Don’t Sweat the Small Talk!

Different strokes for different folks.

It’s funny how life is like that – where some people can be completely at ease making conversation with strangers, others can find themselves on the verge of a panic attack, struggling to string along a single sentence placed in the exact same situation.

In real estate, being able to light up a room and hold an audience’s attention is essential. But more than that, it’s an important life skill. If it doesn’t come naturally to you – there’s good news: you can learn it. All it takes is practice and to set your compass in the right direction!

  • Come Prepared

While your conversational idols will be able to think of an interesting and engaging topic at the drop of a hat, you may not have that same advantage. What’s worse is when there’s dead air and you know you need to think of something … anything! … to fill that space; that’s more often than not the time your mind goes blank.

Have you read a good book recently?

Share what you learned. Disagreed with an argument the author made? Ask your new friend their opinion. Have they read anything worthwhile recently? If not – what’s on their bucket list?

Tried a new restaurant in town?

Share what you liked/what you didn’t. Ask your new friend where they spend their typical Friday nights. What was the worst restaurant experience you’ve ever had? What’s your favourite food memory – it doesn’t have to be about the food, it could just as easily be about the experience.

Are you a trivia buff?

Keep some interesting facts in your arsenal that can be a springboard for conversation.

[e.g. did you know September 11th wasn’t the first attack on the World Trade Center? Feb 26, 1993, a bomb exploded in a van in the center’s underground parking garage which killed 6 people and wounded more than a thousand]

While not necessarily light-hearted, world events are linked to the way we tell time. Everyone can remember the story of how they heard about the attack on the twin towers. People who are old enough will recall where they were when they learned of the death of Princess Diana. Here in Ottawa, many will remember where they were when the Tornado ripped through Craig Henry.

  • Listen

Seems counter intuitive, but perhaps the best way to be a good conversationalist is to be an even better listener. People love talking about themselves and their experiences. If you are listening carefully enough you’ll be able to pick up great follow up questions from their stories and be ready to ask when your time comes up. For someone who wants to stay out of the spotlight I find that re-direction is a favourite technique. As your groups get bigger this becomes even easier as there are multiple people you can pose questions to which usually snowballs into an even broader conversation.

  • Ask Open-Ended Questions

A conversation stopper is a question that can be answered with a simple yes or no. Give people an easy out and they’ll often tell you the bare minimum required to satisfy your inquiry.

Remember *How* *Why* and *In what way* as your launch point into an open-ended question.

  • Practice Makes Perfect

Becoming a confident conversationalist can be learned – but it means pushing yourself outside of your traditional comfort zone. Start small. Taking the elevator? Say hello to your fellow passengers. Chat about the weather. Do anything that makes approaching a stranger seem more … approachable.

You won’t notice at first, but over time this will become easier and easier, and eventually, just second nature to greet those you come in contact with.

Good luck!

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