Small Talk, Big Gains

Last week, we discussed three reasons why small talk isn’t always such a good idea. Sometimes, prolonged periods of being with colleagues puts you in awkward positions of fessing up more than you normally would.


While we addressed reasons to be wary, small talk can be beneficial too. Here are some reasons why.


Reason #1: You develop stronger relationships.

This is definitely reason numero uno. It’s easy to cut to the chase and ask your manager, VP or peer a work-related question, but did you take a second to ask more about how their weekend was? And what they actually did? Who they spent it with? Yes, you have a pressing question that needs to be answered but spending those extra 45 seconds chatting about what you both did over the weekend or simply asking questions about their recent vacation while you’re waiting for a meeting to start can actually help form stronger connections. The advice here is to be genuinely curious. This will help the conversation flow from small talk to learning about each other more naturally.


Reason #2: It helps get sh*t done.

Plenty of times, a task requires teamwork. Not just the efforts of your own team, but also from other teams (like an analyst on a different team, the Head of XYZ team or an administrative assistant) When I am asking for someone else’s help, I don’t just do it with a smile - I do it with a smile and small talk. For example, let’s say you are in a rush to submit something but need someone else to contribute information before you can submit. Instead of e-mailing that person, pick up the phone, speak calmly and ask them how their day is, comment on the crappy weather or ask what their weekend plans are. If they aren’t opening up as much, slide in a comment about your day. This all helps to set the scene for when you slide in that part about asking for their help on an important request. I’ve found that people respond best once you’ve made effort to connect with them first, so that they don’t feel used. Better yet, go find them in person and start building up your relationship with a series of small talks over time. When time comes that you really need them in a jiffy, they’ll come through - you’ll see.


Reason #3: It makes you more personable.

Girls are notorious for having RBF. Instead of standing in the elevator with your RBF, initiate a conversation (comment on the weather, ask where they got their lunch from, ask what team that person is on, etc.) or simply introduce yourself - especially if you know that person works on the same floor as you and you’ve bumped into them 47938 times but still don’t know their name! (Everyone is definitely guilty of this!) I’ve worked in the same building for 3 years and only moved one floor down to my new role last year, yet I didn’t know half the people on the floor! I make it a point to make small talk with the “new folks” so that we can get to know each other and so that they know I am approachable. Another good way to do this is to bring back some treats from a vacation and share them with fellow colleagues!


How has small talk helped you?