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Wise Words - Bleiben Sie professionell

Schlagwörter: Smalltalk, English, Englisch, Geschäft, Kompliment


You need to make a personal connection during small talk, but that doesn’t mean you can get too personal. Keep it professional.

Oversharing is a modern word — and a modern-day affliction. According to The Oxford Dictionary of English “overshare” means to “reveal an inappropriate amount of detail about one’s personal life.” The important words here are “inappropriate” and “detail.” It can be summed up best with another trendy expression: TMI - or too much information. It’s rampant on social media, but it’s also gaining ground in the real world. Horror of horrors, it’s even turning up in small talk.

Sharing personal information is a fundamental part of small talk. When you reveal personal information, you give people a chance to really get to know you and to form long-lasting personal relationships. When you remember personal details about your business partners, it also shows that you care about that person as an individual, and not just as a vehicle for doing business with.

Interpersonal interactions matter a great deal in business. Every time you share something personal during small talk, you demonstrate trust — that you trust the person you are communicating with enough to tell them something about yourself, and not just about the business.

In his book The Truth about Trust, David DeSteno, a professor of psychology at Northeastern University in the US, writes that the sharing of personal details can be used to stress commonalities, which will increase the likelihood of someone trusting you.

The more someone knows about you, the more that person should be willing to trust you. And if someone feels they can trust you on a personal level, this will often shape how they view your business and technical skills. On the other hand, be aware that oversharing can quickly ruin any trust you have ever built.

Difficult moments

Here are some beauties I’ve experienced during small talk with new acquaintances: “I had to cancel my holiday because I had a boil lanced on my backside.” “My wife is now doing it with someone else.” “I feel awful. I spent the whole night on the toilet.”

I kid you not.

These are all authentic examples. How did they make you feel? Maybe you laughed, possibly out of relief that you weren’t in my shoes. Just imagine you are the person who is listening to those statements. That wiped the smile off your face. How uncomfortable do you feel? Pretty uncomfortable I bet.

Top tips

The biggest mistake you can make in small talk, is that you make someone feel uncomfortable in your presence. Here are a few tips on how to avoid oversharing.

1. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes

Imagine that the roles are reversed and that you are listening to your personal information. If it weren’t about you, would you really want to hear it?

2. Respect the personal context

The type of information you share will depend on your personal relationship, but also on your hierarchy, gender and business relationship. Context is king.

3. Avoid strong personal opinions

pinions are important, but think twice before you share a strong opinion, especially if you don’t know if your opinion will conflict with the other person’s. If you express your opinion in a strong manner, you may put the other person in an awkward situation in which they feel they have to disagree with you — or hide their real feelings. If someone has the impression they cannot be honest in your company, they won’t feel that they can trust you either.

4. Learn from the old Anglo-Saxons

In the US and the UK, small talk is often a ritualized set of exchanges. If you steer away from the ritual, you may think you will have an engaging conversation. It’s possible, but you may also have an uncomfortable silence. In international settings, keep small talk superficial at first. It may even stay that way forever.

5. Show sensitivity

The goal of small talk is to make people feel listened to and respected. Instead of sharing too much, ask the other person to share personal information. But don’t make the questions too personal. For example, don’t ask directly if someone is married or has children. For one thing, they may not want to share the information. And you may be asking about a sensitive topic. If you listen carefully to what your partner shares, you can learn about personal details and build on them:

Paula: I haven’t had time to do any shopping this trip. I hope I have time at the airport. It’s my daughter’s birthday next week and it would be nice to bring her something back from London. Zack: Oh, you have a daughter. How old is she?

As Paula shares the information about her daughter, it’s an opportunity for Zack to follow-up and ask a question. The next time they meet, if Zack remembers that Paula has a daughter and asks how she is, Paula will appreciate it.

6. Consider your reasons

Before you share, think about why you are sharing your personal details. What do you hope to achieve? Anything you share should make you more likeable and trustworthy. Gruesome, depressing, embarrassing or boastful details usually have the opposite effect.

7. Don’t forget the personal

It’s important to react in the right way to personal information — happy and sad — and to remember anything that people share with you. Commit the important snippets of information to your memory by focusing on your partner’s words. For the really important information that you can build on at another meeting, write it down.

People generally feel warmly to others who remember crucial information about them, such as their favourite football team, their wife’s name or their hobby. Other safe personal topics often include hometown, place of study, languages spoken and pets. Such memories can create a certain kind of professional intimacy.

Finally, ignore the oversharing that some celebrities do on social media. Instead, learn from the kind of answers that more respected “A-List” celebrities give to the popular interview question: “Tell me something few people know about you.”

The journalist is usually looking for something juicy or shocking. Rarely do they get it. The answer often involves something personal, but harmless, amusing and endearing. Celebrities know the answer should win them fans and make them seem even more likeable than before. You should have the same goal.

Schlagwörter: Smalltalk, English, Englisch, Geschäft, Kompliment

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