Cassoulet cuit (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
My favorite restaurant meal was a cassoulet, in a long gone Paris restaurant. (Though the name of the restaurant escapes me, the memory of the dish still sticks.) The point of this little exercise, however, is not really about your meal.
It was triggered by an article by a friend, Susan Ragusa. She is a nonprofit strategist, and, among other writings, has a bi-monthly newsletter with offerings of quick-read resources. One of her recent links was to an article in the Wall Street Journal about the benefits of small talk. And though it did not specifically address those networking meetings we all go to—with varying degrees of enthusiasm—it did make several points that would be useful when networking.
One thought was to embrace ignorance, since small talk is an opportunity to learn something new, and can keep a conversation going. For one example, I have no idea if Susan’s bimonthly newsletter comes out every two weeks, or every two months. And I can’t wait to discuss this with her.
My favorite piece of advice, which quoted Chris Colin, was to ask interesting questions. “There’s always a path from generic small talk to something more memorable,” says Mr. Colin. If someone says, “It sure is cold,” you can ask, “What’s the coldest you’ve ever been?”
What I particularly liked about that approach is it makes so much more sense than my usual reply, which is along the lines of, “Yes, and tomorrow is supposed to be colder/warmer.” Which usually shuts the conversation down rather quickly. Mr. Colin’s method is a wonderful way to give the person you are talking to the opportunity to continue talking about their favorite person. And it is so much more inviting than the usual, “Do you go to many of these networking events?” Or the transparent suck-uppy, “Nice jacket.”
Got the idea?