Whether you like small talk or not, it’s a great skill to build. But why is talking about the weather, someone else’s cat, and other pleasantries so important to your work life? How can it help you get ahead?
Even if you can’t change the weather or fix your colleague’s cat’s attitude problem, you can discuss it with them. Save your home for the peace and quiet you would really like. Learn to be a small talk superhero knowing these five reasons behind this seemingly banal banter. A little chatter can build relationships and help you achieve the career you really want.
#1 SMALL TALK MAY LEAD TO BIG PLACES
While small talk may begin about the weather, it can end up leading to a variety of opportunities that would not have come your way had you not discussed the rain. Unlike many events or possible career-building activities, small talk is a way to freely exchange a wealth of information. When you don’t participate in these pleasantries it is like stopping at an ATM and continuously putting in the wrong password. You will remain broke and, eventually, your account will be locked. Most people are social and when you can match their sociability you can then unlock all of the “intellectual funds” they have.
Not only that, but to go back to the ATM metaphor, small talk has the potential to either give you $10.00 in the form of small nuggets of information or $1,000,000 in the form of a business deal. You never truly know, so always talk about “nothing” with others. With small talk, you actually can get something from nothing.
#2 BOOST YOUR IQ
University of Michigan researchers conducted a study and found that small talk increases your intelligence. But, how? Well, according to them, it boosts your ability to solve problems. Oscar Ybarra, a University of Michigan psychologist, says that with certain social interactions you must take other’s perspectives and attempt to gauge their inner thoughts to interact successfully. This anticipation of their reaction and emotional state is like a puzzle for your brain. You must watch their body language, notice the inflection of their voice, process their words, and connect what they are saying now to what they have said before. Ybarra stresses that in order to get the cognitive benefits the interaction must be “social” rather than competitive to boost your IQ.
#3 INCREASED MOOD
While every interaction with others doesn’t elicit pleasant feelings, chatting with others can boost your mood. You are the only person that can control yourself, so anything another does is a surprise. Light banter can contain a wealth of humor and wittiness that you could not have thought of. The more relaxed people are with each other, the more you will get to experience original jokes and laughter. As social beings, most of us want to connect with others. Even if you have had bad experiences before, you may still hope to find that person who understands you. Small talk can hold that boost in mood that can get you through the rest of your day. I don’t know about you, but I have replayed a hilarious comment in my mind and laughed heartily as the day ends.
#4 KEEPS YOU IN THE PRESENT
Whether you are focused on the future or the past, small talk can help you remain in the present. Rather than thinking of a future that has not come or an unchangeable past, you can settle into a easy conversation with someone right now. When you engage someone in small talk, you can get away from the incessant pull of your phone and enjoy a face-to-face conversation that engages all of your senses. Just make sure to keep your phone away from your conversation as it is rude to pull out your phone in the middle of a conversation. If you feel the need to pull out your phone, show your conversational partner a funny video or pictures of something funny. This can prolong your interaction and offer them more information about yourself.
#5 PEOPLE WILL LIKE YOU
Whoever said life isn’t a popularity contest is… wrong. While you don’t have to be the most popular person in your workplace, being liked will help you. When you make people feel good, you are setting yourself up to be a person they can and want to approach.
Small talk allows you to show that you are both generous and confident. When you talk to others, you are showing that you are not stuck in your head mulling over possible scenarios and you are willing to offer information. In addition, small talk also shows respect towards another person. For instance, when you inquire about someone’s health, this shows them that you respect they have a life outside of the job and it also shows them that you care. While jobs are focused on productivity, they also want you to connect with others. When you can make positive relationships with others, you can learn new skills faster and work with your team to quickly find solutions to problems. Win-win.
HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR SKILLS
To improve your skills in small talk, it is best to practice. Get out there and show your awesome personality. Try jokes and don’t beat yourself up if they fall flat. We have all told a joke that could only be understood by ourselves. Yes, it was bad. No, we didn’t die from it.
Some techniques to facilitate small talk include making eye contact, sharing an experience that is common between the two of you (remember to remain focused on your conversational partner), giving someone a sincere compliment, and pushing your self-doubt aside. You are an equal and worthy part of this exchange. Your conversational partner will enjoy that you are comfortable in your own body.
So, one final question: How are you doing, today?
Yeah, still cringe-worthy, but very worth it!