The Fine Art of Small Talk with Bestselling Author, Debra Fine

1:12:48
 
공유
 

Manage episode 282412570 series 2633174
Player FM과 저희 커뮤니티의 Crestcom International 콘텐츠는 모두 원 저작자에게 속하며 Player FM이 아닌 작가가 저작권을 갖습니다. 오디오는 해당 서버에서 직접 스트리밍 됩니다. 구독 버튼을 눌러 Player FM에서 업데이트 현황을 확인하세요. 혹은 다른 팟캐스트 앱에서 URL을 불러오세요.

The Fine Art of Small Talk with Bestselling Author, Debra Fine

Jenn DeWall:

Hi everyone. It’s Jenn DeWall. And on this week’s episode of The Leadership Habit podcast, I sat down with Debra Fine. Who is she? Well, a former engineer, Debra Fine is the author of bestselling books. The Fine Art of Small Talk: How to Start a Conversation, Keep it Going, Build Networking Skills- and Leave a Positive Impression; as well as The Fine Art of Big Talk; along with her just-released third book in the “Fine Art” series, Beyond Texting: the Fine Art of Face-to-Face Communication for Teenagers. All of these books are translated and published in two dozen countries across the globe. So, Debra is a 25-year member of the National Speakers Association and she presents on stage and virtually as a keynote speaker and trainer to hundreds of audiences around the world that include the National Electrical Contractors Association, Google, Amazon, and so many more. Now you can find her as a regular Huffington Post blogger. Her recent media appearances include the TODAY Show, NPR Morning Edition, Fox Business News, the New York Times, and CNN. I am so excited to welcome Debra Fine to the show. As we talk about The Fine Art of Small Talk.

Full Transcript Below:

Meet Debra Fine

Jenn DeWall:

Hi everyone, it’s Jenn DeWall and in today’s episode, of The Leadership Habit podcast I am sitting down with public speaker author, and some might consider her the dominant driving force behind the art of small talk, Mrs. Debra Fine. Debra, how are you doing today?

Debra Fine:

Jenn DeWall. It’s a, it’s a bleary day, but I feel sunny because I feel sunny for many different reasons. The new year ahead, a vaccine in my sights, and my health and your health, too, Jenn DeWall, more than anything. At heart, I’m feeling great!

Jenn DeWall:

Well, I’m having you on because you’ve written multiple books on the art of small talk. So, but my audience doesn’t know you yet. So could you just go ahead and introduce yourself and talk about who you are and what you do.

Debra Fine:

Thank you for asking Jenn. I’m excited to say that I used to be an engineer. That’s what my education is. That was my background. And that’s what led me to where I am today is that I did not choose engineering because I was an engineer at heart. I chose engineering because I was great at math and I did not want to really talk to anybody. I thought it was the perfect profession. Seriously. If I had wanted to chat with people, Jenn, I would have chosen your profession. I would have been an interviewer or I would have been a host. I would have been a leader. I would have been in sales. I would have been a teacher, but, I was not born with the gift of gab. As your audience can tell you were- I was not born with it.

And I used to think, wow, you know, how is it that people are so charismatic? But I knew that I wasn’t born with a gift of gab. So I gave up right away. It was just like, I knew I didn’t have that talent. I had other talents obviously. And that was just how it was. So I plotted along and another key ingredient to why I started a business talking about small talk, which trust me, most engineers think is a waste of saliva. And my guess is your audience might’ve thought that when they originally started listening as well. Because if you’re in leadership, you just think, you know, I have projects to lead. I have people to manage. I have tasks to get done. We think small talk is like talking about the Denver Broncos or talking about the weather, but there is so much more involved.

And I didn’t know that either. I had a very bad attitude about small talk. So with that in my life, I thought, how are people like Jenn DeWall doing it? What are they doing that makes them so good with people? How is it that they seem to hit it off with everybody, that there is chemistry? What, what are they doing? So I spent a year’s worth of time on research, honest to goodness only an engineer would do this. And so how do you launch conversations? How do you get through those awkward moments? Sometimes in the good old days before the pandemic, when there would be a table of eight of us sitting there at some sponsorship table, everybody would go around the table, say their name, say who they worked for, what they did. And then sort of everybody would bow their heads and start to play with their food.

