09 November 2009

Tips For Making Small Talk Success

Stanford University School of Business conducted a study that monitored a group of MBAs 10 years after graduation. What did they learn? That their ability to converse had a huge impact on their success and grade point averages had no bearing whatsoever.

The ability to connect with others through small talk can lead to big things, according to Debra Fine, author of The Fine Art of Small Talk (Hyperion 2005). A former engineer, Fine recalls being so ill at ease at networking events and even the 10 minute coffee break during a meeting that she would hide in the restroom. Now a motivational speaker, Fine believes the ability to develop relationships with people through small talk is an acquired skill.

Fine offers the following tips for starting − and ending conversations:

1. Come up with three things to talk when preparing for a function along with a couple generic questions that will get others talking. If you’ve met the client before, remind yourself of things about her, such as a vacation she was headed to or specifics about her family.

2. Be the first to say “hello.” If you’re not sure the other person will remember you, give the gift of your name to help out. For example, “Jared Holst? Debra Fine… good to see you again.” Smile first and always shake hands when you meet someone.

3. Take your time during introductions. Make an extra effort to remember names and use them frequently. Exhibit host behavior by introducing others that join the group to each other.

4. Get another person talking by leading with a common ground statement regarding the occasion or location and then asking a related open-ended question. For example, “What do you hope to gain from this conference?” or “What have you heard about the speakers?” You can also ask them about their trip in or how they know the bride or groom.

5. Show interest in your conversational partner by actively listening and giving verbal feedback. Maintain eye contact. Never glance around the room while they are talking to you.

6. Listen more than you talk.

7. Be prepared to have something interesting to contribute. Staying on top of current events will provide you with great conversation builders, leading with “What do you think of?” Have you heard?” What is your take on?” Spare us from your opinion unless you remember to follow up with “What is your opinion?” or “Tell me your thoughts on …”

8. Be aware of your body language. People who look or act ill-at-ease make others uncomfortable. Act confident and comfortable even when you’re not.

9. Have a few exit lines ready, so that you can both gracefully move on. For example, “I need to check in with a client over there,” “I skipped lunch today, so I need to visit the buffet,” or “Who do you know at this meeting that could help me with …?

Debra Fine is the author of "The Fine Art of Small Talk" (Hyperion 2005), motivational speaker and founder of The Fine Art of Small Talk, a company focused on teaching professionals conversational skills for use at networking events, conventions and with clients. For more information about Debra and her work, visit www.debrafine.com

26 March 2009

Excellent Conversation Questions - 5 Questions That Keep the Conversation Going and Interesting

People are always on the lookout for good conversationalists. You might not think yourself as a very eloquent person; but by asking excellent conversation questions, no one will be the wise.

Excellent conversation questions keep the energy going. Without it, there will only be awkward silence - something you do not really want to experience. To help give you some ideas on what to ask, here are some examples.

1) Where are you from?

Asking about a person's hometown makes for an excellent conversation question because it leads to all sorts of ideas and speculations.

You have a lot of opportunities to ask follow-up questions about the hometown and its attractions. If you have a relative living around the area, you can bring it up during the conversation as well.

2) What is your favorite film of all time?

Asking this question allows you to share your own favorite films. It's always easier to talk about things which are not serious and are truly of your interest. From movies, you can also move on to other related issues like celebrities or literature.

3) Have you heard about...?

A good conversationalist is always updated on current events. If you wish to have excellent conversation questions readily available, then brush up on politics and entertainment. These are the two branches which capture the most attention. Having an opinion doesn't hurt either.

4) Do you know...?

Asking about mutual friends also helps people warm up to you. Of course, make sure you ask about mutual friends in a polite and friendly manner. No reason to scare the person into thinking that you're targeting one of his or her friends.

5) Where did you get that?

If the person you're talking to has something interesting on his or her arm or is wearing an accessory, then you're in luck. Another one of many excellent conversation questions is asking about what a person is wearing, holding or using. Showing interest in what they have helps make the conversation warmer and more interesting.

There are a lot of excellent conversation questions you can ask another person. All it takes is a little bit of quick thinking and keen observation, and you'll have no problem keeping the exchange going.

