The death of small talk

How to perfect a 'dying' art form

Have you ever walked in to a corporate event filled with dread, worrying what you're going to say to all those strangers? You're not alone. Recent studies suggest the rise in the use of smartphones and similar gadgets are kiling small talk, which can present several problems in the workplace.
While some may argue small talk is a waste of time, it can kick-start great relationships, personal or professional. So we conducted some research, spoke to a handful of experts, and visualised the struggle we have with communication in this day and age.
Discover whether people really are concerned about the extinction of small talk, and learn easy ways to start productive conversations with our tips.

Are we 'virtually dehumanised'?

Small talk can lead to big things, which is why it's just as important in the workplace as it is in your private life. Dr. Arthur Cassidy, an established social media and celebrity psychologist, says digital devices are having an extreme impact on us and our ability to form relationships with others:
Dr Arthur Cassidy
"Psychological research shows us that while we ultimately depend on cyber technology for communication in today's world, we have rapidly become virtually dehumanised. A plethora of research in mental health shows teenagers and many young adults have Internet Addiction Disorder."
"This causes grave concern as it is reaching almost epidemic proportions. We become psychologically attached to our smartphones and tablets as a substitute for human attachment to family members."
"There is a profound deficiency in how young people communicate face-to-face - no longer are they skilled at interpreting human emotions nor can they structure proper grammatical sentences."
Add to this some recent government data that suggests feelings of anxiety are on the rise, and a 2014 NHS study that says adults having treatment for things like anxiety and depression increased from 24% to 37% in seven years, and it raises questions about mental wellbeing in the workplace.

What does this mean for the workplace?

With society becoming overly reliant on technology, it's no surprise that business leaders are somewhat concerned. Will office teams struggle to communicate concepts and plans to each other?
Terry Koutsios, CEO of skills-based online marketplace fivesquid.com, believes businesses have a responsibility to keep face-to-face communication alive:
Terry Koutsios
"While technology has enabled teams to work seamlessly remotely, businesses need to ensure that younger employees are still being fully heard through face-to-face meetings. A business needs to have an integrated team to tackle challenges, get projects done and innovate."
"While a lot of younger employees choose technology to communicate, senior members of staff are responsible for ensuring the importance of face-to-face meetings does not get dismissed."

