The Challenge of Small Talk

“It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.” – Mark Twain

I am sure you have heard that the fear of public speaking is THE number one social fear of all. Can you guess what number two is? It is the fear of starting a conversation with a stranger. This means that if you are ever at an event where you do not know anyone, you cannot wait for someone to approach you. It is up to you to start the conversation and, most likely, to keep it going. 

Since one of my development priorities for this year is to learn conversational English (as opposed to formal/business speak that I picked up in college), my boss gave me the most amazing book – “The Fine Art of Small Talk” by Debra Fine. It is simply brilliant. From her ice breaker suggestions to networking offences to dating sanity savers – the entire book is full of such stunning ideas that you will immediately start looking for opportunities to put them to practice.

In the mere 143 tiny pages it accomplishes exactly what it promises to do – it tells you “how to start a conversation, keep it going, build rapport – and leave a positive impression.” One powerful point the author makes is that people are not willing to talk about themselves, because they are afraid that their lives are too ordinary to be a topic of a conversation, also they do not want to be seen as selfish and vain. However, I could not agree with Debra more – everything is a topic of conversation! You just need to tailor your choice to the situation. And the book does not lack the advice on how to do that either.

Author’s writing style also adds to how enjoyable and gratifying this book is to read. It is intelligently witty – which is a rarity nowadays – and leaves you with a positive impression and outlook on networking. My personal takeaway is the reasons to interrupt. Heeding them will serve you right in every situation – personal or professional, familiar or new, casual or uptight.

From shy or introverted to well-connected – everyone will benefit from reading this book. Networking is not confined to a banquet room or a conference hall. Just like everything is a conversation topic, every situation is a networking opportunity. And that is the approach the book takes. Even if you are not trying to find a job or drum up clients for your business, this book helps you use small talk to build rapport and establish a connection in any life setting. I am sure there are many other great books on professional networking. However, this one will be the optimal start. And it could quite possibly become the end of your search for a manual on networking theory.

Bottom line: I would most definitely recommend this book and actually already have. Everyone will enjoy reading it. Everyone will find a tip or two that they can use in their next “small talk” situation. If you have decided to step up your networking game like me, reading this book is a must.

Do you have any small talk tips?

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