Small talk, much-maligned, can easily become a catalyst for a deeper connection. Let the art of small talk be your guide. Always keep your antenna up for clues. I consider mastering small talk an important part of mindful conversation.
The past few blogs have all focused on how to open a conversation, and set each conversation immediately on track to becoming a vehicle for open expression and authentic connection. We’ve covered simple but often overlooked steps like eye contact, learning and using your CP’s (conversation partner) name.
Once you’ve completed these all-important opening steps, it’s natural to turn to the main event. Most people ease into more substantive conversation with some form of “small talk.”
Though we all make small talk, many people knock it. A “waste of time,” they say. Boring, they infer. Beneath me, they seem to imply. And they miss a big opportunity. Small talk, when handled mindfully, is often an invitation to deeper connection.
Learning the Art of Small Talk
At a party, Sally turns to Frank, “Hi. I just got here. I don’t really know anyone.”
Frank: “Oh. I’ve been here for a short while. I think there’s going to be music later on,”
This is small talk, brief and casual. Sally and Frank are fishing for common ground, a place to start. Nothing wrong with either remark, except that Frank misses a huge clue. Consider some of Frank’s other possible replies:
- “Are you new to the area?
- “I know a few people here. I could introduce you.”
- “I often feel a bit strange myself when I show up at a party where I don’t know anyone.”
In these three options, Frank uses what he learned in a snippet of small talk, to open the possibility of a more engaged, more personal conversation. Something beyond small talk. These responses come from a place of curiosity and authenticity, two of the core values of Mindful Conversation. With such responses, Frank signals to Sally that he is open, willing and eager to talk more. He is approachable. And he is sensitive to Sally’s immediate predicament.
Tools for Mindful Conversation: Details of the fine art of Small Talk
Frank asks questions. Basic, simple questions that invite further exploration. They are part of the art of small talk. They demonstrate an interest in Sally. Many people never ask a question. That’s never, as in NOT EVER. (Unless to get information they desire for some purpose.) In future blogs, I’ll explore different kinds of questions, how to frame good questions, and different questioning strategies. But for now, it’s basic. Be curious. Ask questions.
Frank “hears” that Sally may be uncomfortable because she doesn’t know anyone. He doesn’t give advice or push himself on her, but he makes a very appropriate offer. Basically, “Can I help?” He is paying attention.
Vulnerability and Empathy
Frank demonstrates openness and vulnerability when he says, “I often feel a bit strange …” He is showing who he is, without taking over the conversation. This remark demonstrates empathy. He seems to understand Sally’s feelings, even though she has not explicitly spoken about how she feels. Such a comment is very likely to help Sally feel more comfortable and perhaps be the beginning of a nice connection and Mindful Conversation between the two.
Mindful Conversation is a way of talking and listening, designed to help you connect with others deeply while you express yourself authentically. It builds on, but goes way farther, than traditional communication tools such as Active Listening. Please peruse the web site to learn more, consider the Conversational Style Guide, https://survey.alchemer.com/s3/5989413/2681f8b66af2 to learn more about your unique style of conversation or use the contact form below to comment or ask questions.
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