Small talk...

We are co-hosting a political fundraiser at our home next week. I won't be the only host/hostess there, but I'll be at the helm setting the tone for the meet and greet. I do love to entertain. But, one thing's for sure, I'll never be in the political spot light.

I spent the first 30 years of my life in Washington, DC. As a young professional, if you don't know how to network in the capital city, you're pretty much screwed. While I am a good networker and make friends easily, I suck at small talk. For me, it's fascinating to watch adept small talkers at social gatherings. You know who I'm talking about, right? The people who work the room glad-handing and yucking it up from one person to the next. No matter when or where you see them, they are always on. Truth be told, this often turns me off. I don't feel like I ever get to know the real person inside. I loathe disingenuous people. I once worked with a woman like this. I never really trusted her. I also had a friend in high school who told her bridesmaids to work the room at her reception. Enough said. I don't want to get started on a rant.

I'll be the first to admit that it's important to be a good conversationalist -- something I always need to brush up on. I read a recent article on by Laura Venderkam on how to master the art of small talk. She contends that small talk gets a bad rap, and shared some advice from Debra Fine's book The Fine Art of Small Talk. Having not read the book -- just the examples in the fast company article -- I'm guessing her angle is how to chat up people who can get you somewhere -- maybe open up some doors either on a social or professional level. "Every conversation," says Fine," is an opportunity for success." A few of her basic points are helpful, but others seem contrived. Like practicing answers "to how are you?" before you go to an event.

I like Derek Blasberg's five tips on how to strike up a conversation from his New York Times best seller Classy. You know I love his books.
  1. Compliment someone on what he/she is wearing. Turn it into a question: "I love your vintage derby hat. Where on earth did you find it?" Just make sure the compliment is sincere.
  2. People love expressing their opinions, so ask someone for theirs. For example, if you're partying at someone's house, ask other people what they think of it. You might ask something like: "Maureen's house is gorgeous. She has such a great eye for design. And is always the consummate hostess. What do you think about her grace and style?" (Just kidding of course.)
  3. People love to hear their names. Go up and introduce yourself and ask for the person's name. Remember it (a tough one for me) and use it with liberal abandon.
  4. Show off your knowledge of current events. This is why I keep reminding you all to read theSkimm religiously.
  5. When in doubt, go with the old standbys. What's up with this weather? Have you seen any good movies lately? What are you reading? What did you do today? Any travel plans this summer?
"The most important thing when meeting new people," says Eric, "is to come off as friendly, genuine, honest and interesting. Ask questions. Ask follow up questions. Listen and smile."

In social situations, what are you more likely to do: spread yourself evenly among guests making small talk, or say your hello's and spend most of your time with a small group of people you already know?


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  2. If I am the hostess, I want to make contact with as many people as possible. I want to make sure that everyone feels comfortable and important. As for the above mentioned suggestions, I don't care for what most people consider small talk, but I do want to feel I have made some sort of real connection with as many people as possible. I don't think small talk has to be superficial- in a way, you have a such a brief amount of time that it should be a quality conversation. I love engaging with a question, but I try to use something I am interested to... the weather doesn't make much of a real connection. Saying that you should "come off" as friendly, genuine, honest and interesting couldn't be more wrong- you should "be" friendly, genuine, honest and interesting... most people recognize the difference... just my thoughts


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