6 Life Coaches Talk about Small Talk
In July, 45 Catalysts traveled to Santa Monica for the first SHFT in-person three-day retreat, IGNITE. While they knew each other intimately from their online interactions, most of the Catalysts were meeting face-to-face for the first time.
As with most first-time interactions, there's a bit of small talk involved. Of course with trained Catalysts, it wasn't long before they got "deep" into the details of their lives. As they decompressed from the events that took place during the retreat, they shared perspectives on small talk .
Here are their thoughts:
Small talk is a necessity of life, it's the tip of the spear to start conversations. “How's the weather, how was your flight, where are you from, how was traffic, yada yada fuckin yada.” After a minute or two of this, some of us glaze the fuck over and check out. We need stimulation, challenging, thoughtful questions that make us think and engage our feelings. That's where the skill of engaged listening comes into play.
Engaged, aka active, listening is another necessity of life so we understand how to communicate effectively with others, both strangers and loved ones alike. I often say "read the room" and "just be cool" ... meaning: read how others are accepting your energy and engaging with you. If the person has checked out, steer the conversation to a deeper level or politely excuse yourself away.
Pro tip: Most people simply want and need to feel heard. Take the time to listen.
To connect with someone, be truly interested in who they are. Forget the banal pleasantries and get into their heart and mind.
Don't know where to start? "What's the best part of your week?" is an easy opener. It gives the other person the opportunity to reflect, practice gratitude, and transfer that good feeling from practicing gratitude to you; it gives you some perspective on what's important to them and an opportunity to naturally follow that path into a deeper discussion.
Extroverts get their energy from engaging with other people. This sociable personality can be misleading to some people. Extroverts can talk to a lot of people and enjoy all the nuances of conversation, both superficial and significant, because we're open to other people and energized by social interaction. We can do both, be stimulated by small talk and also by deep intellectual conversation. Being able to engage in small talk and have intellectual, philosophical thoughts aren't mutually exclusive and is something that extroverts wish more people understood about them.
Small talk is great for an action oriented extrovert, but for somebody who is an intellect by nature, it can be torturous. Intellects are deep in thought 99% of the time, so when surface conversation is taking place, the mind is so far from that point it frequently becomes difficult to meet the other person there, leading to feeling of awkward insecurity. One quick and easy way to pull out of that place is to ask "What are you most looking forward to this week?" This usually triggers feelings of joy and gives the other person a way to express their best self. They are interested in sharing the topic and you get the opportunity to ask more probing questions in order to continue the conversation.
I actually love small talk - I see it as creating space and a path to dig into deeper things. No matter the situation, type of person, or topic, I find it is usually off-beat or abrupt to get into something (the good stuff haha!) without exploring who the person is (or how they want to present themselves to us) and letting them into our little worlds as well.
To me, it's a game of exploration and chance - what will come up from it? How will this conversation/small talk flow? This is my opinion and experience.
I should also mention - I am an extrovert that takes my introverted tendencies very seriously i.e. quality alone time.
Although small talk is necessary, it can be emotionally and physically draining, especially if one identifies as an introvert. Small talk requires a certain type of energy and thinking that I am not good at due to the way my brain works. I found that small talk creates an invisible wall around individuals trying to get to know each other. This is especially true for individuals who feel socially awkward or insecure. One of the first questions people usually ask is "what kind of work do you do?" as if the work we do defines who we are. I’m not interested in what job people have; I’m more interested in what lights their heart on fire, what they're looking forward to, and what they believe their life purpose is.
Small talk often feels restraining and repetitive. My brain craves deeper, meaningful conversations in which I learn something about the person that is not as superficial as what they do for a living. I want to have the type of conversations that create connection between others and myself and remind us of the beauty, resiliency and experiences of being human.
Small talk is the one thing we as humans do when we are uncomfortable in a situation with other humans that we may or may not know. When used properly, it can be considered an "ice breaker."
The point at which small talk sucks happens in those uncomfortable moments of silence between humans. We feel the quietness needs to be filled with noise. Anything to bring us back to that comfortable feeling again.
Self confidence arises when we learn how to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. Being silent in those moments where we feel something "should" be spoken is the true sensation of becoming connected. Connected to ourselves. Connected to our surroundings. And connected to those around us.
Small talk leads to being uncomfortable. Comfortable leads to confident silence. Comfortable silence leads to connections.
Want to be a part of this amazing group of humans? Check out our Catalyst Coaching Intensive.