- Small talk is not so small
- Clarity of Purpose: Have a Clear Voice and Clear Topic to Get your Message Across
- Technical Skills Can Land You a Good Job, but it Won’t Help You Climb the Job Ladder: The Importance of Communication Skills at Work
- At a Job Interview, Think of Your Experience as a Bunch of Brightly Coloured Story Balloons
- “The Machine Stops”: A 1909 novel by E. M. Forster that predicted our addiction with social media (like “Wall-E”, but written 100 years previously)
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- Job interview skills
- Lascaux Caves & Storytelling
- Listening and empathy
- Media & Communication
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- Public speaking
- Science Fiction
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- Small talk
- Social English
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- The Hero
Why is small talk so difficult for some? Many people do seem to have the gift of the gab . . . but do they really?
Let’s say you’re at a party and you’re mingling with a variety of people. Here are some of the kinds of individuals you may discover between yourself and the drinks. Say hello to Mr or Ms…:
- “You think you have problems?”: You innocently mention that you find work a bit difficult. Instead of empathizing, this person will immediately say something such as, “Ha! You think THAT’S bad! Not only is my boss a @$%^^&, but I regularly have to work 25 hours a day, including Saturday and Sunday . . .” This is the kind of person who, upon hearing that you have an incurable disease, would say, “Cancer schmancer, let me tell you what I have …” And so it goes.
- “Pulling Teeth”: You know no one at this party, and you just want to talk with somebody. Yaayy! You see someone in the corner, staring at a martini. You march up to this person, a smile plastered on your face. You ask an innocent question: “Hello, I don’t know anyone here. Do you?”
You get a shrug.
Gamely, you continue: “Umm—who do you know here?”
You get a shrug. The person mumbles something such as “Whatever.”
And it continues. You might feel sorry for this person, or you might end up feeling great about yourself: Wha-hoo, there’s somebody out there who actually has worse social skills than I have!”
Well, perhaps. But is it worth pulling teeth just to have a civil conversation?
- “Emotional vampire”: Beware the emotional vampire, he or she can suck your soul out of your body. Sure, we all need a friend that we can confide in, but this individual will grab onto anybody unfortunate enough to offer a listening ear. If you start talking to a person and, within five minutes you hear:
- His or her life story
- How lonely he / she is
- How wonderful you are, and
- We should get together soon, well, really, is tomorrow OK?
…Warning, warning, you’re in the clutches of an emotional vampire who will be delighted to call you at 3 in the morning to moan about some new horror on the horizon.
There is nothing wrong with meeting a new gem that you would like to explore; after all, that is what parties should be about. However, if you sense an air of desperation about this person, *ding ding*, that person probably is desperate. There’s a good chance you really don’t need that kind of neediness in your life.
The point is this: there are many people out there who really do not know how to have an easy-going, give-and-take conversation with another human being. It’s a rare person who can put people at their ease, and get the small-talk ball rolling.
And don’t doubt it: having skills in small talk is not a small thing at all. It’s big. I’ll go over the importance for small talk in a future blog—and I’ll also give you tips on what you can do so you can meet many social situations with confidence.