Thursday, September 24, 2009

Breaking the Rules of Small Talk

Good post from Matt Perman:

Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone, has a good post on making small talk more effective (and authentic) that makes the simple point: be yourself. But to do this, you have to ignore conventional wisdom’s first rule of small talk:
Small talk experts claim that when you first meet a person, you should avoid unpleasant, overly personal, and highly controversial issues.

Wrong! Don’t listen to these people! Nothing has contributed more to the development of boring chitchatters everywhere. The notion that everyone can be everything to everybody at all times is completely off the mark. Personally, I’d rather be interested in what someone was saying, even if I disagreed, than be catatonic any day.

There’s one guaranteed way to stand out in the professional world: Be yourself. I believe that vulnerability—yes, vulnerability—is one of the most underappreciated assets in business today. Too many people confuse secrecy with importance. Business schools teach us to keep everything close to our vest. But the world has changed. Power, today, comes from sharing information, not withholding it. More than ever, the lines demarcating the personal and the professional have blurred. We’re an open-source society, and that calls for open-source behavior. And as a rule, not many secrets are worth the energy required to keep them secret.

1 comment:

  1. I know that vulnerability and transparency are good traits to have in personal relationships, but is it really a good idea in business relationships? And what is vulnerable for one person isn't all that deep to me, and what I think is vulnerable is TMI to another. You usually can tell by seeing if the other party is sharing at the same level as you. If it is only you who is vulnerable, then you've got yourself a onesided monologue.

    Just asking customers how their day is going is often a risky venture--strangers sometimes start crying unexpectedly. All that can be done is to offer a tissue and a free coffee(I work at Starbucks).

    Customers and co-workers tell me all kinds of stuff, and we interact on a personal level, but my perference is to do a lot of listening and asking questions. Being responsive is all what's required anyway. I don't volunteer much about myself at work unless someone seems genuinely interested.

    Small talk serves a purpose, and that is to get accostumed to each other and then flow into a deeper conversation naturally. Small talk is only a springboard into communicating, we are not meant to stay at a cliche. No one knows the art of conversation anymore.