Protocol Consultants International
You are walking from the reception area to their office or meeting room, going up the elevator ... 36 floors (!) with your host who says nothing.
Silence may be "golden" ... or deafening!
SMALL TALK. Small talk is a really inappropriate expression for something that should be called the complete opposite: "big talk" "huge talk" or "really important talk" because it is the ice breaker which helps break barriers that retard building rapport and advancing interpersonal relationships. This seemingly ordinary, everyday ritual of making small talk - especially with perfect strangers, can be daunting and a challenge only for the unpracticed. Small Talk is truly an art and a skill you can use to positively influence and jump-start new relationships. However, you need to practice every day in order to become proficient, and have savvy small talk become part of you and your savvy authentic self.
The seemingly inconsequential ordinary gesture of making Small Talk is analogous to the prelude before a performance or the preface of a book... It is the set-up for what we hope will be a seamless transition into meaningful business discussions. The misleading term utterly misrepresents its undulating power. Small talk should be acknowledged for the singular opportunity it holds to adroitly manipulate ... in all good ways(!) people and situations to your advantage. In fact, not accessing competent small talk can limit you and be detrimental in business.
When you take the time and make the effort to hone your small talk skills you will be richly rewarded as you experience the confidence in knowing you are not only helping place others at ease and making them feel special, you are at the same time, kindling the trust factor that spark relationships while quietly, yet most assuredly distinguishing yourself. The act of tactfully engaging others and the ability to artfully draw out the best in others to create more meaningful connections and advance careers cannot be overstated.
When you initiate the small talk this accomplishes three important tasks:
1. keeps you in the Control position.
2. takes the burden off you to speak first.
3. affords you the opportunity to hear the other person speak (first) thereby acquiring valuable information.
Information derived from listening to their voice including tone, inflections, words they use, grammar, diction, etc., permits you to get a sense of their inner emotions such as nervousness, boredom, trepidation, ... allowing you to ultimately adjust your own behavioral style and adapt to ultimately connect.
As for topics, anything out - in plain view or even outdoors is fair game for small talk such as awards and plaques which further convey valuable information about the other person you can use to help advance your goals. The weather is rich in content, as is your recent flight, traffic, directions, their gorgeous gardens ... the beautiful artwork, the new construction (!) ... Sports are also safe topics however, sports teams are only a part of it. You may notice a sports watch or anything in their office revealing an avid golfer, yachtsman, runner, etc. It is absolutely appropriate to ask questions and make comments to enhance personal knowledge and advance relationships. However, be careful with your questions and comments...(!)
It is interesting to note that in High Context Cultures such as Asia and South America, business is never discussed or conducted during the first few meetings which include primarily of the company of family and close friends. Small talk and random conversation about anything other than business is the rule as meetings are focused exclusively on evaluating others to develop the critical trust factor simply required to conduct business in High Context Cultures.
Whereas an important characteristic of Low Context Cultures here in America for example, is the aspect of time, and, as the very American saying goes, "time is money!" Inherent in our genetic make-up is the urge to eliminate small talk and quickly get down to business at hand.
Understanding cultural nuances and the importance small talk plays in advancing personal rapport is integral to successfully competing in our global economy. Do your research and be prepared in any cultural environment where you hope to conduct future business.
Practicing engaging others will help you hone this brilliant skill, make others feel acknowledged, may even help brighten another person's day ultimately, making you feel pretty good, too! Extending a random greeting, unexpected comment or compliment prompting a reply and perhaps even leading to further dialogue is ultimately energizing for everyone.
Making something from nothing is an art and takes work ... and changing what might otherwise be a non-eventful experience standing in the elevator or waiting for your latte, has the potential to be quickly altered into a memorable event or transformed into an enchanting experience while perhaps acquiring a significant new relationship along the way!
- Eat something first!
- Obtain a copy of the guest list and familiarize yourself with:
- attendees' names... and practice pronouncing names!
- internal company news i.e. an impending merger/acquisition, new product release, etc.
- Wear appropriate attire (dark colors) and a jacket with large pockets (ladies) - one for incoming and one for outgoing cards.
- Have a "tag line" prepared specific to this group.
- Upon arrival, go to the restrooms - freshen, pop a breath mint and wash hands thoroughly to eliminate "clammy hands," (the Kiss of Death!)
- Name badges belong (high) on your right side out of consideration for those trying to view, learn, remember and use your name.
- Make your entrance: Exude positive energy! ... Remember, we as human beings are naturally drawn toward positive energy, positive people! Let others feel your presence!
- Hold glasses in your LEFT hand (always with a cocktail napkin!) leaving your right hand free to shake hands.
- Approach singles, groups of 3's or more.
- Invest 5-7 minutes per person and then move on.
- Disengage tactfully and provide an introduction before leaving (the proverbial pass-off!)
- Introduce yourself to senior level people you normally would not have the opportunity to meet.
- Actively engage in artful Small Talk and conversation skill, remembering your preparation and research for each conversation launch.
- Always ask before assuming someone wants your card, "May I offer you my card?"
"May I ask for your card?"
- Make personal notes about the other person to use in subsequent follow-up communication.
- Walk whomever you are speaking with not only to the door, but outside the door as they are leaving to take advantage of "real talk" to advance the relationship; thank them for attending.
- Send a brief email note of thanks, after having identified they are an e-culture person/company, ... and follow-up with a personal, hand-written note the next day or within 48 hours. Clearly, the longer you wait, the less impact the gesture holds. This provides you with an opportunity to get yourself, your company/brand in front of your target and leave yet another Judy Jones "impression." And, ... 'repetition is reputation!
