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Conversational skills pave the ways to gain success in business and social life

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In her book What Do I Say Next? Talking Your Way to Business and Social Success, author Susan Roane says that if you want to be successful, you don't have a choice as to whether or not you want to develop your conversational prowess. Forget about E=MC2; according to Roane, "verbal fluency equals success and affluency."

Conversation is the heart of all of our communication. Without it, it's almost impossible to build rapport and make lasting connections with our friends, colleagues, clients, and significant others. When you are confident in your ability to talk to others, you have more opportunities to be a better attorney, supervisor, colleague, and friend.

What is small talk?

Small talk is the art of making conversation for the sake of making conversation. It should be considered a social skill—a benefit and not a burden. People who know how to converse with ease and skill have more fun and get more out of life. Knowing what to say can move you to the next step of your career or personal relationship.

There are some people who turn their noses up at the idea of small talk, dismissing it as cliché. Others are so self-absorbed that they never consider that a few minutes of lighthearted banter could help forge the connections they are hoping to make with clients and colleagues.

Why should you make small talk?

When you say that you have no need for small talk, it sends a message that you consider it a waste of time to get to know another human being. His hobbies, favorite movie, and style of communication are relevant; even his pets are important. Do you really want to convey that you are too busy to bother with that person?

Small talk is really the biggest talk you can make. Relationships are built, developed, and nurtured through discussion. Meeting people and exchanging ideas are modes for reinforcing the web of relationships that makes up your world. Most important, it shows you want to make other people feel comfortable around you.

Small talk can break the ice and give you a sense of who people are. And small talk doesn't always have to be about "small" subjects. People often get to know each other with casual conversations about art, sports, the stock market, or current affairs.

How do you make small talk?

  • Write a self-introduction, and practice it ahead of time. This helps bolster your confidence when you meet someone at a party, conference, or event.
  • Keep up with the news—local, national, and sports—so you know what's going on in the world. It will give you more to talk about.
  • Don't ask questions hoping that the other person will carry the conversation. In this instance, you are bringing nothing to the table; and people will just think you are being nosy.
  • Actually listen to what the other person is saying instead of planning what you are going to say next. He or she is telling you what to talk about. Take your cue from your partner, and work on building a meaningful exchange.
  • Start small. Establish a comfortable connection with the other person before you move on to more serious subjects.
  • Ask questions, and listen to the answers. But make sure that your questions are appropriate, not tacky or artificial. If you wouldn't want to answer it yourself, don't ask!
  • Contribute anecdotes that relate to the interests of the people you are chatting with. Don't redirect the spotlight to you or try to make a sales pitch. There will be plenty of time for that later.
  • Stay in the moment, and talk about the event you are attending—the venue, the food (good or bad!), traffic, how you know the host, etc.
  • Remember, most people are nice and really would like to talk to you.
  • Finally, your parents had your best interests at heart; but now that you are an adult, it is okay to talk to strangers!
As trite as it sounds, small talk is the building block of big talk. With a little practice, you really can schmooze your way to personal and career success.

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