August 17, 2005
News & Opinion: Small Talk: A Short and Simple How To
Simply because August tends to be the time of the year for company picnics, I thought today would be a perfect day to excerpt some tips on small talk from The Etiquette Edge: The Unspoken Rules for Business Success. From experience, I know that after asking the basic questions ("how are you?" "how's your job, kids, family, new house, etc.?" and "are you enjoying the event?"), small talk can become a little challenging. So for your reading pleasure, here are a few valuable tips from Beverly Langford:
Master the art of small talk.
When you go to a social function, arrive prepared to talk to people. Catch up on the latest news before you go. What two or three stories grab your interest? Have some comments or opinions ready, or some little-known fact about the event that everyone may not have heard. If the occasion includes a guest speaker, find out something about the speaker and the work he or she is doing. Even the history of the building where the occasion is taking place or the chef who prepared the food may provide topics of conversation.
Perhaps, you have already mastered the art of small talk. If so, try this on for size:
Act as a catalyst--help others socialize.
Be on the lookout for people who aren't talking to anyone and include them in your conversation. Draw other people into the discussion with connectors, such as "Lindsay, this is Jose. He just moved here from Tulsa. Jose, Lindsay grew up in Tulsa."
I hope these tips will help you in your pursuit of mastering the art of small talk. Best of luck!
About Dylan Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.