- Apologize face-to-face … the sooner the better. Show remorse, humility; own it.
- Ask forgiveness. State what you will do going forward.
- Write a personal note; email, text or even a phone call is not as effective.
- Allow time to heal and regain their trust.
- Say, “I’m sorry I made you feel that way because of my words/behavior.”
Literally translated, "T.I.P." means "To Insure Promptness."
The holidays are an ideal time to say "thank you" ... in the ways that matter, to those who have helped us through the year. While holiday tipping for regular service providers is very personal and certainly not mandatory, there are general guidelines:
Regular service providers on whom we have come to trust and rely such as our hair stylist, manicurist or masseuse, babysitter, animal sitter, newspaper delivery person, UPS person, housekeeper, etc., those who help make our lives easier and brighten our day, and deserve to be acknowledged. Rule: the holiday tip should be one week's compensation for that service provider. For example, if you pay your housecleaner $60 per week, write another check for $60 for their holiday bonus.
While some may consider this over the top, there are many who "tip" much more than these basic guidelines. Babysitters and concierges, for example, are tipped as much as $100 to $500 or more, during the holidays. Remember, we trust these individuals, we rely on them, they take care of us/our children, they give us peace of mind, and make our lives easier, better.
Hair stylist, Manicurist, Masseuse - write another check for the same amount or, 20% of your regular hair treatment x 2.
Day care provider - follow the same guidelines, however, this is very personal and, subjective.
Dog walker - follow same guidelines, however, this again, is very personal
Newspaper delivery person - $10 to $20
Postal delivery person: $10 to $20. It is actually illegal to tip the postal carrier any more than $20.
House cleaner - write another check for the same amount.
Valet - $20 - $30
Secretary/Admin - write another check for one week's salary.
*Please note: the Holiday Bonus is an entirely separate issue.
Not to forget:
Day to day regular service providers who i.e. drive you to work every day, make your coffee, pump your gas, the doorman in your building, etc.
*Money need not always be the form of the holiday "tip." While monetary gifts and gift cards are more common during the Holidays, some may not be able to tip or, prefer to gift something other than money.
Options: making something - your specialty craft of expertise, a special framed photo, baked goods, etc. A 'thank you' gesture of gratitude during the Holidays in any form is appreciated. People like to feel appreciated and acknowledged and 'The Holidays' is the perfect time to do so!
What ever gesture you chose, it truly is the thought and gesture, that count!
*A personal thank you note should always accompany the tip.
Even if your card has a pre-written message, write your own note of thanks.
*Black ink is used for strictly professional correspondence. Blue ink reflects warmth. Consider festive holiday colors i.e. red, green or gold is elegant!
It doesn’t get any hotter or more contested than the dialogue between President Obama and President-Elect Trump. Yet, after the most contentious campaign in history, the people of this Democratic Republic have spoken, and as a result, our world leaders have chosen … to show respect, civility and professionalism to our country and the world. In a most cordial, peaceful transfer of power meeting at the White House, together they set a world-class example by which we should all abide.
Americans need to come together and rebuild - our spirit, our core which frankly, needed nurturing long before this impassioned e-lection. The people of this great Republic have always shown unity, strength and resolve in the face of greatest adversity to keep America strong. This very challenging time in our country’s history presents a great opportunity to come together again, to heal, and set an example for our children and the world.
There are only two emotions in the world: love and fear. All positive emotions come from love, all negative emotions from fear.” Elizabeth Kubler Ros. People fear that which they do not know. The violence that has erupted from protestors this week is driven by ignorance and fear … fear of the unknown.
Change is imminent and change is good. However, change can be daunting because it represents the unknown. That said, Trump is the voice for the majority of Americans who clearly want change. We need to acknowledge the fear and strive to come together to heal knowing peace, prosperity and justice will prevail.
Donald Trump is going to be our next president, like it or not. It’s okay to raise our voices but not to indulge in hatred and destruction. Hatred is a negative emotion lead by fear which is destructive. In the name of the greatest Democracy, Americans have a right to protest, but rioters are not expressing “Freedom of Speech.” Anarchy is un-American, unacceptable and will not remedy anything. It is not okay to loot, riot, smash storefronts and cars, spit and beat people up …for expressing their preferences? No.
This is a pivotal time in American history. Our new President-Elect has a tough long road ahead with unprecedented business issues and challenges looming domestically and internationally and he needs our prayers and support. Being destructive and negative breed’s destruction and negativity. Being derisive will not advance us as a country but only retard progress and there is much work to do.
World Peace begins at home and starts with a basic show of respect and civility toward each other - especially our new President-Elect. We need to reunite and support our new President-Elect who, by the way, won.
In his victory speech he said, “to those who have chosen not to support me, I reach out to you and ask for your help so that we can work together and unify our great country.” It’s time to take responsibility and come together. It’s time to show respect for our new President-Elect who is going to be our 45th president. There is a code of respectability that accompanies any president-elect at this time which needs to be honored. As President Obama has said, it’s important "we can come together to face the challenges America faces.” And, as Hillary Clinton told her backers: "We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead."
So let’s give this President-Elect a chance to make America love again, make America respected, make America great and strong again. He cannot do it alone. Help our new President-Elect unite America so this great country can flourish; “United we stand; divided we fall.”
Judith Bowman Executive Director National Civility Foundation
Linda Zecher is the first female president and CEO of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, the nation's most trusted brand in publishing and largest textbook publisher for children.