Small Talk is a Big Deal

Communication skills are a critical requirement to practically every job and the healthcare profession is certainly no exception. When you think or read about communication the focus is probably on effective communication in terms of giving feedback or perhaps body language. While these are indeed important communication elements, there is another communication that is often overlooked or ignored: small talk.

Why is Small Talk so Important?
“Great weather we’re having.” “Did you catch that game last night?” These are seemingly easy questions you can ask an unfamiliar patient, customer or new colleague that can have a positive and profound impact on your professional relationships. Why? Because small talk helps build the kind of relationships that help you not only be successful in your current job but also go up to higher levels. It helps you collaborate with other people. And of course, collaboration is really important in healthcare—no one is ever as smart on their own as a group is when you can get a good group together. Small talk isn’t just about being gregarious or entertaining—it’s a gesture of respect.

Moreover, a recent study by researchers at the University Of Michigan found that friendly, social interaction can boost our ability to solve problems. That’s because some social interactions induce people to try to read others’ minds and take their perspective on things.

Small Talk Tips
Fortunately, making good small talk is a skill that can be learned. Here’s a list of strategies that can help you master this art:

  • Make a list of questions you can ask other people. Focus on questions that aren’t too personal and that, chances are, the other person will want to talk about.
  • Focus on open-ended questions. Ask questions that force the person to answer more than with a simple “yes” or “no”. “What’s the best book you’ve read lately?” is an example of a question that will likely spark some good conversation.
  • Keep up on current events, movies and other things people have in common. When you’re up-to-date on current events you will be able to spark and maintain meaningful and genuine conversations.

Remember, don’t underestimate the power of easygoing conversation. Small talk can help you in more ways than just simply filling in uncomfortable silence—it can help you collaborate, problem solve and build positive and effective relationships.

“I often quote myself. It adds spice to my conversation.”
—George Bernard Shaw