So I’m still trying to find balance between reading different personal and professional development books, with other books. So far this month I’ve managed to finish a book that I think falls into both categories: “Small Talk: An Introvert’s Guide to Small Talk—Talk to Anyone & Be Instantly Likeable (How to small talk, Talk to anyone, Lasting relationship, People Skills) by Gary Allman.

Small Talk by Gary Allman. Image (c)

I bought this book for a couple of reasons: 1) the title caught my attention, and I figured that as an introvert, it wouldn’t hurt to see what an “introvert’s guide to small talk” looked liked; and 2) this is an area that I know I need to work on. I know for a fact that some people either think I’m extremely shy or standoffish—and I will admit to being shy, but for the most part I have trouble striking up conversations with other people, but once I’m past that problem—I can almost be considered too talkative.

The book really focuses on overall communication, not just small talk. The author mentions the fact that you should also be caring about your appearance (whether its on a date, or a job interview); that you should be on time (even a little early—but not too early), do your research (if it’s a job interview or networking event), and be mindful of your body language. Another thing the author mentions is not to be staring at your phone all the time. So how am I doing in these areas: dressing, timing, doing research, being mindful of my body language and staying off my phone?

I know that I need to dress professional (or at least business casual) for any type of interview (a little more informal for informational interviews), which I do—dating not so much right now, only because I’m trying to get my life in order and adding in anything else right is a no go (besides—that would require going out to meet someone—and I don’t have time for that). I’m also not someone who wears a lot of makeup (mainly because of the fact that I don’t want to, and being in a lab all day makes it a little pointless), I will occasionally paint my nails, but not often.

I’m always early to things—I’ve been brought up that its better to be early than late; and to be early is to be on time. I know that for interviews its best to be about ten (maybe fifteen) minutes early—though if you’re earlier than that, you should find a café and review notes or something until its closer to the interview time.

I do need to work more on doing the research for networking events and any interviews that I might land over the next year. One reason is so that there is something to talk about (since they always ask if you have any questions, and its always a good thing to have at least one). I will look up some of the schools or businesses that will be at a networking event, but then when I get there I forget what I may want to ask or I forget what my elevator pitch is when talking to companies and I always seem to leave feeling more flustered than anything (with this coming down to not having done enough research and probably feeling a little claustrophobic due to the large number of people in a small area).

I know that when I get nervous I have a habit of talking more with my hands, or brushing my hair away from my face, or even crossing my arms (or hugging something to my chest)—and I know that all of these little quirks can be detrimental in an interview (even an informational one), and that they are things I need to work on overcoming (or at least not doing as frequently). I know when I’m standing, at times I cross my arms (only because I feel silly having my arms straight at my side (I feel slightly like a robot)—so I need to figure out something between crossed at my chest and dangling by my side.

I do stay off my phone when talking with people in public (though if I’m out with family it is a fifty/fifty if I even have my phone with me)—unless I need to check the time or something like that (workday and having a limited amount of time for lunch). At the last networking event I went to, I only pulled out my phone to check the time to make sure that I wasn’t going to be missing some of the talks that I wanted to go to.

So those were just the nonverbal topics that were covered in the book. The book also talked about how to strike up “small talk”—starting with everything from the weather, to giving the other person a compliment, to asking a question. Then hopefully with both people either asking (or answering) the small talk questions, the conversation can continue on with other topics as well. Also when trying to strike up a conversation, the author pointed out that the worse that can happen is that the conversation doesn’t go anywhere (or in certain cases, your goal isn’t achieved), but in the end—you tried, and when it all come down to it—you need to put forth the effort to make something happen, if you don’t try—you fail. If you try, you don’t necessarily fail you may just end up with a different outcome than the one you were hoping for.

So after reading this book, I can almost say that one of my main problems is in networking and walking up to someone and striking up a conversation (even though I know that is why they are there—is to talk to people), also having to deal with large crowds is something that I need to slowly work on as well (in terms of networking). So what do I need to work on–(1) researching before going to a networking event (so that I know who I want to talk to, and about what); being mindful of my body language (in order not to cross my arms–I need to have a something to take notes or to hold), and then just remembering that the worse thing that could happen is that I might slightly bore someone.

Highly recommended book, that if nothing else will give you pointers on how to start a conversation with someone, and to remind you that there are other things you should also be taking into consideration.