Our regular columnist is used to meeting and talking to lots of different people. Ahead of the biggest party night of the year, New Year’s Eve, he explains the art of making small talk
I once asked a friend what they thought was the most important talk I had ever done.
Their answer surprised me, ‘small talk’.
Over the festive period, many people throughout the land will feel a sense of inadequacy as they find themselves spending time with people at Christmas parties and social gatherings, wondering how they can do meaningful small talk.
Probably the biggest complaint at this time is that they are boring occasions to be endured, rather than enjoyed.
Ironically, the same people who complain how boring these occasions can be, are not necessarily the most interesting of people themselves.
Ideally, they would love to be less boring and find others more interesting, yet past efforts give them little hope this party season will be any different.
One of the ways to find these occasions more interesting is to take an interest in others.
If you think about it, who is the person we think about the most?
Who is the person we look for in those family or work photos first?
Whose face do we see everyday in the bathroom mirror?
The fact is we like people who like us and take an active interest.
Jerry Acuff and Wally Wood in their book, The Relationship Edge, suggest connecting with others in business and life can really make a difference.
They suggest a simple way to do small talk is by remembering the acronym FORM.
They suggest asking the following questions:
F is for family. Ask people about parents, children or relatives.
O is for occupation. Ask about different aspects of their job or study or interests and what they find most enjoyable.
R is for recreation. Ask what they like to do in their spare time. This can lead to conversations about hobbies, sports, films, travelling and music.
M is for motivation. If this area is approached sensibly it can be the most worthwhile or interesting aspect of a conversation.
Do your social interactions have FORM? Why not try this idea out?
You never know, you may become less boring and find others a lot more interesting in the process.