Small talk, big impact
Small Talk schafft Vertrauen und fördert den Teamgeist – aber nur, wenn das Thema den anderen interessiert und ihn weder ausschließt noch herabwürdigt. JULIAN EARWAKER informiert, wie gutes Small Talk funktioniert.
to discriminate against workers based on their sexuality.
What matters most in terms of inclusivity, says consultancy Bcg.com, is the “everyday touch points”: the small talk, comments and reactions from managers and colleagues. The greatest risk is where the touch points break down and “highlight prejudice, demonstrate a lack of empathy or make an individual or group feel isolated or unwelcome,” says Bcg.com.
Research shows that small talk has a big impact. A study at the University of Michigan found that participants who engaged in small talk saw improvements in the brain’s executive functioning, which controls focus, planning and prioritization. The University of Exeter Business School and Rutgers University found that small talk is “uplifting yet distracting”, according to Professor Jessica Methot. “Small talk softens controversial conversations, enhances mood, creates positive group climates and facilitates a sense of belonging,” she explains. “Yet at the same time, many people consider small talk to be pointless, draining or distracting.” The study found that those who engaged in small talk felt more recognized and were willing to do more to help others. Those who avoid interacting with co-workers, says Professor Methot, tend to “overestimate negative consequences and underestimate positive consequences”.
“Marcus” (not his real name) knows exactly what Methot means. Early in his career with a global bank, he kept getting passed over for promotion despite his ability, he tells Hbr.com. When Marcus was told that the partners didn’t really know him, he realized that his ethnicity (he is African American) was stopping him from opening up to colleagues for fear of meeting prejudice and bias. Instead of avoiding small talk with colleagues, he started to join social engagements, find common interests and talk more openly about his life outside the office — building trust and confidence. Marcus gained the promotion he deserved and is now a managing partner, but it wasn’t an easy journey.
So, what is the best way to make small talk more inclusive? Performance experts Reflektive.com suggest that healthy conversations should include identifying your inner biases (“I hate football”), changing your speaking style to stop
People who work internationally usually expect that there will be cultural differences between them and their business partners — and that these differences could lead to difficulties. But it is easy to forget that different working styles and working cultures can also exist in teams or departments in a single company. Culture is not only about who you are and where you’re from, but is also influenced by group norms. It is therefore important to be able to talk about differences in working styles and cultures, and to find ways of working successfully together.
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