The art of small talk: 7 simple tips

It goes without saying that good conversationalists tend to be more approachable, and perhaps more popular, than those who struggle with speaking. But, as they say, conversation is an art and not everyone has the natural confidence to carry it off in all circumstances.
To do your bit to tackle this decline in face-to-face verbal communication, try our tips and tricks to help get talking and turn so-called small talk into something more substantial.
1. Keep up with current events
Do a bit of prep. Think about who you might need to talk to and what they want to chat about. Arm yourself with a few relevant topics you can kick off a conversation with or pull out of the bag should an awkward silence ambush your efforts.
Don't just limit yourself to business, especially if you work in a particularly dry industry. Keep up with current events, check which films are out now or take a peek at Twitter to see which topics are trending. Find a few points of interest that are interesting but not too controversial.
Do a bit of prep. Think about who you might need to talk to and what they want to chat about. Arm yourself with a few relevant topics you can kick off a conversation with or pull out of the bag should an awkward silence ambush your efforts.
Don't just limit yourself to business, especially if you work in a particularly dry industry. Keep up with current events, check which films are out now or take a peek at Twitter to see which topics are trending. Find a few points of interest that are interesting but not too controversial.
2. Research your 'target'
If you're going to be speaking to a specific person, use some detective skills to find out a little bit about them. Whether that means reading up about their experience on Linkedln (incognito, of course), speaking to a mutual acquaintance, or Googling them, you may learn something interesting that you can ask them about to get the conversation started.
3. The 30-Day Rule
Etiquette expert and business development consultant Michael Kaleikini swears by a character-building tool called The 30-Day Rule:
Michael Kaleikini
"Talk about events or situations that happened 30 days before today, or will happen 30 days after today. If I know someone is a sports fan, I would ask about their favourite sport or team. Perhaps they. are active in physical activity. I may ask what they like to do."
"If I get a response to the effect of, 'My wife and I like to bike on the weekends in the canyon,' without giving me a lot of information I can already tell they live an active lifestyle, which means they. are probably quite healthy. They like to ride together, a potentially solid and loving couple. They do it often on weekends. They make time to be with each other."
"So, I've learned this is a family person that is loyal and likes to make time for family. Good qualities for a potential business colleague, wouldn't you say?"
4. It's all about... them
Most people enjoy talking about themselves, so when you see their face light up when they speak about their interests or experiences, keep it going. Ask open questions (that won't just get a yes or no answer), and compliment them where appropriate, whether that's on their achievements or something superficial such as their watch or clothing. As long as it's sincere, it should be received as intended.
5. It's all about... you
Unless you're speaking to a complete narcissist, the conversation will eventually come back to you no matter how chatty a person happens to be. Don't make it hard for them by giving one-word answers. Make a joke, elaborate, and don't be afraid to utilise a bit of self- deprecation - just don't go overboard! People need to know you're human in order to open up to you, so give them something to work with.
6. Body language
Put others at ease by relaxing. Start with a firm handshake, smile, maintain eye contact, nod your head, and show an interest in what's being said by responding with the occasional 'uh-huh.' Equally, if you sense negative body language or are being given one-word answers, perhaps it's time to move on to someone else. Small talk can become very awkward when it's not welcome and the initiator (in this case, you) fails to realise.
7. Practice makes perfect
Practice your technique in places that don't matter as much, like when your picking up a loaf of bread at your local supermarket or checking into a hotel - what's the worst that can happen?
Once you've stumbled through a few awkward conversations, you'll find it easier to initiate and hold a normal one. It's a skill that will help you both in business and in life.
1. Keep up with current events
Do a bit of prep. Think about who you might need to talk to and what they want to chat about. Arm yourself with a few relevant topics you can kick off a conversation with or pull out of the bag should an awkward silence ambush your efforts.
Don't just limit yourself to business, especially if you work in a particularly dry industry. Keep up with current events, check which films are out now or take a peek at Twitter to see which topics are trending. Find a few points of interest that are interesting but not too controversial.
Do a bit of prep. Think about who you might need to talk to and what they want to chat about. Arm yourself with a few relevant topics you can kick off a conversation with or pull out of the bag should an awkward silence ambush your efforts.
Don't just limit yourself to business, especially if you work in a particularly dry industry. Keep up with current events, check which films are out now or take a peek at Twitter to see which topics are trending. Find a few points of interest that are interesting but not too controversial.
2. Research your 'target'
If you're going to be speaking to a specific person, use some detective skills to find out a little bit about them. Whether that means reading up about their experience on Linkedln (incognito, of course), speaking to a mutual acquaintance, or Googling them, you may learn something interesting that you can ask them about to get the conversation started.
3. The 30-Day Rule
Etiquette expert and business development consultant Michael Kaleikini swears by a character-building tool called The 30-Day Rule:
Michael Kaleikini
"Talk about events or situations that happened 30 days before today, or will happen 30 days after today. If I know someone is a sports fan, I would ask about their favourite sport or team. Perhaps they. are active in physical activity. I may ask what they like to do."
"If I get a response to the effect of, 'My wife and I like to bike on the weekends in the canyon,' without giving me a lot of information I can already tell they live an active lifestyle, which means they. are probably quite healthy. They like to ride together, a potentially solid and loving couple. They do it often on weekends. They make time to be with each other."
"So, I've learned this is a family person that is loyal and likes to make time for family. Good qualities for a potential business colleague, wouldn't you say?"
4. It's all about... them
Most people enjoy talking about themselves, so when you see their face light up when they speak about their interests or experiences, keep it going. Ask open questions (that won't just get a yes or no answer), and compliment them where appropriate, whether that's on their achievements or something superficial such as their watch or clothing. As long as it's sincere, it should be received as intended.
5. It's all about... you
Unless you're speaking to a complete narcissist, the conversation will eventually come back to you no matter how chatty a person happens to be. Don't make it hard for them by giving one-word answers. Make a joke, elaborate, and don't be afraid to utilise a bit of self- deprecation - just don't go overboard! People need to know you're human in order to open up to you, so give them something to work with.
6. Body language
Put others at ease by relaxing. Start with a firm handshake, smile, maintain eye contact, nod your head, and show an interest in what's being said by responding with the occasional 'uh-huh.' Equally, if you sense negative body language or are being given one-word answers, perhaps it's time to move on to someone else. Small talk can become very awkward when it's not welcome and the initiator (in this case, you) fails to realise.
7. Practice makes perfect
Practice your technique in places that don't matter as much, like when your picking up a loaf of bread at your local supermarket or checking into a hotel - what's the worst that can happen?
Once you've stumbled through a few awkward conversations, you'll find it easier to initiate and hold a normal one. It's a skill that will help you both in business and in life.

So, tell us: have you seen any good films lately?

So, tell us:
have you seen any good films lately?