or, you could learn how to have more meaningful small talk, and come out of your conversation having gained or given something meaningful. In other words, ditch the chit-chat about how much rain/sun we’ve been having and learn how to have significant conversations with people, even strangers.
Keith Ferrazzi is an expert at meaningful small talk, and creating what he calls “instant intimacy”. It’s a great way to quickly share important, deep moments with people that may have been strangers to you 10 minutes ago. There are four important things to keep in mind to have small talk that isn’t awful:
1. Enter with care.
First, reevaluate your focus when talking to people. Don’t get so caught up in how you’re being perceived, or what you can “get out of” this conversation. Instead, focus on them. Who are they? What do they need? How can you help?
This puts into practice one of Ferrazzi’s favorite mindsets, which is to lead with generosity. By truly and authentically caring about the person you’re talking to, and how you can help them, you’ve shifted the focus of the conversation and allowed it to go in a new, and hopefully more meaningful direction.
2. Ask deep questions.
The reason the weather question is so boring is because it doesn’t mean anything - it’s a shallow topic. Ask questions you don’t know the answer to. If you’re both attending a conference or meeting, ask them why are they there? What are they hoping to learn? Gaining that knowledge about them will instantly put you on a deeper level.
To facilitate that meaningful conversation, try sharing deeper things about yourself. Talk about what led you to where you are, and give them a chance to reciprocate. Your goal is to create a welcoming environment in which people want to share things about themselves, and have meaningful conversations with you.
All your effort will be wasted if the only thing you’re thinking of is what to say next. Don’t worry about it so much! Pay attention to what they're saying, react and be responsive, and be attentive. By actually listening, you’re more likely to come across an opportunity to respond with something genuine, instead of planning it out ahead of time.
Of course, if all else fails, ask them to tell you more.
Tell Me More!
Well, just because you asked so nicely. Get out there and do it! Put those tips into practice and see what happens.
There’s no one better to walk you through how to become great at small talk than Ferrazi. The son of a mostly-unemployed steel worker and maid, he learned early on that he would need to create meaningful relationships that he could leverage to get where he wanted to go – but not in a cheesy, network-y, fake way. Instead, in a genuine way, by working hard and being himself.
Take his course, A Complete Guide to Building Your Network, and learn how to make deep relationships instantly, live genuinely, and act audaciously.
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