Unless of course you brought your spouse or your girlfriend or your buddy, and then you automatically turn to each other and sort of used your crutch. They were your conversation crux to talk to. I mean, how do you get through those moments? I researched listening skills, body language. I even researched exit lines, Jenn, so that you never again, in order to get away from me, do one of these numbers. Debra gotta go, gotta call the babysitter. And five minutes later, I find out from a colleague that you don’t have kids. I mean, there are ways to get away from people without lying to them, but ways to get away from people. So they can’t hold us hostage for one more moment. So, you know, I really, I just thought, how are people doing it? I did the research. I created a program. And I learned something really important.

I used to think it was just me that struggled. And I was just thinking I was dorky people. So I’m, I’m truthfully a dork. You know, I’ve obviously put on red today. I put on lipstick. I’m trying not to look dorky, but I am a dork, but I learned that other people besides engineers, so dorky, do you know that CPAs can be dorky? Lawyers can be dorky, fourth grade teachers can be great at being teachers, but then they have to talk to parents at back to school night and it becomes awkward. I learned that it’s all kinds of professions. What’s it like, you know, when we go back to get our hair styled and we sit in the chair of someone who may be a marvelous hairstylist, but they’re awkward with the chitchat. It feels uncomfortable. We don’t want to go back, even though they did a great job.

I mean, unless we can, you know, I have learned to say, how about I’m just exhausted. I’m out of saliva. How about there’s no talking, unless you can go in that route. If it’s awkward, you don’t want to go back there. The same as a ski instructor up in Vail. So that’s my background. I created a business where I was a keynote speaker, which I still am today, and a trainer. Some of my clients include Google and Amazon and Lockheed Martin and NASA and Duke Power and even Van Cleef & Arpels. Now I don’t have their jewelry because I still can’t afford it, but they’ve trained all their salespeople in The Fine Art of Small Talk. So but so have they done it Lockheed Martin at Cisco systems, if you would like to be a director level or above at Cisco, you need to take The Fine Art of Small Talk because even if you’re an introvert, you have to behave like an extrovert in order to meet their expectations of what leadership looks like. That may not be your expectation. Those of you who are viewing this today, but it is Cisco’s, and it is at Google as well. And that’s why they’ve used me. So I also, as you mentioned, Jenn, thank you very much have written books and The Fine Art of Small Talk is published and translated in two dozen countries. A few more actually, and has been on the bestseller list for many, many years. I won’t tell you because then you’ll guess my age,

Why is Small Talk Important?

Jenn DeWall:

Can I say, well, first and foremost, congratulations on that level of professional accomplishment. That is, yeah. That’s a big deal. And to know that yes, there is a place for small talk. And I think you hit it when we opened this, recognizing that initially, people look at small talk as this begrudging tasks that we have to do that takes us away from our other bigger responsibilities. It’s almost annoying. I mean that for probably someone like me, that’s more- I do have more of that expressive or extroverted personality, but I know that some people might see me coming on a Monday morning and they’re like, how do I get away from Jenn? Right. Like I know I absolutely get that. But the thing that I also want to call out too, is that you came from what I would say, a stereotypical engineer or a stereotypical industry where people just assume, well, they’re an engineer.

They don’t, they don’t really talk. They don’t like talking. My husband’s an engineer. He’ll even tell you that. Like I love going to and like networking events with him because it is funny. I know that I can at least, hopefully, if anything, just make them laugh because they’re like, who is this bananas person? But you know, it’s an industry that often gets pegged of individuals that don’t do that. And maybe part of the reason that they don’t just because there is a label there or because we just don’t know how, and that’s what I’m hoping to be able to just really walk through today. What, like, so why is small talk so important?

