Small talk is a technique of talking, a way to communicate and make contact with people, the glue that creates and maintains contact with friends, colleagues and business partners. Applied with strategy, it is also a great networking tool.
A good example that comes to my mind is the Mother Goose poem One Misty Moisty Morning. The version that I am referring to is from The Only True Mother Goose Melodies (c. 1833) which is slightly different from the one in many nursery rhyme books.
Now that is small talk!
I would dare to imagine that once the complimenting and how do you doing was done, they might have continued talking perhaps about the weather and gotten to know each other better. In modern days, they would have exchanged mobile numbers with a missed call or exchanged cards.
Small talk accompanied by the right body language can make everyday life much easier and if you are networking, create potential win-win connections. It can lead to deeper connections and a wonderful way to hide our awkwardness when we don’t know what to say – far better than stony silence or jabbering away.
Your light chat can be quite effective if you include some of the tips that my pet Miss Coco showed in my blog post The Effective Communicating Canine.
Think about the time when you run into your neighbor in the elevator in the morning, do you chat about the weather on the ride down or maintain stony silence? Small talk oils the wheels of community living.
So far so good but what if you find yourself caught in a situation where a parallel talk starts while you are in the middle of your reply? You would be fully justified in thinking that these people are from a parallel universe or somewhere out there in the galaxy.
In essence, Parallel Talk is the type of conversation where one story triggers off a completely different one.
The strange conversation with the lady who walks her cat on a leash about the whereabouts of my car and the neighbor’s dirty window
Here’s a personal story about a parallel conversation that I had some time back. I was in the middle of small talk with the neighbor who walks her cat on a leash. Kitty and her mistress ran into me while I was downstairs and the how do you do’s started. Then she asked about some water in the open area of my parking space and why my car was not there and also why I was wearing an orthopedic belt.
So far, so good.
I started to reply with how one of the neighbors got her windows cleaned while my car was there and the drama that unfolded when I was compelled to move the car despite a back problem that had gotten aggravated.
Somewhere in between the washing of the windows and my back and while my mouth was still in talking mode, she changed the conversation to discuss how dirty the windows must have been, how much dirt did I see and who did the neighbor hire to clean the windows. I can assure you, I was irritated. Kitty’s pet parent was completely oblivious to the fact that I was wearing an orthopedic belt!
An empathetic inquiry about the condition of my back rather than the digressive battery of questions regarding the quantity of window dirt would have been a better topic!
In such a situation, anyone would get upset and perhaps start another parallel talk about how inconsiderate a person can be but a good neighbor and adept networker, may I add, would try to maintain a good atmosphere even if deep down inside you start wondering which universe the person is coming from. More often than not, the other person doesn’t even realize what they are doing.
So I chose to keep my counsel and instead asked about Kitty and the recent surge of Tom Cats in the compound.
What to do in parallel talk situations at a networking event
From experience, I strongly recommend counting to ten and stick to the new topic. Count 100 if required but don’t lose your cool. If things get out of hand, move away with a polite ‘I’ve seen someone I have to say hello to, nice talking to you’ and run for your life. The other person won’t mind it. After all you guys are there to network. Just be discreet about it and don’t take me seriously about running for your life. Do it gracefully.
The fringe benefit of this approach is that the other person will perceive you to be a great listener and believe me, that’s a talent in very short supply. It strengthens your network too.
Forgive the other person from the bottom of your heart. They often don’t know what they’ve done to irritate you. Besides, how would you feel if you were told you were the parallel universe speaker?
It goes without saying that this lady and I still share a cordial relationship though she doesn’t go off on a tangent any more. I guess someone must have given her a sounding off. Oh, and before I forget, Kitty the cat on a leash managed to run away for a few days and came back heavy with kittens. So perhaps we should have discussed those Tom Cats in more detail. 🙂
Have you ever experienced a parallel talk situation? How did you handle it? I’d love to read your stories in the comments box below.
PS. I invite you to join me on a journey of personal development with The Karmic Ally Coaching Experience Self-Improvement Strategies Workbook. You can acquire your own copy by completing the form in the banner above, on the book cover below or clicking here. It’s on the house!
Written by: Vatsala Shukla
Photo credit : Geralt
Update on 24 May 2016: This blog post was originally written in May 2014 and has been updated by Vatsala for relevancy, including the fate of Kitty, the feline who walks on a leash.
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