Business Spotlight

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, 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

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 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 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.


Silke: Susan:

Silke: Susan: Silke:


 ??  ?? Chatting with colleagues: as easy as it seems?
Chatting with colleagues: as easy as it seems?

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