Debra Fine:

It’s the appetizer for any relationship, Jenn? I mean, you mentioned that you’re married. I have no idea how you met, but you met one of two ways. Here’s my guess. You either met randomly and via small talk. It developed into a romantic relationship. So that’s the appetizers, the small talk. Then it developed into a relationship or it’s possible someone fixed you up used an internet site. Okay. So that’s where you meet somebody and then you have to revert to small talk in order to build the relationship. So the same holds for business. By the way, we can have a negotiation with someone. We can sell a widget to someone. We can provide a service to someone, but unless we integrate small talk into that, that appetizer, we won’t develop a business friendship with them. And all things being equal. People do business with their friends.

The same thing goes for social. I can meet you randomly, right? And if small talk ensues, it builds into a friendship, but it starts with small talk. And so that’s why I think it’s important. It now, you know, you made a wonderful reference to yourself. You know, Monday morning here comes Jenn DeWall, and people like me are thinking, Oh my gosh, first of all, I have a list of everything I have to do. Secondly, oh no, I don’t have time for 15 minutes of small talk. Okay. But here’s the other thing about that’s up to me to exit her conversation, her small talk, but the thing about Jenn DeWall that you can, you, you just feel it, even over this virtual thing that we’re doing, you feel warm, you feel charisma, you feel, and that’s what we all need to be able to project in our own authentic way.

I am behaving like an extrovert right now, Jenn. And I’ll tell you why. It’s not, because I think you always need to behave like an extrovert. I’m behaving like one to model you. If you are more like this, and this is an important piece of small talk, by the way, if you were more measured if you didn’t laugh so much, if you were more serious. If you talked a little slower, I would talk slower. I would be more measured. I would be more serious. So the thing that you do is you bring so much energy to a situation and people like you are likable. Now. I don’t know that that’s fair by the way, Jenn, I used to think if you got straight A’s that you should be the most successful person because of course, I got straight A’s.

I was a very conscientious student, but I have learned, and I think most of your leadership audience knows this, that that’s not enough. You have to be able to make people feel comfortable around you, be likable to the degree that you’re genuine but likable, nonetheless, it doesn’t mean we can all be like Jenn DeWall. I mean, we’re just not, and that’s okay. But to answer your question, I think small talk is important because it is the appetizer and, there are appropriate times and places for it also. And that’s like, that’s a key ingredient. If, if we have if we’re here to discuss let’s say my prognosis and or my billable hour for my divorce, small talk can be a picture frame around that business conversation for about one minute. And I’ll give you some ideas of what to say during that situation. And then we need to get to the business at hand because of time constraints, cost constraints, whatever it may be. So I’m not suggesting that people should small talk all the time. I’m suggesting that you need to be skilled at it. It’s a part, it’s an ingredient to success. That’s all I’m saying.

Can You Really Learn to Get Better at Small Talk?

Jenn DeWall:

Yeah. It’s something that we need in the way that we live our lives, whether it’s at work or whether that’s, you know, a social event, you know, with our children or our spouses or friends. And I think the small talk piece too, is the more, I guess what I would imagine because people might assume that I just love networking events and they’re like, Oh, Jenn can talk to anyone. She probably just loves that. And that’s actually not true. Like, there are some situations where I absolutely become very anxious or overwhelmed or just nervous or don’t know what to say, but we do need to be able to understand maybe a framework. So then we can have competence in those situations. So that leads to the next question. Can conversational skills really be learned? I mean, I probably shot out of the womb talking to the nurse that delivered me. I’m not even sure, but can it be learned for other people? I know, I know no other way, but I believe that it can. Can it be learned?

Debra Fine:

It’s a fact, I, I not only did it for myself for personal reasons, it then took me to a business where identified what people are doing. I mean, I did because of certain things that happen in my life, determined that my life sort of stunk because I didn’t have friends. And I mean, girlfriends, I didn’t have girlfriends in high school or college. I don’t have a college friend to this day that I stay in touch with on Facebook. I have a lot of friends now, they’re adult friends that I’ve made since I learned the skills that I needed to learn. And I know they’re learnable because I teach them all the time and I see the results of them in the tool. So and there’s another factor, of course, Jenn, besides learning tools and that is employing them because as anybody knows who’s ever been on a diet or an exercise regime if you don’t stick to it, it’s not going to work.