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Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Michael_Lee

What Men Want in a Woman - The 4 Most Dreaded Words Men Hate to Hear

When you hear about men being from Mars and women being from Venus, what you're often hearing is that women like to talk and communicate while men prefer not to. It's one of the most fundamental differences between the sexes - and it's the one that drives the most people crazy.

"All she wants to do is talk about our 'feelings'!" men will complain to their friends. Meanwhile, women complain to their friends, "He won't talk to me about his feelings!" Is there no middle ground here?

To women, it seems obvious that you'd want to discuss emotional issues. How else will you know what the other person is thinking? Besides, talking about things helps you understand them and feel better about them. So why would anyone want to clam up?

That line of reasoning makes sense - for women. But men's minds work differently. They're just not hardwired the same way as women.

Many studies have shown that men react to strong emotion more physically than women do. Their blood pressure goes up, their hearts race, and it takes much longer for their bodies to return to normal once the crisis has passed than it does for women.

Because of this, men's brains subconsciously urge them to stay away from strong emotion - because it's physically dangerous.

One study among young boys and girls showed that the boys were faster to turn off a tape recording of a baby crying than the girls were. Why? Not because the boys were insensitive, but because they were more bothered by it. The boys were actually MORE sensitive to strong feelings, not less. And that's why they avoid it.

It's been shown that old men are far more likely to die soon after losing a spouse - to "die of grief," as they say - than old women are after losing theirs. Physically speaking, emotional problems hit men harder.

Women often want to ask a man, "What are you thinking?" when he's quiet. They assume that because they get quiet when they're troubled, it's the same way with men.

But it is not, at least not necessarily. Men also get quiet when they're pondering a problem, devising a solution to something. It does not mean anything is "wrong." It just means they are working something out, often something non-earth-shattering and non-traumatic. Women talk their way through problems; men think their way through.

Men do talk, of course. Get them with their buddies and they talk all the time - about sports, cars, movies, video games, TV shows, you name it. Just not their feelings. They get their pent-up feelings and aggressions out through games and camaraderie, not through cathartic chat sessions.

But even strong, stoic men understand (or should understand) that communication is vital in any relationship. They should be willing to talk about things that need to be talked about. The key for you in getting him to open up is to let go at his own pace.

Women's minds focus on feelings, while men's focus on problem-solving. Therefore, if there's an emotional issue that needs discussion, rather than saying, "How do you feel?" or telling him how you feel, you might do better to phrase it as a solution: "Let's figure out a way to deal with this" or "What if we did such-and-such about this situation?"

A good time to bring up emotional issues is when he's relaxed and comfortable and not otherwise occupied. That last point is important. He's relaxed and comfortable when he's watching a football game on TV, but that's certainly NOT the time to interrupt him with this kind of talk. Wait until he's puttering around in the garage, doing nothing in particular, or maybe when you're out together for a casual walk.

As with so many issues in dealing with men, it's important not to pressure him. If he feels like you're manipulating him into talking about his feelings, he'll clam up. So don't set up "meetings."

Do NOT say, "We need to talk." (You can ask any man: Those are the four MOST dreaded words in the English language.)

Instead, arrange a situation you both enjoy where talking will be feasible - going out to dinner, taking a Sunday drive, etc.

Then, if the conversation comes around to the issues you want to discuss, it will be a natural progression, not an agenda.

Above all, you should accept that men are different from women - and that's a good thing.

Just because you're inclined to do something one way doesn't mean that's the "right" way. Let men be themselves. When they feel relaxed and safe, you may be surprised at the things they'll tell you.

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Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=C._Pemo

11 October 2006

How to Use Daydreaming to Improve Communication Skills

If we treat learning how to handle specific communication situations as a motor skill, can we use our imagination to improve our relationships?

Alvaro Pascual-Leone, a neurologist at Harvard, has demonstrated that piano players using mental practice improve their performance more than those not practicing at all. In fact, according to neuroscientists Robert Zatorre and Andrea Halpern, when pianists listen to a piece they know how to perform, they activate areas in the motor cortex that correspond to the finger movements they would have to make in order to produce the sounds even though they do not actually move their fingers. Even more amazing, the same parts of their brain activate when they recall the music in their heads.

Studies like these have been done over the past twenties years in sports psychology, where basketball players and golfers have proven to increase their performance through mental practice.

Can we apply this practice to improving our communication skills? Yes. In fact, this practice will also increase the speed of self-improvement.

