The Large Impact of Small Talk
If small talk at the beginning of a presentation or conversation seems like a waste of time to you, you may be missing one of the most important parts of communication. You see, small talk serves a purpose beyond the sometimes-silly words we use; it sends the message that you are interested in exploring a relationship with your conversation partner or audience. It’s social rather than informational, and it’s called “phatic communication.”
Lest you think this is a new idea, the term Phatic Communication was coined in an important essay by Bronislaw Malinowski on meaning in conversation, way back in 1923. But it may be even more important today, when building business is all about relationships. If you want to have a real conversation with someone and you DON’T include small talk, you may actually be telling the listener that something is wrong and the normal social rules have been suspended. And there goes the relationship!
Phatic communication is not just words. It’s intention, gestures and even tone of voice. The next time you plan a presentation or a conversation, be sure to ask yourself if phatic communication should be part of it. If you are not comfortable with small talk, you can find helpful hints for how to use it, please see my post, How to be an expert at conversation.
And for those rebels among you, here is a discourse on whether or not all our communication is becoming too phatic, which is why there are so many cats and dogs on Facebook.