So if you don’t practice it, you know, this isn’t rocket science, small talk. I hope I have tools that you will really appreciate even your extroverted self, Jenn, but it does. There are no good unless you use them. They are no good if you’re like, what I used to be, which is I would get an invitation to a party. I’d get all excited. I got invited, you know, Oh my gosh, you know, somebody likes me. I have a friend, how nice I’d get all dressed up. I do the whole thing. And then I wouldn’t go. I wouldn’t go. By the way. I think that happens in networking all the time. I think, I think a lot of people get too busy to go, which is interesting to me because you know, you block out, you gotta go. The other thing that interests me about networking is that you go to networking events- and I hope we’re back there real soon. And you’ll notice how many people come in late. And I think that’s just a way to avoid, you know, you want to come into a room that’s filled so that you don’t stand out as the only person there that doesn’t know anybody. I did all that. So I know that to be true.

Jenn DeWall:

How did you go from, you know, starting a career where one of the perks was that you didn’t really have to interact with people? How did you go from that to then being like, you know what? I can learn this and I want to help other people do this. How did you make that pivot? Because I mean, you said you were one of those people that maybe wouldn’t, you know, you get all dressed up for the event and then not go, like, how were you able to make that switch for you?

Debra Fine:

Drive. I wanted it so bad. I just seriously, I wanted girlfriends. I w it wasn’t even that I had this epiphany that this would be so much better for my career if I had some communication skills. Like, I wish I could tell you that that was it, but that wasn’t it at all. It was, I just longed to be a part of a community or communities. And so I, I really, at that point, didn’t, I wasn’t thinking of a business. I w I was just thinking of what can I do right now to emulate what that woman over there is doing? What is she doing? That, that she has a bunch of women sitting around her and they’re talking to each other, what is she, how is she starting the conversation? And then I brought so much joy into my life.

And there were so many rewards in doing that, that I did have, an epiphany light bulb moment where I thought, well, maybe I could teach this to others. Now there’s more to that story, but I don’t want to bore you with that. But I mean, I was inspired. I really was inspired. The short version is by looking at a catalog here in Denver, Colorado, that still exists. It’s mostly online now, although it may still be in paper and it’s for the Colorado Free University, and what that is, is the lifelong learning endeavor. And that they’re all over the United States. So I think it’s called learning acts or what learning you back in New York City and discover you in Seattle and they’re all over.

And so I was just waiting to pick up one of my children, toddlers, and I was looking through this catalog. And at the very back, it said, looking for teachers, and they were looking for teachers and auto-mechanics and Italian cuisine and in small talk, I mean, those two words. I was just, I was flabbergasted. I took my breath away because I just thought everybody knew how to do it, but me, or, or I also thought those who didn’t know how to do it, like engineers, didn’t care. Like I was the weirdo that cared that I wanted to learn how to do it. And I thought why would anybody else want to learn this? And there, it was right in Colorado for university. And so I actually auditioned for that and I got it well, and now I, of course, I learned very quickly than anybody would have gotten it if they could speak English pretty well, but I got it. And I created a curriculum. And at that point in my life, I really needed money.

I was desperate. I was I had two little kids and I was alone. And it evolved into this business that you see today. And one of the reasons it evolved into a business is I started becoming a good professional speaker because I was doing these lifelong learning classes. And first, there were six people. Then there were 20 people. Then there were literally 50 people in a class on small talk right here in Denver. It was, it was the most shocking thing I’ve ever seen in my life. And one night somebody said to me, Hey, can you shorten this three-hour training into one hour? I said, well, sure, of course. I mean, anything could be shortened. It’s lengthening things that are hard to do. And she said, Oh, because we’re looking for a speaker for the Colorado Municipal Clerks. I’m the current municipal clerk from Englewood.

