Make conversation not war -- A review of The Fine Art of Small Talk

Communication is an important skill. A vital type is to talk with strangers. When I interned in the industry, I need let the customers get clear about our products. When I worked as a Ph.D. student, I communicate with my university colleagues and make connections worldwide. So I read The Fine Art of Small Talk, a book about making conversations with strangers.

Just like telling a story, the author first shows you the importance of small talk, then presents some misunderstanding about small talk. After that, the different phases of conversations with strangers are discussed in detail: you open up lines, the following questions, be a good listener, host the multi-people conversation, deal with unexpected issues, and how to say goodbye. Since the author herself was nerdy, this book does take the logic of nerds into consideration.

The main idea or the core technique of small talking is to take the risk and assume the burden. People intuitively feel scared to talk with strangers --- in fear of being rejected. To overcome that fear, the book gives practical advice: just think about the fact that there are so many more dangerous things in this world. A salesman loses his job because he is timid when he should convert a stranger into his potential customers. A young man never has a girlfriend since he is too scared to talk to girls.

Once we are able to start the conversation, we should assume the burden of the awkward moment when we have nothing to say. To solve this, we prepare a list of questions, dig deeper into the previous topic, and look for the free information of our partners.

Small talk is more than speaking. We should be good listeners and behave ourselves. When listening to others, we get fully involved in their stories: maintain eye contact, nod and ask questions, and get focused. Posture is another subject. Make confident postures, smile to others, lean forward, and be the first to smile to others.

After all, to be a good smaller talker, we need to be curious to others. Only with curiosity, we can be sincere in the conversations.

Based on the Chinese review in Douban, many people dislike this book because it is 'vague'. But I do like this book --- I love such a book that systematically talks about some practical skills because it is helpful. My own experiences proved that. During my senior high school in China, I'm not good at communications because of my personality and my academic performance. I'm lucky to find some books written in Chinese about skills to talk. Some people just don't find these lines work, but for me, it paves the way. Later on, I found these skills are not only helpful for dating but also for making friends. I know I am not special so then I believe that nobody is born to know some practical skills. What we need is just some guidance: a book, a lecture, etc.

I would suggest this book to Chinese who are now in the USA for the reason of the cultural difference. The book provides the pattern of conversations in the USA, which fill in our knowledge gap. From my perspective, I can read the Chinese air, however, not the American air. This book provides advice for some conventions in the USA.

That's all about the book. The tone is more concise than that in previous posts. Because I read The Elements of Style and plan to make some changes. It's a long way and here's the start.

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