Small talk, whether with coworkers or people from other companies, can pay big dividends to you and your organization—if you follow a few simple rules.
1. When it’s your turn to talk, you don’t want to stand there as if you’ve just taken a vow of silence. On the other hand, if you fill in too many details, you’ll probably see people’s eyes glaze over—just before they rapidly excuse themselves, mumbling something about having to make a phone call. Think “outline,” not “thesis.”
2. Talk to express, not to impress. Don’t brag, and don’t play one-upmanship.
3. By all means ask questions to show you’re interested in the people you’re talking with. But don’t make them feel as if you’re giving them the third degree. And never ask for professional advice you would otherwise have to pay for.
4. Don’t give unsolicited advice. In fact, you’re better off not giving advice at all.
5. Don’t grind your ax or attempt to get everybody interested in your latest passion—give people space to be themselves.
6. It should go without saying, but don’t be a bigot. Other people might not share your preconceived notions about gender, ethnic origins, religion, etc.
7. Be a good listener. Don’t interrupt another person to interject your own thoughts. Wait your turn.
The Economics Press