122 How to move beyond small talk

Whether in life or business, how you go deeper in conversation can be the difference between a satisfying relationship or one that is just tolerated. In this episode, we talk about how to move beyond small talk.

How to move beyond small talk

This week’s Inspire Me quote is from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

“It is not the length of life, but the depth.”

Depth of conversation is important. It builds rapport and shared experiences, and provides support during life transitions. In this episode, Leary and Armin talk about the two errors of conversational depth, the value of small talk, and why it’s hard to move beyond small talk. They offer strategies to help us connect with others by diving into deeper conversations.

Quotes from the show:

  • “[Small talk] is the basic way we make connection and we can’t dismiss that. We live in a culture and society that is predominately small talk. It being a form of connection is one thing, but it being the form of conversation is another thing—that’s what we do and we just stay there.” —Armin
  • “If you want to go deeper in relationship, vulnerability is a requirement of that, [as is] the ability to ask good questions.” —Leary
  • “We’re stuck in this mindset of canned replies. If someone asks a question, you already know the response to it before you th[ink] about it because you think that’s the way you’re supposed to respond. I think one of the greatest things we could ever do is take those canned responses out of our minds and think about something maybe completely weird to say in response—be bold.” —Armin
  • “Say something that opens up the conversation rather than ending it with an exclamation point.” —Armin
  • “When you have an open question given to you by somebody else, take that as an [opportunity] to step through the door, being a little bit vulnerable to see where it goes. If they take it up and they carry it further, then you know you have an active, engaged partner [who] wants to have a deeper conversation.” —Leary
  • “But if you’re on the asking questions side, the key here is to enter into it with a sense of trying to gain their opinion about something and to ask them a question that leads them along in an area of mutual interest or an area you know they have an interest in.” —Leary
  • “Rather than having it be right or wrong, or your opinion, or being understood, what if your goal—even if their opinion is offensive and completely different—what if your goal was to learn more?” —Armin
  • “What if your goal is to understand just their perspective? It moves you into relationship with somebody where the purpose is for you to demonstrate empathy. Even if you don’t agree with them, you’re at least willing to explore what they believe.” —Leary
  • “Questions are inviting. They create the opportunity to explore.” —Leary

This week’s Challenge Me:

The next time you find yourself tempted to respond with small talk, try taking the conversation deeper instead by asking good, creative questions (covering how they think and feel, and what they’re doing) and by being vulnerable. 

Comments? Questions? Stories from your own life? Share them with us in the comments below.

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2 thoughts on “122 How to move beyond small talk

  1. This is definitely a good post. Usually, most of us are tempted to small talk. Although not a band thing, it’s always better to follow it up with deep questions. This is even more important in the sales industry. When you have things to sell to somebody, it’s nice to talk less so that you can give time to the potential buyer time to express himself/herself. From here, then you can ask questions asking him/her what his/her problems or needs are. This in turn, allows you to answer specific questions. You are able to give specific answers to his/her questions and therefore get the sale that you wanted. Questions are very important when it comes for understanding when conversing with someone.

    • Hi Vince. You are right. Engaging in deeper conversation is especially powerful in a sales situation where it’s so rarely done. Thanks for listening!

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