The Fine Art of Small Talk : How to Start a Conversation, Keep it Going, Build Networking Skills--and Leave a Positive Impression!
Nationally recognized communication expert Debra Fine reveals the techniques and strategies anyone can use to make small talkin any situation Do you spend an abnormal amount of time hiding out in the bathroom or hanging out at the buffet table at social gatherings Does the thought of striking up a conversation with a stranger make your stomach do flip-flops Do you sit nervously through job interviews waiting for the other person to speak Are you a Nervous Ned or Nellie when it comes to networking Then its time you mastered The Fine Art of Small Talk. With practical advice and conversation cheat sheets, The Fine Art of Small Talk will help you learn to feel more comfortable in any type of social situation, from lunch with the boss to an association event to a cocktail party where you dont know a soul.
Would-be social butterflies will get encouragement but little inspiration from this not quite scintillating self-help primer. Fine, a conversation consultant, insists that small talk is the necessary overture to deeper communication, the key to generating business leads and dates and a pathway to a richer life in which strangers are magically transformed into acquaintances. She covers such cocktail-party conundrums as how to spot "approachable" interlocutors, how to make introductions, how to butt into an intriguing conversation, resuscitate a flagging one and bail out of a boring one, and how to resist one-uppers, know-it-alls, motormouths and other abusers of talk. Given the ingrained human reluctance to talk to strangers, will, not technique, is the real issue. Much of the book is taken up with motivational pep-talks to get readers to initiate contact (one agonizing exercise suggests "walk through the mall and just say hello to ten people as you pass them"); in a world where everyone feels at a loss for words, Fine argues, saying virtually anything makes one a "hero." Unfortunately, it doesn't necessarily make one a great conversationalist. The heart of Fine's methodology consists of long lists of icebreakers and inviting questions that she instructs readers to memorize and regurgitate as needed to jump-start and sustain conversations, and these read like rather bad small-talk-dull ("How has the internet affected your life?"), stilted ("Do you have a personal motto or creed?") and awkward ("Describe an embarrassing moment you've had."). Tongue-tied readers can benefit from her pointers and exhortation, but one hopes they will think a little harder before they speak.
Copyright Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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October 01, 2005
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Excerpt from The Fine Art of Small Talk by Debra Fine
You pull into the parking lot, turn off the engine, and sit for a minute dreading the next two hours. An important client has invited you to an open house in celebration of their new downtown office. You hate these things. You don't know what to say, you don't know anyone except the client, and you always feel like you're trying not to look lost; so you eat and drink more than you should, just to stay occupied. You must attend ' that's a given ' but you sink deeper into the front seat and agonize over how long you have to stay. Will dropping by for thirty minutes do the trick, or will you insult one of your best clients if you don't stay for the whole event You search for excuses to get yourself out of there early. You could have someone page you at a specified time with a supposed emergency; perhaps one of the kids has a big game; or maybe you'll just allow your anxiety to carry you right into an illness.
Casual conversation happens at least a dozen times a day ' on the way into the office, picking up your daughter from soccer practice, riding the elevator with a colleague, fielding a phone call from your mother-in-law, attending an industry meeting, taking a client to lunch, going to a job interview ' the list is endless! Yet for some of us, these demands for small talk don't ever make small talk any easier. If anything, such encounters increase anxiety and cause some people to dread social events, business lunches, and chance encounters with neighbors. Unfortunately, in our preoccupation with our own discomfort, our neighbors, acquaintances, and associates label us distant, cold, and reserved.
Remember Thorton Wilder's play Our Town On the morning of his son's wedding, Frank Gibbs, the neighborly physician, confesses to his wife that his chief concern in the early days of their own marriage was how to make small talk with his bride. "I was afraid," he tells her, "we wouldn't have material for conversation more'n'd last us a few weeks." It seems acquiring small talk skills is not exclusively a modern-day quest.