Over the last few months, I have been researching a lot of books and literature about the different levels we interact at and the common consensus is we work and communicate on five levels, which are all equally important.
Re-charge – Relaxing and reflecting, this is normally conducted by ourselves and is about mentally refreshing.
Chit-chat – Basic social interactions about trivial matters.
Deep 1-1 conversations – Being fully present, emotionally and intellectually engaged with someone who shares similar values.
Multi-tasking– Focusing on a number of tasks at a given time (you probably spend a lot of time in this zone whilst working!)
Flow – One subject, with deep focus and attention.
While conducting this research, I realised I have a problem with one of these levels.
My problem was with small talk… Chit-chat… Gossip… Tittle-tattel… those conversations that are conducted socially and are usually about superficial matters.
I personally have found these types of conversations the hardest to give my full self too. I think that is because until discovering their importance I held them in low esteem. I felt this type of interaction held little value or worth and therefore would try to skip the small talk and get onto deeper, more meaningful topics.
What I have learnt since is that chit-chat is vital for building relationships and trust… The idea of discussing in depth subjects with someone you haven’t had even a small connection with previously is a big turn-off for most people.
For me this meant that I rarely had deep and meaningful conversations with many people because I tried to jump right into them, without first connecting on a more surface level. Therefore the impact I had on many people was that I was either a bit intense or just plain weird.
The fact of the matter is, small talk is easy. You won’t go too far wrong if you pay genuine attention, listen well and ask clarifying questions. We can all do it. It’s just that some of us undervalue this level of communication because of the appearance of its lacking depth.
The best analogy I have been told about small talk is to view it like trying on a relationship. Just like you would try on clothes in a store. Small talk is a risk free environment where you can assess each other in a non-threatening or judging way, to see if you have rapport and get along.
If you do, then the deeper more meaningful conversations will follow… If you don’t, both parties can remain at this slightly superficial level with no harm done to anyones feelings.
If you want the big talk, the meaningful talk, then pay attention to the small talk, it is the doorway to deep, authentic connection.