The other week, a few of my colleagues went to a large networking event for the first time in the past two years. While many of them were excited, there was also a bit of hesitation as they thought about who they were going to meet, what they were going to say and how they were going to carry on conversation with strangers.
I know they are not alone in this experience. As more companies welcome employees back to the office and organizations host in-person gatherings, some people are facing a situation they haven’t experienced in quite some time: the need to make small talk.
While this type of conversation is not everyone’s favorite, the fact is when you’re getting reacquainted with colleagues you haven’t seen in some time or just meeting a person, it can be helpful to have a few thought starters to get conversation flowing. To support anyone who may be feeling a little trepidation at the prospect of networking or workplace re-entry, here are a few ideas to help you connect using the Emergenetics® Attributes.
Considerations by Thinking Preference
Those with an Analytical preference usually appreciate abstract ideas grounded in data, and often like to be the experts in the room. If you know some of the interests of the people you are talking to, ask about those topics specifically. If not, some questions that may resonate with this preference include:
- What thought-provoking books have you read recently?
- What podcast or documentary have you listened to or watched that’s changed your thinking?
- What developments in your industry are intriguing to you these days?
People with a Structural preference often have a knack for organization and create order out of chaos by having a place for everything and everything in its place. If you know some of their recent activities, try asking about their planning process. Otherwise, they may appreciate prompts like:
- What recent projects have you been excited to finish up?
- How are you preparing for any upcoming vacations?
- What plans do you have for this weekend?
Individuals who have a preference for Social Thinking tend to appreciate working with and through others as well as enjoy making personal connections. When you know about their family or friends, they often welcome questions about these important people in their lives. If not, they may perk up when they hear inquiries like:
- What have you and your friends been up to recently?
- Are you working with any new teammates or clients that you’re excited about?
- Tell me about your weekend. Who did you see?
Individuals with a Conceptual preference are often excited by new ideas and imagining possibilities. If you are reconnecting with Conceptual thinkers, you may want to make connections between their work and the future. If you are not too sure what they are up to, connect with thought starters like:
- What’s new in your world?
- What have you been inspired by lately?
- Have you had any unusual experiences recently?
Remember, most people have more than one Thinking Attribute in preference, and everyone has all of the Attributes. Try asking questions from more than one Thinking Attribute to change up the conversation!
Reminders for Behavioral Preferences
Based on your Behavioral Attributes, you may have a very different approach to conversations than your counterparts. It can be useful to think about the many styles you may encounter, so you’re not surprised when interacting with people who show up differently.
Expressiveness describes your outward expression of opinions and emotion. As you’re connecting with others, it’s helpful to remember that the first-third of Expressiveness often appreciates pauses before speaking and may not use a lot of words to share their thoughts, while the third-third is likely to be more effusive and say quite a bit. For the second-third, it will depend.
Assertiveness reflects the pace and style with which you advance thoughts, feelings and beliefs. Those in the first-third tend to be more peaceful and often share opinions as questions. Individuals in the third-third may be more driving and state their beliefs as facts. People in the second-third adopt either style based on the situation.
Flexibility helps to illuminate a person’s reaction to change that is imposed upon them. The first-third of Flexibility may appreciate staying focused on a topic of conversation until its conclusion, while you should prepare for tangents from those in the third-third. Conversationalists in the second-third may use either style depending on the circumstances.
While it can be scratchy to get back into the habit of making small talk, it does get easier when you practice. By keeping an ear out for the interests of each Attribute and adapting your approach to connect with their needs, you can ease the conversation and make your interactions flow more smoothly.
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