Advice for Students

How to Improve your Small Talk Ability

May 24, 2016  |     |   0 Comment

Business People Talking - istockIn last week’s blog Why are Soft Skills so Important to your Professional Success?” I defined “soft skills” as personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people and noted that it is also synonym for people skills – which includes your character, personality and competence. What is a very important people skill? Small talk.

What is your definition of small talk?  According to the Encarta World Dictionary, small talk is polite conversation about matters of little importance, especially between people who do not know each other well.  I just love this definition.  It captures the meaning beautifully.  Small talk helps to establish a connection between two people.  The conversation does not have to be original or profound.  It simply acts as an ice-breaker – an easy-going conversation that helps to put another person at ease.

Small talk is simply what we say to one another to be polite. It requires focus and practice to build your small talk ability.  Just because you are an extrovert does not mean that you possess strong people skills; and if you are an introvert does not mean that you lack strong people skills.  It is a honed skill as one is rarely born a natural communicator.

Practice these seven tips to improve your small talk ability:

1.  Be well-informed. Read a newspaper or watch the news everyday.  Keep up with current events locally, nationally and internationally.

2.  Focus more on the other person and less on yourself.  Listen carefully to what the other person is saying. This is why you have two ears and one mouth!

3.  Never interrupt. While you may feel you are being helpful by doing so, you will come across as rude or impatient.

4.  Think before you speak. Pauses and silences show that you are a thoughtful and patient person.

5.  Ask questions.  By actively listening to the person with whom you are speaking, you are obtaining a lot of valuable information about them – their personality, interests, profession or business, and leadership style – which can easily help you carry on a conversation by asking them questions related to the information they are sharing. Questions help to build trust by focusing attention on the other person – back to point #2.

6.  Always close a conversation before walking away from the other person. Make eye-contact, smile, extend your hand and say, “It was a pleasure meeting you.”  If this is someone with whom you know you wish to connect with again, you may also say “Perhaps we can plan to get together for a coffee some time within the next week or so?”

7.  Follow up and keep your promises. A major advantage of paying attention to someone during a conversation is that you can usually find a reason to follow up after the event, whether it’s providing business referrals, resources, other information or just friendly notes that reference something that you remember from your conversations. If during a conversation you mentioned that you would call, email, or connect with that person or send them information related to your conversation – then do so within 24 hours of that conversation. Otherwise your credibility will be questioned and the ability for others to trust what you say you will do will be compromised.

Now that you have some tips on how to improve your people skills, in next week’s blog, I will discuss how to put these skills into action in order to improve your mingling proficiency. To learn more about how you can develop your people skills and reach your professional goals please contact me for a complimentary 15 minute consultation at  I would love to hear from you!

To Your Success,

Erin Crotty, Founder & Director, BloomStra Consulting

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