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You spend your days dealing with divorces, or insurance claims, or digging through millions of pages of discovery. Then, when it comes time to head to an industry mixer, you're expected to make small talk with strangers about -- what? Sports? The weather? You'd rather not.
But if small talk is a big obstacle to you, your business could hurt. After all, networking can be key to bringing in clients and building your name. So, to help you out, here are some quick tips to improving your casual conversation skills and overcoming your disdain for small talk.
1. Find a Common Interest and Ask a Lot of Questions
If you don't like small talk, here's a simple trick: don't do most of the talking. When you meet someone new, try to establish some commonality early on. (This isn't too hard, given that networking opportunities are often themed, an industry event, a nonprofit gala, a company party, etc.) What does this person do? What do they like to do?
Once you've got something to work with, just ask them simple, light questions. These can be a mix of the personal and the professional. "What's your day to day like" mixed with a bit of "Got any good restaurant recommendations?" People love to talk about themselves, so let them. It'll take some of the pressure off you.
2. Keep It Light
Small talk is called small talk because it's largely surface level. And that's alright! These are opportunities to simply get a feel for someone, to establish a connection and see if there are commonalities. It's not necessarily the right time to get into politics, complain about your paralegal, or start a debate about the future of Article III standing. Those topics can wait for the future.
3. Have a Drink or Two -- but Not Three
If the idea of interacting with strangers puts you on edge, turning to Bacchus might help loosen you up. A cocktail or two can provide some needed social lubrication, but make sure you drink only in moderation. Being the drunk at an event is never a good look.
4. Network Online
In our digital world, you don't need to be face-to-face to connect. Twitter, LinkedIn, and other websites can provide you valuable opportunities to connect with others without having to leave your computer. Here are a few good places to start.
5. Treat It Like Work
Do you like to work into the morning hours, finishing up a last minute motion? Do you love reviewing documents ad nauseum or dealing with unrealistic, overly demanding clients? Of course not. But you do it, because it's your job.
So is networking. If you'd rather skip out on an event, remind yourself that networking is good for business. Then grit your teeth and fake it 'til you make it.