Tricks of the Trade: Small Talk

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BusinesspeopleOne of the most awkward moments is waiting for a meeting to start, waiting for someone to show up, etc, especially when you don’t really know the people. That silence in the room, the tiny smirk that pops up…I always nod my head until I think of something to talk about. Sometimes though, we just can’t think of what to say or don’t want to push any buttons.

The art of ‘Small Talk’ definitely takes some practice over time. From talking sports or pop trends to the latest in technology, the small talk can really seal a deal, or break it.  Has anyone ever tried to make small talk with the receptionist when interviewing for a job? I’m pretty sure that’s how I got my last two jobs. If the receptionist loves you, you’re in. Anyway, I wanted to point out what I thought was the best small talk, and the worst.

What To Talk About:

- Foursquare – I’m the Mayor of Bryant Park.

– Vacationing – Summer plans are a great thing to talk to people about for small talk. It’s always good to show off how jealous someone can be of you that you’re going to Puerto Vallarta and they are going to Syracuse. Shows character.

– TV Commericals – Almost everyone watches TV and chances are they have seen commercials that you have seen.  People love to talk about the good commercials.  Hopefully, then when the commercial pops up on their TV set you pop up in their mind!

– Foods and Restaurants – Everyone has to eat! Why not offer a tip to one of neighborhood’s best kept secrets? Always come prepared.

What Not To Talk About:

- Foursquare – I’m the Mayor of Lace Gentleman’s Club

– Health – “How are you feeling?” “Good, You” “Good” — Dumb, goes nowhere, and if there is something interesting about your health (or theirs) it’s likely not appropriate to discuss at a business meeting.

– Kids – Not only does it make young people feel uncomfortable, if someone doesn’t have kids, but “should,” it makes them pretty uncomfortable too.

– Politics/The BP Oil Spill/Al Gore/Tiger Woods

– Basically anything they ask Miss America!

How do you dodge a topic? Luckily for us, our cell phones are always on vibrate, so put up the finger, say “One second, my phone is vibrating” take it out of your pocket and push one of the buttons.  Then proceed to start another conversation with a much better topic from the top list.

Sometimes you get stuck into the Small Talk traps though, and ya know what, ya just gotta deal.

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  • http://twitter.com/Bacon_Wednesday Stephanie

    Maybe another topic of small talk could be a quick tutorial on the difference between “your” and “you're.” Ahem. :)

  • http://twitter.com/Bacon_Wednesday Stephanie

    Maybe another topic of small talk could be a quick tutorial on the difference between “your” and “you're.” Ahem. :)

  • http://twitter.com/CTMichaels CTMichaels

    nah, that would be under the “things not to talk to about”

  • http://samanthajflynn.wordpress.com/ Your Name

    Personally, i wouldn't reccomend the cell phone trick before a meeting starts. I think it feeds into the older generation's view that we are lazy, irresponsible and have no business etiquette. Mostly, if someone is talking about something awkward, you can find a way to let them do a majority of the talking while looking for a segue.

  • Cyndy

    This happens to me alot. Once there was a gentleman who never tried to say a thing to break the uncomfortable silence. I asked him about it once. He told me that “that was the only time in his day that he just got to enjoy the silence — at a meeting that hasn't started yet.” A new way to look at it.