6 Ways To Hack Small Talk + Have Better Conversations

Don’t talk about politics.

Don’t talk about religion.

Don’t talk about relationships.

As a matter of fact, don’t talk about anything that you care about or anything that’s actually important.

Those are the old rules of networking and small talk that I refuse to subscribe to.

Since we never teach people how to have sensitive and potentially controversial conversations, we just say don’t do them at all.

That’s BS.

When the “networking rule-makers” took away our ability to talk about anything that actually matters, they put a chokehold on the authenticity of the world which leads us to where we are today – shallow people, protecting themselves and ignoring the needs of others.

I don’t know if there’s science to back this up, so this is completely a hypothesis but I’ve witnessed it in myself and in others.

It’s easy to dismiss other people and desensitize yourself when you have no genuine connection to anyone else. I don’t just mean your friends and family, I mean everyone that you come into contact with.

As humans, we NEED to connect with people – we are social beings.

As humans, we NEED to connect with people - we are social beings. Click To Tweet

I don’t mean just online, but in person, in real conversations…. But because those old rules of networking have permeated into every part of our lives, we don’t connect with other people and we see them as strangers so we separate ourselves from them.

Connecting with people forces you to be compassionate… There’s no way around it.

Think about a time you had an amazing conversation with someone.

There’s no denying that when you have an incredible conversation – a genuine, authentic and true conversation – your soul fills up. That’s not an accident.

Now imagine having conversations every single day that fill your soul….

How would that change your perspective on the world?

How would you feel differently?

I run a networking group of young professionals where I have about 3 lunches a week with our members. I’ve had conversations with them about everything from aliens to communism, yoga to biology and everything in between.

I have learned more from those conversations than I would have ever imagined and while I didn’t always agree with their opinions, we both walked away smiling because of how powerful the conversation was and how we were able to differ in opinions without turning it into a complete debate or argument.

Here’s a simplified version of what I’ve learned from having that many lunches:

RULE 1. Be Interested, Not Interesting.

Be Interested, Not Interesting. Click To Tweet

By nature, I’m an expressive, outgoing person. I love to talk to people, am easily excited and I love to share stories and experiences.

Don’t be like me.

In a conversation, my personality can be a huge turn off.

So often, we listen for the purpose of answering, rather than listening for the purpose of understanding.

Think about that.

When you change your mindset to focus on understanding rather than responding, the whole dynamic of your conversations change.

When you change your mindset to focus on understanding rather than responding, the whole dynamic of your conversations change. Click To Tweet

When you listen for the sake of responding, you’re not thinking about connecting with the person you’re talking to. You’re being selfish and are worried about what you’re going to say and how they will perceive you.

If both of you are more worried about what the other person thinks than connecting with each other, how in the world can you have a real conversation?

If both people are more worried about what the other person thinks than connecting with each other, how can you have a real conversation? Click To Tweet

When you listen to understand rather than listening to respond, you’re genuinely interested in what they have to say and will lead the conversation with questions so that you can learn more than you share.

The one who speaks the most dominates the conversation, but the one who asks the most questions controls the conversation.

Ask great questions and you’ll see how easy it is to genuinely connect with people.

… and truthfully, when you have credibility, you don’t need to talk that much.

Credibility allows you to listen more and identify the specific ways that you can help other people…

When you really think about it, if you want to make more money, all you need to do is help more people get what they want.

RULE 2. Stay Out Of Judgment and In Curiosity.

If I asked you how many letters were in the English alphabet, you would probably say 26.

… and you would be wrong.

T-h-e–e-n-g-l-i-s-h–a-l-p-h-a-b-e-t

That’s 18 letters.

So often we are bring our assumptions into our conversations by assuming we understand what the other person is saying… and the root of MOST of the problems in your life comes from your assumptions and the stories

that you tell yourself.

The root of MOST of the problems in your life comes from your assumptions and the stories that you tell yourself. Click To Tweet

You know that person you’re afraid to talk to because of what they might say or do?

… or how about that question you don’t want to ask because they will probably do something?

When you assume, you’re making the decision for the other person… and let me ask you, do you like having decisions made for you?

I didn’t think so.

Leave your assumptions out of your conversations… and leave the judgment out too.

That means when someone says something you disagree with, go deeper and learn why they feel the way they do, rather than jumping on them about all of the reasons why they’re wrong.

The more you can focus on understanding, the more genuinely you will communicate with other people and they will feel it.

The more you can focus on understanding, the more genuinely you will communicate with other people and they will feel it. Click To Tweet

 

RULE 3. Get FROG-y Style

FROG is an acronym for a simple system of asking great questions to build rapport.

It stands for FAMILY, RECREATION, OCCUPATION and GOALS.

Think about it – if you can learn all of that about someone, you have a huge connection with them. The only way to get this information is by asking great questions (aka see Rule #1).

I don’t usually do the FROG questions in order and I usually start with occupation because I generally meet new people in a professional setting. Here’s a few questions to start you off:

OCCUPATION

  • What do you do for a living?
  • What got you into that?
  • You sound really passionate about that, where does that passion come from?

GOALS

  • (After they finish telling you about what they do) Is this what you want to do forever or is this a stepping stone for you?
  • Do you plan on staying in the area for awhile?

Want the rest of the FROG questions?

Grab the Empire Builder Pass to get the full length version of this post and you’ll learn:

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  •  The thing that most new networkers say that automatically labels you as a rookie and makes you sound desperate (even though it’s well intentioned!)
  •  The trick to asking questions that get people to reciprocate and get excited to hear about you

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