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Meaningful chit-chat, is there such a thing?

Updated: Nov 4, 2022

Q: When I’m at a networking event, there are people attending I would like to get to know more but I never know how to move beyond general introductions. How do I start having deeper conversations with these people so I can build my network? A: At networking events, you often only have short periods of time to talk with people and moving from a general introduction to a deeper conversation can be tricky.

A communication tool that can support you to start building those relationships is the use of what are called verbal softeners. Softeners can be used as a quick bridge between general chit–chat to a deeper conversation. Softeners are any words you use that take the edge out of what could be perceived as a strong statement or question. They work great in those times and places when you may not know a person well enough to ask a direct question but really would like to know their opinion on something. Softeners also allow you to share your opinion without sounding overbearing.

Think of verbal softeners like fabric softeners for your laundry. Fabric softeners make your towels feel good. It’s the same with verbal softeners, they make your questions and/or statements feel good to the person you are talking with and as a result they want to talk with you more.

Once you’ve done your general introductions use a softener to get a good conversation going. Here are some examples;

“I am curious, would you mind sharing…” “I really appreciated what you had to say about ‘x’, would you mind telling me…” “It’s interesting that you think ‘x’, I’ve often thought…” or even simply, “ May I ask you…”

Great networkers do this naturally. At your next event, pick a couple of the above statements and give them a try yourself. Good luck!

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