And I would like to recommend your program. If you can shorten down for an hour for our annual conference. I said, Oh my gosh, that’s great. She said, what’s your fee? And I said, I mean, I didn’t even understand that there were fees. I thought, if you were a celebrity, you’ve got fees, but I didn’t know, ordinary people could get a fee. And I said to her, what’s your budget. And that was how it started. So that’s when I learned that other municipal clerks want to learn small talk. I mean, think about that. Now, as we’ve gone through this election, municipal clerks are the ones who ensure that your vote is not only sacred but counted and submitted and all those things. So they have a very technical job and yet they wanted to learn small talk. They wanted to learn it to interact with one another. This is 27 years ago, by the way, this story comes from -. But they wanted to have better collaboration with their colleagues they wanted when they were out front with and interacting with the citizenry that they wanted to have better skills there. I mean, it’s, it’s really amazing who benefits from small towns?

Good Small Talk is About Connecting with People

Jenn DeWall:

I mean, I think one of the things, I’m not sure if you even noticed and I’m sure some of our listeners are used to this, but I started to tear up when you were talking about, you know, your initial transition of just wanting to connect, wanting to feel like you could connect with other people. And I think, you know, to go back to why this matters, is that we are, and we likely heard this in many different ways, but that we are very social individuals that do want to be seen. And as much as you might be a leader that is looking at Jenn DeWall coming down the hallway, that connection does give us a sense of happiness or purpose or belonging that is essential. And so hopefully we can start with a shift with some of the people listening that it’s not, you know, you’re not necessarily just doing this to get ahead. There actually is a big internal benefit to mastering small talk. It’s not just for those external goals or things like that. I’m not sure how you would respond to that because I do feel like that is so- small talk allows you to start to connect with people. And that’s such a beautiful thing that we all need.

Debra Fine:

It fosters friendship, it cultivates connections. And, and you know, what networking, the bad thing about networking is that people often start networking when they need something. But if you’re always cultivating connections and always fostering a friendship, business friendships, as well as friendships, then someday, Jenn, if you say to me, Deb, do you know somebody that can help me with whatever? I bet I’ve built a community where I can help you. I, because it takes years to build a kind of networking community where you can help others, whether they’re looking for an opportunity or for a babysitter. And I mean, I’m very proud to say that I’ve started that 27 years ago building that community. And now it’s amazing. I mean, I connected somebody that adopted their- they were in South Korea just now during the pandemic, adopting a child and going through all that and I connected with an author friend here in Denver who had adopted, I didn’t know her then and adopted a child from South Korea as well.

That child is now I think 13 or 14. And I just put them together. They didn’t even ask. They just, I said, you should know each other. And now they’re friends. I mean, that’s what real networking is. I fix people up. They’re married. I mean, because I thought, Oh, I know somebody your age. I know somebody that lives here too, but the same with business. So I think that you have to have a head-on that says, I want to connect with people. And you know, when I don’t want to connect with people, Jenn, you know, I’m in two book clubs. The reason is that I read books all the time. I would prefer to stay home and read a book than just about anything. And because I, I am an introvert. That’s who I really am, but I do know that you have to build a community to bring satisfaction to your life.

Jenn DeWall:

Yeah. Well, we’re going to get into some prescriptive stuff, but before we get into that, I just want to ask the question. So why, why it’s either, it’s like, why do we dread going into networking events? Or why do conversations just so quickly fall flat? Like you get into your circle, you may be, hi, my name is Jenn DeWall and I work for Crestcom and I do this, and then it’s the next person. And then everyone’s like, so what kind of food do they serve here? I don’t know what to do. And then slowly someone’s like, I gotta go to the bathroom or, you know when people leave that conversation or they might just stand there awkwardly,

Debra Fine:

Right. Or be a clinger, they just cling. Well, let me, that’s two questions there. One is why do people not like the networking component? I think a lot of it is because it’s overwhelming to walk into a room of people we don’t know. And so if I can offer some suggestions for that, and then we can move to the other part of the question and that is-

Jenn DeWall:

Yeah- how can we- how can we be more comfortable?

