Life lessons and how to make small talk your jam
I spent the late 80’s and half the 90’s pursuing a dream of financial independence. I worked a couple different sales jobs and a small business to get that freedom but it did not happen.
My small business failure however was not a total waste of time. As with everything in life, if we try, we either succeed or we learn. There is no losing.
I learned about my strengths and my weaknesses. Specifically, I learned some things that challenged my pre-conceived notions of how the world is, and how it should be, that I inherited from my family. That turned out to be a very good thing.
To have the understanding that what we know about something or think we know, is probably incorrect, or at best incomplete is the start on the path towards wisdom. I started on that path and I am still on it today.
I learned more about positive mental attitude, which I knew a little about in my previous sales job (that I also failed) and I learned how to dress for success.
However by the time the 90’s ended I learned that I was an introvert trying to succeed in fields filled with really smart extroverts. I was misplaced, temporarily.
I learned that if I was going to be successful I was going to have to learn how to talk to people.
My past experience at parties, meetings and gatherings of strangers was to imitate the potted plant in the corner, hoping I would not need to speak. I think deep down though I wished they would come talk to me. I liked the spot light if I knew what I wanted to say. Its just I had nothing interesting to say so no one wanted to talk to me.
I ended up gravitating to a career that was well suited to my past experiences talking with people even if I wasn’t great at it. I at least controlled what we were going to talk about. I was privileged to serve as a national security and public trust special investigator.
I ended up interviewing thousands of people. Everyone gave me at least 15-20 minutes of their time whether they were some big shot US ambassador, assistant head of an intelligence agency, three-star general, or submarine commander. Some just cleaned the floors or happened to live next door to one of these people who hold a security clearance. But necessity forced me out of my introversion and with time I became comfortable speaking in front of and next to total strangers.
One of the easiest ways to start a conversation with a stranger is to remember the acronym FORM.
It stands for Family/or From either one, as in “ Mr. Jones are you married or have kids?” or “ Where are you from Mr. Jones?”
Dale Carnegie a very famous 20th century author and speaker said in his famous work “How to Win Friends and Influence People” ‘get people talking about themselves and they will naturally like you. Also the most pleasurable sounding word for a person to to hear is their own name. Use it when you speak to people and watch what happens’.
The R stands for Recreation. As in “What do you like to do in your free time Mr. Jones?”
O stands for Occupation. As in “What is your occupation Mr. Jones?”
The M stands for Motivation or Message depending upon what you are trying to do. This can go like this “So Mr. Jones what would you like to see happen here tonight?” Or maybe “Mr. Jones, what if I could save you some money on your car’s extended warranty policy would you want to hear about that?”Anyway you get the idea.
F.O.R.M its easy to remember and it works. Good luck!
“How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie