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Small talk important part of building business

 By Cynthia Grosso

 A study done by Midwestern University found that 80% of the time, a lack of communication skills rather than technical ability or business know-how as the reason people do not get ahead in their jobs.

 Knowing the art of small talk is an essential part of interpersonal communications protocol.

The dictionary defines small talk as� light conversation about common, everyday things or chit chat�. 

In business, small talk is social talking on a business level.  Small talk is unimportant, important conversation. It is used at cocktail parties, meals, networking events, as pre-meeting activities, etc.  It can be used in any situation where you are trying to begin or improve personal relationships.

People who realize and master the art of small talk understand that an opportunity to speak is not always an opportune time to talk business.  It can however, be a valuable opportunity to enhance relationships and build rapport.

Small talk can be for only a few minutes or indefinitely, depending on the situation. The amount of small talk is actually determined by the host. It is proper etiquette for the host to begin the business part of the meeting.            For example: At a lunch meeting, as the host, you may begin small talk as you sit down.  After the meal order is placed, the host may begin business as he or she sees fit.

At a dinner event, small talk may be spoken during the entire meal.  There are ways to sit at a meal and regulate small talk, as to not monopolize someone�s time and attention.  An example may be, when the first course is served, speak to the person on your right.   When the second course is served, speak to the person on the left. Alternate, so you are speaking to people on both sides and not excluding anyone.

In international business the art of small talk is tremendously important in building trust and a connection with international clients.  American business people are known for doing business as�ready, aim, fire.�  However, their counterparts in other parts of the world usually want to get to know the person with whom they are doing business and as a result, may not move as fast.  In international business, small talk can be the focus of the entire meeting or even the entire visit.  It is important that you do not appear to be impatient.  

Here are some suggestions on possible topics for small talk. In all of the following topics stay away from any controversy that may be associated with them.

        Weather

        Traffic

        Travel - stay with mostly favorable experiences

        Books

        Current events

        The arts

Topics to stay way from include:

        Personal health issues (yours or theirs)

        Gossip is a non-professional subject

        Controversial subjects such as politics and religion

        Inappropriate jokes

Remember the purpose of small talk is to build relationships.  It is not a time for arguing or disagreement.  You can use humor in small talk, but be careful to make sure that it is not to anyone�s expense.  

Small talk is inclusive to everyone, as it often occurs in groups of 2 or more.  Discussing a topic that is so specific that a casual spectator can not take part in it, is not polite. The art of small talk is learning to speak so that all observers feel included.

Another main component of small talk includes listening.  Small talk does not mean rambling on and monopolizing the conversation and not allowing others to speak.  Listening, is often more of the conversation then speaking.  It can be a good way to learn the art of small talk, as well as being a part of it.

 

 

Source: Article Published in The Post and Courier

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