The Fine Art of Small Talk begins with seven questions to ask yourself about small talk, such as: "I have joined or participated in at least one club or group activity to develop new business, personal, or romantic relationships this year" and "When someone asks me, 'What's new?' instead of saying, 'Not much,' I often talk about something exciting in my life." These questions drove the point home for me on how much I sometimes skip engaging people in conversation simply by assuming they aren't interesting in hearing more from me or fear that I'm monopolizing a conversation. The author stressed that small talk helps establish rapport in conversations, which I found a key point in the importance of making "casual conversation."
I also appreciated the comparisons about small talk to some of the things we're told in childhood, such as "don't talk to strangers" or "wait to be spoken to." These suggestions probably stay with many of us and we have to work to overcome them.
The author reinforces the importance of small talk by saying that it is not "the lonely stepchild of real conversation" but rather the way to get to meaningful conversation. If you have ever pictured people awkwardly standing at a party trying to make chit chat, this quote will change your perception.
Another key point brought up in the book is listening. Small talk is not just chattering away by yourself, but using the conversation to learn more about who you are speaking to. She suggests making open-ended inquiries. For example, instead of "Are you married?" say "Tell me about your family." Fine also stresses that it's very important to remember the names of the people you talk with.
Overall, I found this book a handy reference on the importance of small talk, and think it can help people, especially those on the introverted side, navigate conversations with new people more easily. (Here's a bit more on how introverts can make small talk at a cocktail party.)
- Several suggestions for openers that can assist in initiating small talk.
- Tips for asking questions that get you deeper into conversation.
- Tips for how to reconnect with people.
- Suggestions for conversing with difficult personality types.
- Short, easy to digest chapters.
- Four pages of icebreakers which people may find helpful in meeting new friends.
- Tips for talking to a variety of people, including business acquaintances.
- Examples could have been given on how to use the tips in actual conversation.
- A few sample conversations would have helped underscore the points made in the book.
- Title: The Fine Art of Small Talk
- Author: Debra Fine
- Publisher: Hyperion
- Published: September, 2005
- Book Details: 224 pages, hardcover & paperback