Think of Small Talk as a Task to be Completed

Debra Fine:

Right. Especially leaders. I think it’s really important because you’ll understand- any leader understands this. Most leaders are successful. They’re successful academically, they’re successful professionally. And that is because they’re great at tasks, they get tasks done. I don’t care whether they’re a doctor over there, their project manager or they are construction, you get tasks done. You do them well. So, turn networking into a task. So that’s what I’ve done. Here’s my task. I walked into an event and I tell myself, you’ll meet two new people or four new people. I get to decide. I get to determine the task. So that’s good. That gives me a lot of control, which I like because most people don’t like small talk for one main reason, Jenn. It’s because we have no control. You have control of this interview right now. You have complete control. You’re going to decide when it ends. You decided when it started, you have complete control. And in a way, I do too, because you’re the leader. I don’t have to think about it. You’ve got control. But if we go out for a cup of coffee and we don’t know each other at all, and we’re met or we meet up for whatever the occasion may be, nobody has control. We might not hit it off. There might not be anything to talk about. We all hate situations, but we have no control. Fourth-grade teachers have control. Lawyers have control. We do not have control when we go out on a date or when we go for a job interview when we have a meeting and everybody’s mingling around getting coffee, there’s no control. And that’s why I think most people hate it.

So bring control into your life and networking by- I tell myself, let’s meet three new people, okay. Guess what happens? Whether it goes well or not well, and I’m happy to offer some great icebreakers and some ways to keep conversations going, whether it goes well or not. Well after I’ve met those three and started launch conversations with three new people. Because that was my task. Guess what I get to do? I get to leave early.

Jenn DeWall:

You’ve accomplished your task!

Start With the Free Information – Location and Occasion

Debra Fine:

I get to go sit out in the hotel lobby, hang out and wait until it’s time to sit down for dinner. I mean, there’s a lot of rewards involved if that’s what works for you, but it is very overwhelming to walk into a room of people you don’t know and expect it to go well unless you’ve turned it into a task. And it also allows you or, or actually encourages you to meet new people because we tend to – So we see the Jenn DeWalls in the room. I walk in, I see somebody, I know it happens to be somebody that’s very warm and outgoing and she gives me eye contact the minute I walk in. So wouldn’t, I want to walk up to her. Well, I want to, but I, this is what real networking is. Real networking is I’ll get over to Jenn DeWall. I’m certainly not going to avoid her and not say hello to her. I’m going to actually make it a task to get over to everybody. I do know. I make sure I say hello. So they don’t think I’m a snob. Because people think you’re a snob when you don’t come over to say hello to them. Even if you’re shy or introverted, they do not give you the benefit of the doubt.

But I’m purposely here to meet new people. That’s why I came to a networking event. I already know Jenn DeWall. I know a lot about, or actually how about I take a risk and walk up to somebody new as I promised myself. So that’s, that’s a real key to making the most of these networking opportunities. And there’s, there are some really great ways to conversations, but by the way, I can’t make somebody talk to me. So I’m going to give you some opening lines that work great. But I’m going to tell you something. If I don’t want to talk to you and you walk up to me, I don’t care if you’re Jenn DeWall, with your smile and your, you know, this energy. If I don’t want to talk to you, cause some big shot walked in the room, let’s say I’m one of those horrible networking people that, you know, decide, well, you can’t help me, Jenn DeWall. Or I see on your name tag, that you’re in leadership development, but I’m sorry, Jenn. I sell software to attorneys and unless I see a law firm name or the word attorney on your name tag, I’m going to blow you off.

Don’t you hate people like that? Whether they’re real, you can’t get them to talk to you if they don’t want to talk to you. Some people are there strictly for transactional reasons. Let them do whatever they want to do. You can’t get people to talk to you unless they’re willing to talk to you. So you turn it into a task, you walk into a room. So whether if it’s a charity, I’ll walk up to you. And what got you involved in this charity. If it’s a conference, I’ll ask you if you’ve ever been to this conference before or what have you, what did you think about the keynote speaker this morning? Well, how I label that Jenn is free information. I will use free information about the occasion or location. Have you ever been to Orlando before? What do you think of this conference?