Generally, we learn how to relate with other people-including skills of leadership, negotiation, conflict resolution and assertiveness-in a classroom, from a book, or from a mentor, but do not get regular chances to practice in real life. Therefore, the information we learn may or may not implant in our long-term memory, and our knowledge is susceptible to being overridden by fear if we do not remember or feel confident to use what we learn.

The good news is that our brains are even more adept at learning active skills than simply remembering information. If you figure out what you want to say and do in specific situations and practice over and over, even if it is just in your head, the brain records it as a skill in your motor cortex where you have access to use it even under duress. It?s true that you can?t account for all interpersonal situations, but you can prepare for upcoming interactions and presentations which will give you confidence for the unplanned events.


1. When you want something to happen, practice how you will talk, act, behave and feel in your head a few times every day. Make it your mental practice as you would prepare for a concert or sports event. You have a much better chance of performing well in spite of your fears if your brain can remember what to do instead.

2. When you vision, be sure to monitor your emotions. Your brain works most efficiently when you are feeling happy, grateful, proud, compassionate, hopeful, forgiving, receptive, lucky, confident, optimistic, or any emotions related to feeling good.

3. Be sure to see it through to the end. Whenever you practice mentally, go from start to the finish. Most people just see themselves starting an event. They rarely see it through to the end. You are teaching your brain new skills and ways of being. You need to be thorough so your negative thoughts don?t creep back in.

4. Use this technique to start your day. Vision how you want to feel and who you want to be during the day. Mentally, and physically, practice this all day long to stay on track.

5. Be conscious of your thoughts as often as possible. Running negative tapes in your head is also mental practice that is remembered. You have to stop and listen if you want to change the channel.

Remember, your brain learns quickly. If you choose the lessons you want it to learn, and practice regularly, you will reach mastery. Begin today to master your communication skills.

About the author: Marcia Reynolds has spent over 25 years teaching and speaking to audiences world-wide. She specializes in helping people to understand how their brains work so they can make better choices about their behavior, their communications, and their impact. Speaking in over 11 countries, she has been recognized as an expert in emotional intelligence since 1997. Reynolds is the author of Outsmart Your Brain: How to Make Success Feel Easy and the audiotape series, Being in the Success Zone. Her insights have appeared in Fortune Magazine, Health, Christian Science Monitor, Harvard Management Update, Entrepreneur, Cosmopolitan and The New York Times, and she has appeared on ABC World News, NPR and Japan Nightly News. You can read more at www.OutsmartYourBrain.com or contact her at Marcia@OutsmartYourBrain.com

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Marcia_Reynolds

10 October 2006

People Ignore Me When We Meet

Question:Tell me what do you do, or what is your reaction, when people you know do not greet you or pretend not to notice you. You sometimes feel hurt when you either greet a person and they do not greet back, as if they have not seen you, OR they do not even look at you whilst passing or standing in a public place.

I sometimes feel resentful and decide that I will never greet such people again. I am not sure whether there may be something wrong with me OR I care too much OR I want to be noticed and feel great. Please help me to help myself so that I can grow inside.

Answer: I know what it feels like to be not greeted. It isn't very nice. It's a feeling of confusion.

Do remember that sometimes people can "ignore" you not on purpose but because they didn't see you. I've done this plenty of times and later found it has made the person feel bad but it was a simple accident.

Let's say they are ignoring you on purpose. The question is, do you greet them? Just slip in a simple "hey" and whether they respond and be rude is upto them. If your relationship with the person is weak (like just a person you've meet maybe and you know their name) why should you matter that they don't respond?

If you stumbled across your partner in public the two of you would happily greet each other. Why? Because you've got a good established relationship. So if someone doesn't greet you, it's likely that they just don't feel any "attraction" or friendship towards you. The greater your friendship the more likely the person will greet you.

Still worried about the person not greeting you? If they don't respond to your greeting or do so with resentment and unwillingness, it then becomes a matter of your insecurity and self-consciousness as you begin to ask yourself "What's wrong with me?" If that's the case, you do having something wrong with you. You can either build the relationship up beforehand or greet the person and overcome your insecurities and not care what the person does.

It's their choice to not greet you. Learn to deal with your insecurities or buildup the relationship beforehand.