This pastry by Leslie Jensen-Inman got me thinking about triggering
sharing during smalltalk …
When I travel, I always bring a book with the intention of being able to read
while waiting for the plane to arrive and while inflight. However, I rarely
get to read as much as I intend. Instead, I get into conversations with
complete strangers who tell me very personal details of their lives. For
example, on two different flights in one day, I had two separate women tell me
about their hysterectomies. I hadn’t asked anything specific that would
lead both women to share this very personal experience, but they both did.
I shared these and other examples of stories that have been told to me with a
friend. I wondered if he had similar experiences. He clearly explained,
“People share things with you because you ask the follow-up question.”
Furthering The Smalltalk
Be creative with …
- Yes/No questions
Then simply rinse and repeat … obviously, after letting the person finish
- Make eye contact while the other person speaks. In general, you should aim
for eye contact about 60-70% of the time that you are listening. Lean toward
the other person, and nod your head occasionally. Avoid folding your arms as
this signals that you are not listening.
- Instead of offering unsolicited advice or opinions, simply paraphrase what
has been said. You might start this off by saying “In other words, what you
are saying is…”.
- Do not interrupt while the other person is speaking. Do not prepare your
reply while the other person speaks; the last thing that he says may change
the meaning of what he has already said.
- In addition to listening to what is said, watch nonverbal behavior to pick up
on hidden meaning. Facial expressions, tone of voice and other behaviors can
sometimes tell you more than words alone.
- While listening, shut down your internal dialogue. Avoid daydreaming. It is
impossible to attentively listen to someone else and your own internal voice
at the same time.
- Show interest by asking questions to clarify what is said. Ask open-ended
questions to encourage the speaker. Avoid closed yes-or-no questions that
tend to shut down conversation.
- Avoid abruptly changing the subject; it will appear that you were not
listening to the other person.
- As you listen, be open, neutral, and withhold judgment and stereotypes.
- Show interest and encourage the other person to speak by smiling and nodding
- It will be easier to ask yes/no and follow-up questions if you keep up- to-
date on news, entertainment and sporting events.
- If there isn’t a natural follow-up question, and the other person is still
speaking, interject statements such as “Tell me more” or “Sounds interesting”
to encourage the other person.
- If someone discloses something personal, such as a recent death in the family
or a divorce, it is usually best to offer sympathy and support rather than
ask for more details, unless you know the person very well. That person may
just want to explain his situation so that you know why he is not acting like
himself. Leave it up to him to decide how much to share.
- Be patient while you listen. We are capable of listening much faster than
others can speak.
- Learn to recognize active listening. Watch television interviews and observe
whether the interviewer is practicing active listening. Learn from the
mistakes of others.
- How to Ask Follow-Up Questions During Small Talk
- How To Practice Active Listening