13 golden rules for small talk with strangers

Here we will discuss 13 golden rules for small talk.Many people are afraid of it or even consider it superfluous. Small Talk is easy as pie, if you just dare. Who masters the rules of the game of shallow conversation, lays the foundation for successful networking.

Small Talk

If you want to talk to strangers, you should follow some rules. Photo: Photographee.eu – shutterstock.com

In business, but also private situations, you should understand the small talk as a warm-up phase. Any athlete, opera singer or actor warms up, take that fact for your performance on the business floor. Falling into the house right at the door does not go down well with other business partners, especially in other cultures. In any case, you should start with a small talk at the beginning of the relationship level. But how do you get into conversation with strangers?

The first steps

As a host or IT professional in the company inviting you to a customer event, your job is to entertain your customers or “catch them” when they are alone and lost in the room. “The first step is a greeting like, “We have not been introduced yet …” or “I see you stand alone here …”

The third step is the concept. A sympathetic self-image is with first name and surname and another addition, what you do in the company for a position or activity.

And the last step is the reference to the situation. This could look like this: “How did you hear about our event”, “What is your contact today?” …

With this approach, you have already provided the recipient with several templates for a conversation, and the person may also remember your name better, since you have already given a little more price above.

The conversation start

Are they there now – the icebreakers? The first clever sentence does not exist. Basically, you can prepare for a conversation. Use the open question technique and formulate these W questions in your head.

  • What could interest me in the conversation partner?
  • What do I already know from the interlocutor?
  • Which topics could fit?
  • How does he think …?

The best way to find common ground. The fastest commonality you can find is the location, environment and occasion that brought you together. Meet your client in the theater, talk about the beautiful atmosphere of the theater or how well attended the performance is.

Ask questions about the place where you meet your business partner. Does he know? Can he make recommendations for restaurants or businesses. If not, where does he come from? And you are already in conversation.

Another way to start a conversation is to pronounce a serious compliment to my potential interlocutor. This has the nice side effect that you have said something sympathetic right away.

Active listening

This does not just mean nodding and occasionally saying “yes,” or “hmm,” but also the ability to remember casually what’s said. For a question, an answer could come with more than one piece of information. Remember this additional information and let it flow again later. According to the motto: “You mentioned earlier that you …”

The topics of conversation

The range of things to talk about is long. And for some topics you have to find out by asking if they are suitable for my opponent or not. Much more important, however, are the taboo topics.

Avoid all topics that are polarizing. Too fast you can fall into the trap that your interlocutor has a different opinion on a topic than you. Typically, these include the topics: politics and religion. Even some sports can be fatal, just think of supporters of various football clubs.

Any negative should be avoided in a small talk – even if it could be similarities. Examples are the delay of the train or the cancellation of flights. Shared suffering is not always half suffering. And hold back with allegations. Too fast you can catapult yourself by an ill-considered statement on the sidelines. To say: “You can not travel to Mallorca, because there are more beautiful places” could meet in your roundtable on sensitive ears.

Do not think the weather is a taboo topic. Often the weather is the perfect transition to your weekend outing, your sport or your vacation plans.

End the conversation

The good news is that a small talk may also be short. You are also not obligated as a host to stick to a guest the whole evening, just because he does not dare on your part. As a host you even have the duty to take care of other guests and can also take this as an “excuse” to say goodbye. But how do you do this gallantly?

Say it as it is:

  • “I am currently seeing another guest / customer / employee whom I would like to welcome and you excuse me.”
  • “We had a lot of fun with this conversation, I would like to chat a bit further, but unfortunately the duty is calling … you excuse me.”

Other variants such as the course to the buffet or bar are also possible. On the way there or at the destination you meet people or even lose sight of themselves.

In contrast, the excuse to wash your hands is not exactly gallant and does not always lead to the goal.

The advanced version is the handover with the introduction of a third person. Once you have arrived at a topic that you know has another guest or co-worker’s same interests, you can target that person and introduce the person to each other and specify the topic as the reason for the performance.

  • Build your exit by completing the last topic positively. “Since we can adjust to exciting times …”
  • Say how you found the conversation, “I could talk to you for hours, that was really interesting …”
  • Thank you for the entertainment and the time the conversation partner has taken.
  • Justify your departure if necessary.
  • If you really want it, you can promise a new meeting and exchange your business cards.
  • Finally, the farewell follows, possibly even with a handshake.

How do I find my small talk victim?

If you are invited to an event and your host has already said goodbye to you, you are looking for a suitable discussion partner. Not so easy?

The best victim for a small talk is someone who is alone. At these events, it is not “watching is fun”, but making relationships is required. As you enter the room, watch who grants you longer eye contact. These are potential discussion partners for you later.

Find groups that are open to each other. Are there any gaps in which you can present yourself? A group that is closed with its back to us, would not usually be disturbed. If you can not find a group to join you, the best place for you is between the entrance and the bar. This route is the most frequented. Maybe one or the other guest will stay with you.

Maintain your relationships in small talk as well. Dare to record this little conversation and try to practice these situations as often as possible.

Summary: 13 golden rules for small talk

  1. Small talk is usually only between strangers.
  2. Imagine being sympathetic – think of their first impression
  3. Give your counterpart room to talk to and take back yourself.
  4. Ask open questions and find common ground
  5. Location, environment and occasion are topics that you can address as a commonality.
  6. Avoid taboo subjects: polarizing issues, negatives, money, illness, claims, …
  7. Do not hold monologues.
  8. Listen actively and attentively.
  9. Keep eye contact.
  10. Search for as many contacts as possible.
  11. Finish the conversation positively.
  12. Use Small Talk for networking.
  13. Prepare for your small talk business partner.

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