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Breaking the Silence

Brushing up on your small talk is more important than you think.

By April Y. Pennington • Feb 1, 2004

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

A quiet elevator ride or break room java fix is fine when solo,but occupy that same space with one of your employees, and suddenlythe silence is deafening. Like it or not, as the business owner,you should show you care about the people who help run yourenterprise, and these moments are the perfect opportunity. But ifengaging in idle chitchat makes you groan inwardly, take heart:Small talk can convey warmth even if the only real heat is thesteam rising from your coffee mug.

Because of its informal nature, small talk provides an easyin-and-out of quick conversations that can leave employees feelinggood about the interaction, though you may have forgotten momentslater. "If you hear employees talking about a movie or whatthey did on the weekend, get involved," instructs Don Gabor,small-talk expert and author of Words That Win: What to Say to Get What YouWant (Prentice Hall Press). Throw in a quick question orcomment, and you instantly succeed in showing interest, as well asproving you're not all business, in a matter of mereseconds.

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