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Smalltalk auf Englisch: Small Talk: Dieser erste Moment

Schlagwörter: Smalltalk auf Englisch, Englisch lernen, OWAD, Business English Trainer, Englisch sprechen

Some people can walk into a room and everyone will notice them. Not because they tripped and fell face first onto the floor or crashed into the waiter carrying the cocktails, although it will get them noticed when that happens.

No, these people simply ooze charisma as they walk. But it doesn’t end with their entrance. When they open their mouths, they know exactly what to say — from the very first moment.

Isn’t a simple “hello” enough? And if it’s not, what else should you say? The goal of the first moment is summed up perfectly in the opening line of a hit song by American rock band The Doors. Lead singer Jim Morrison declares:

“Hello, I love you, won’t you tell me your name?”

Careful: it’s the goal of the first line I’m recommending that you copy, not the exact words. So forget making any declarations of love à la Morrison at the next conference. The song does demonstrate what your intentions should be for that very first moment however:

•Open the conversation in a warm and friendly manner

•Show that you are interested •Show that you are likeable and interesting

•Exchange names

Informal settings

Here are a few examples from a networking event. In a more informal setting, your conversation might go a little like this: Sarah: Hi, I don’t think we’ve met. I’m Sarah, Sarah Miles. Jim: Nice to meet you Sarah. I’m Jim, Jim McConaughey.

Or like this:

Sarah: Hello, I don’t think we’ve been introduced. I’m Sarah, Sarah Miles.

Jim: Pleased to meet you, Sarah. I’m Jim, Jim McConaughey. In a more formal situation, it might sound more like this:

Sarah: May I introduce myself? My name’s Miles, Sarah Miles. Jim: It’s a pleasure to meet you, Ms Miles. My name’s McConaughey, Jim McConaughey.

These may not be as catchy as The Doors opening line, but they work.

A rose by any other name...

There are very few people who can remember names after hearing them only once. Let’s face it, most people have problems with names. It doesn’t get any easier with experience or age.

If you’re in a busy place, it’s not always possible to even hear the name clearly. An unusual or foreign name is also more difficult to remember than a name that sounds more familiar (although then you’ll have the problem of which “John” or “Sue”).

Be helpful

My suggestion is, be helpful and honest. Be helpful by repeating your name when you give it. Be honest and tell someone if you didn’t hear or understand their name. Then use it:

Sarah: I’m so sorry, what’s your name again? Jim: Jim, Jim McConaughey. Sarah: Nice to meet you, Jim. In the UK, we also like to use the following phrase to check that we’ve heard the name correctly:

I’m sorry, but I didn’t catch your name.

You can help people remember your name by telling them something about it. Such information can also help you introduce a topic of conversation for small talk. For example:

Deborah: Hi, I’m Deborah, Deborah Capras.
John: I’m sorry, but I didn’t catch your last name.
Deborah: It’s Capras, with a “C.” Actually, it’s one of the easiest Greek surnames — and it has a little Italian flair, too ... In Italian, “capra” means goat.
John: Of course! So, do you speak Greek or Italian?
Deborah: Greek. You?
John: I studied Italian... (and so it can continue...)

Better safe than sorry

How do you know whether to use someone’s first name or surname? If someone gives you their last name first, they normally expect you to use it.

And if they tell you their title, they probably expect you to use that too. Sometimes it’s best to play safe and use the surname at first. Most people will correct you if they are happy for you to use their first name.

Jim: It’s a pleasure to meet you Ms. Miles. My name’s McConaughey, Jim McConaughey.
Sarah: Please call me Sarah.

What should you do if you think the name is difficult to pronounce? You could ask for help:

Sarah: McConaughey? Am I saying it correctly?
Jim: Yes, that’s right. Like the actor Mathew McConaughey. But he’s no relation.


Use the business cards

Despite social media networks, business cards are still not obsolete. They come in handy particulary during introductions. If you’re having problems understanding a name, it’s best not to ask someone to repeat it too many times. That can be awkward. Just ask for a card or offer your own:

Do you have a card?
Let me give you my card.

Exchanging cards is an important small-talk ritual, especially in Asian cultures. There, you need to show respect to the cards as it shows you respect the person. That means not writing on them, not bending them and not putting them in your back pocket without a glance.

Ideally, you should read them carefully when someone presents you a card. Be sure to make a positive comment about the card, such as the colour, logo or address. This also helps continue the small talk.

Use the hands

What should your hands be doing during this first introduction? Not everyone shakes hands, but in most international business contexts, this ritual has become the norm. It’s a simple way to show respect. In some countries, people only shake hands the very first time they meet. They won’t shake hands ever again or only after a long absence. If you’re not sure what to do, you could wait until the other person offers you their hand and then shake it. But don’t grasp too weakly, too firmly or too long. The middle way is usually best.

As you can see, it’s easy to get noticed. And you can do it without knocking over waiters or declaring your love. Before you leave for your next conference, listen to The Doors (https://itun.es/i6Sn4Qq). I promise it will put a smile on your face — and that always makes a good first impression.

In the next issue, I’ll be looking at how to ask the right k

Schlagwörter: Smalltalk auf Englisch, Englisch lernen, OWAD, Business English Trainer, Englisch sprechen

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