It’s a typical Tuesday morning, and you’ve just stepped into the elevator on your way up to work. In the hall in front of you, you see a fellow building-dweller hustle, despite slightly fumbling their morning coffee, to catch the elevator door before it closes. So, you stick your arm out to catch the door, and save this poor stranger from having to take the stairs. You politely ask them, “What floor?”
Then, you get that grand-old obligatory feeling that you must do what you loathe the most. Chit-chat. Probably about the weather, because you literally know nothing else about this individual, except now, that they work on the sixth floor.
Or how about this. You’re at a party, (wedding, cocktail, or the kind with red-solo cups and loud music, you name it), and have lost your date. You don’t see any familiar faces around you, so you check your phone religiously, and perhaps even resort texting your mother, because sitting on your phone alleviates the social stress you’re feeling.
So. Why is mingling with people you don’t know so scary, and how do we tackle the awkwardness? How can we maximize the little opportunities that we’re given each and every day, in the form of social interactions with everyone- from the barista who makes your morning coffee to the pre-meeting conversational banter with a potential client, customer, or employer? How do we find the big opportunities in small talk?
For example. A friend of mine was on a train from Chicago to New York, and sat next to a man he didn’t know. The two chatted the entire ride, hit it off, and exchanged contact information upon discovering they both worked in the communications field. Fast forward a few months- when my friend lands a job at Gatorade. How? That small talk on the train, about Friday Night Lights and the NFL. He maximized the 10 hour train-ride-of-an-opportunity, and established a mutually beneficial connection with someone.
First of all, to seize these opportunities, it’s important to remember some important truths. At first, small talk sucks for everyone. Although you may wish you were a turtle, so you could sulk into your shell when a situation like this presents itself, you are not. It’s unavoidable. Stop trying to hide from it.
The next time you find yourself in a bar, in line at the grocery store, or on a train ride from Chicago to New York, remember that the discomfort you feel at first is normal, and the person you’re talking to probably feels it too. The biggest obstacle here is yourself, and your own mindset. Once you realize this the whole small talk thing becomes a whole lot easier.
The best part of small talk? It’s small. In fact, typically there are one of two possible outcomes. You can either a) ask that person in the elevator how they are, have a light, pleasant weather-
related conversation with a couple feigned laughs and give out a business card, establishing a potential connection. Or you can b) ask the barista who made your coffee this morning how they are, have a light, pleasant weather-related conversation with a couple feigned laughs, and never see them ever, ever again.
See? It’s little risk with the possibility of high reward. Don’t be your own worst enemy. Here at SquarePlanet, we believe you should maximize ALL opportunities you’re given- even small talk. Remember to breath, smile and stick your phone in your pocket. Oh, and knowing the day’s weather forecast couldn’t hurt either.