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There exist people "out there" who can help satisfy ANY need you have! The "challenge" is … HOW to FIND that person (or those people). The ANSWER is NETWORKING … communicating with others, discovering how you may mutually benefit each other (it’s a "reciprocal" give and receive thing). You have talents/resources you can offer others and they have talents/resources they can offer you (i.e. each of you has an "agenda" – what you can give/offer and what you need/desire). In any relationship, giving and receiving are not always in equal "balance" and need not be. Often the one who gives the more receives the more (in good feelings). Chances are that if the person you’re speaking with cannot help you, they know someone who can! The "aim" of networking is for you and the person you’re with to share each other’s agendas … and SMALL TALK is the vehicle by which this is done!

At this point, a definition would seem appropriate – small talk is "light or casual conversation." In reality, there are different levels/types of small talk. All small talk tends to START light and casual, but can extend beyond to the deep and profound. In their book, Great Connections , Anne Baber and Lynne Waymon describe four types of small talk:

Enjoy the moment,
Engage in satisfying connections,
Exchange information and ideas, and
Explore future opportunities.

Enjoying the moment you may strike up a conversation with a comment about something that is "common" knowledge – the weather, the surroundings, the occasion/circumstances bringing you both together, or something in the news.
Engaging in satisfying connections involves getting to know who the other person is … where they come from, what they do for a living, their interests/hobbies, etc.
Exchanging information and ideas is just that. We all have knowledge/wisdom gained through years of our own personal experience that may be of interest to, and even benefit someone else.
Exploring future opportunities is imagining possible things the two of you can do that may benefit one or both of you. Typically this is the "goal" of networking/small talk.

Effective small talk is like playing a game of tennis … you receive the ball, then you return the ball … you listen, then you respond. And like a game, there are game "rules" – take turns (don’t monopolize the conversation -- "complete, don’t compete"), be committed to the other person by making the most of the moment, be appreciative of and caring for the other person, LIKE people. Skillful small talkers view people as walking encyclopedias, how-to books, and personalized Yellow Pages. There is a saying – "You can get everything you want out of life, if you help enough other people get what they want." Be more willing/eager to give, and the receiving will come! Give to another person, and they’ll bend over backwards to "get even." And, of course, there’s the Golden Rule – "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Not all small talk need have any "ulterior" motive other than enjoying getting acquainted with another person, and the thoughts/insights you can share with each other. That, in itself, can be most rewarding.

A closing comment – you will at times be fortunate enough to make contact with what is known as a “center of influence.” This is a person who knows many people … people who either may be of assistance to you or, if you are promoting a product/service, to become your clients. This works especially well if this center of influence sells/offers a product/service complimentary to yours (i.e. they sell copy machines, you sell copy paper)! The two of you can agree on a win-win relationship of promoting the other’s product/service with your own clients! Another (related) “tactic” is to join those clubs/organizations whose members would benefit from your product/service or whose expertise would be invaluable in assisting you (if you own a business, consider joining the local Chamber of Commerce) … And, last but not least – attend trade shows.

(Also read – "LISTEN … with Your Ears, Eyes, and Heart" and "How Couples Communicate")

(Did you know that networking is the best way to find a job?!)

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