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Smalltalk-auf-Englisch - So übernehmen Sie die Gesprächsführung

Schlagwörter: Smalltalk auf Englisch, Smalltalk Englisch, Smalltalk: So übernehmen Sie die Gesprächsführung

When you attend a networking event, party, or other business function, you usually show up with some sort of agenda. Perhaps you wish to meet Angela Jenkins and make her aware of your services. Or perhaps you’d like to let Bill Matheson know how much money your product will save him. You have to be careful with this: few people like to be ambushed by a sales pitch at an informal event. This means you need to be subtle, and to be subtle, you have to be able to steer the conversation in the direction you’d like. Otherwise, any conversation you have will likely never leave the status of small talk.

Steering basics

To steer a conversation, you must first have control of it. It’s not always easy to take the lead, however — especially when your conversation partner is the type who is used to always having the control ( managers, for example ).

The small talk phase helps you with this. As a participant in small talk, all partners are essentially on equal footing. You should have no qualms about taking the lead: it’s as easy as posing questions that get your partner into answer mode. Once you’re there, all you have to do is drive the line of questioning in the direction you’d like the discussion to go.

Taking control
The first hurdle is getting out of answer mode. Here are a few tricks that help you turn the tables:

Explain that you’ll answer the question in a moment, but that you’d like to explain something first

I’ll tell you that in a moment, but I’d like to start by saying that …
That’s an interesting question, and before I answer it you need to know a little about…


Ask why your partner asked the question

Why do you ask?
Why do you want to know?
Why is that important just now?


Ask for clarification

I’m not sure I understand. Could you explain your question?
I don’t think I have enough information to answer that. Could you refine your question?
Could you clarify your question?



Ask a question in return

Person A: That sounds good. So, how much does it cost?
Person B: How much do you want to pay?


Provide your answer and then start talking

I’ll be gone for three weeks. You know, that raises a few issues…

Refusing to let go
If someone asks a question, the socially normal next action is to wait for an answer. One way to take control is to refuse to allow the lead to transfer back to the asking person.
Politicians are famous for this. They answer the question they want to answer, even if it’s not the question that was asked. Then they continue talking — often in a way that introduces a new subject:

Q: Do you think the international community should get directly involved in the problems of the Middle East?
A: I do think that the Arab Spring presents new possibilities for the Middle East, but it won’t be an easy road for anyone involved. The Israelis and Turks, of course, need to be directly involved. Did you know that in Turkey, they’ve nearly completed that new bridge over the Bosporus?


If you have control and someone else asks a question in an attempt to take the lead, you can handle this simply by ignoring the question. This technique works because it violates the socially expected question-answer pattern. When the asker sees that his question has been ignored, he’s not sure what to do next or who is in control. This is your opportunity to make an opening statement and then take the lead:

Person 1: …and that’s one reason why I’d vote no on the hotel tax.
Person 2 ( trying to take control ): Do you think the tax will harm tourism?
Person 1 ( ignoring the question and remaining in question mode ): As I was saying, there are many reasons to vote no. For example, what do you think will happen to the industry if hotels experience a long-term downturn in business because of the additional cost?


Two useful lead-ins in this situation are:
As I was saying…
As I ( just ) said…


Astute small talkers may notice right away that the other person tried to gain control and may try to take it back. The most usual tactic in this case is to ask the question again:

Person 1: Do you think the new non-smoking policy is going to be well-received?
Person 2: ( trying to gain control by not answering ): A lot of effort did go into deciding how that policy should look. What do you think motivated the executive team to request a policy like that be created?
Person 1: I’m not sure, but do you think the policy will be well-received by the company’s employees?


Person 2 can counter this with these techniques:

Ignore the question again

Person 2 ( ignoring the repeated question ): I don’t really have any way to know. But do you know why the executive team wanted the policy?

Openly refuse to answer the question

Person 2 ( refusing to answer ): I’m afraid I was on the committee responsible for that policy, so I have to admit I’m a bit biased. Do you know why the executive team wanted it in the first place? Was it because of health costs or simply personal preference?

Change the subject
One of the problems with repeating or ignoring questions is that the risk is higher that the conversation will become stuck on a certain point, or that your conversation partner will sense resistance and this might take your effort to build a friendly relationship in the wrong direction. A good way to keep this from happening after you’ve taken the lead is to change the subject right away. Refer to the first example under ‘Refusing to let go’ for a good example.

Schlagwörter: Smalltalk auf Englisch, Smalltalk Englisch, Smalltalk: So übernehmen Sie die Gesprächsführung

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