So that’s location and occasion. We’re in Orlando and the occasion is this conference to start a conversation with you? How do you know the host or hostess? That is the occasion. What brought you to Denver? That’s location. Have you ever run a 5k before? If I’m standing at the starting line of a 5k, you have, Oh, well, you know, what’s your, what’s your secret ingredient to success? I started a conversation. Who do you know that sits on the finance committee, so, okay. So that’s free information about occasion and locations, the best way I know to start a conversation with somebody. And if somebody says to me, moving to another tip. Want another tip?

Jenn DeWall:

Yeah! So starting with look at it as a task, like, Hey, the task or the goal is this. I love that. I just want to back up with that task because the one thing that I, I just, why I disliked networking events is I don’t like being networked on or sold to. And that is always the, I just feel uncomfortable. It doesn’t feel genuine. And so I like switching the task from, I need to go there to, you know, show this about myself so I’m going to go and meet two people. And that’s all it is. It’s not about trying to come home with the sale, even though yes, we want that. Because people can sense that. Like, I sense that, and then it just feels weird. And yeah, I can tell you if I’m going to benefit from your goal or not, and that also feels uncomfortable. So then that makes me less likely to even want to engage with you, even if I could know someone. So starting with the task, I love that. And then just thinking about, okay, well now what’s my goal. Okay. And then what is my opening? So you said the location and-?

Debra Fine:

The location or occasion. Now let’s go to another tip. I love that. Well, and remember there’s other networking can, as a leader can be, when you walk into the meeting, whether you’re hosting a meeting or somebody else’s, and hopefully you walk in a few minutes early, and that goes for networking events. Get there on time for networking events, because people clique up after 10 minutes or 15 minutes, whatever. So if you get there late, because you’re avoiding this, it’s not helping you at all. It’s easier to find somebody that’s approachable if you get there on time. An approachable person that’s standing by themselves. If you give it about 15 minutes, the Jenn DeWalls in the world, have people circling around. That’s much harder to break into those groups. So you want to get there when there are other people like yourself standing by themselves, you walk up to one of those people, typically they will think you are the new Messiah.

Can you imagine Jenn, somebody walked up to you and just said, hi, I’ve never met you. What brought you to the association of industry, whatever engineers, industrial engineers, what? You know, what’s your connection to this group. Thank you for saving my life. You really walked up to me and asked me why I was at this industrial engineers event. Thank you. Because it’s not dinner time, I don’t even want to go get a drink. Right? I don’t even want a drink. I just it’s. You saved my life. So, okay. So that, that’s a really important thing for us to take the risk, to walk up to somebody new, but the same goes, especially for leaders, you walk into a meeting, you walk in two to three minutes early, if not earlier, and you walk, when you go get your coffee, you walk up to somebody and say, you know, I think we met what six months ago, but we’ve never talked. So catch me up. What’s new. What kind of projects are you working on lately? Or bring me up to date.

And that’s a tip we’re going to get to in a second about exactly the words to use, but bringing me up to date on, on what you guys have been working on, or bring me up to date on your license. The last time I talked to you, but you can’t hope they’ll walk up to you or sit next to you at the conference table. Leaders say hello to everybody in the room. They walk around, they catch up and then they sit down. They don’t sit on our little crack-berries. They don’t look busy. This is the time to connect with fellow department heads. Stakeholders in the organization were ever hosted in a meeting to walk up and say, you know, what I really appreciate about you is that you always start meetings on time. I look forward to your meetings because of that. I mean, anything.

You know, what I used to do when I was an engineer, Jenn? This is what I did. And it was, those were good times because there were no other women in engineering. There’s not enough now, but there were very few. So I had the ladies’ room all to myself, head until the meetings started because I didn’t have anything to say. So I just didn’t walk in. So, leaders, I don’t care if you’re introverted or not. It really is up to you to take the risks, to walk up to people say, hello. If you have a chance of walking down the hall and somebody walking down the hall, this is the same idea. Turn that into a task as well. What I recommend to leaders is that they look at their calendar for the week, and now it’s virtual, but that’s okay. And say, well, three times this week for 10 minutes, I’m going to walk into the cafeteria and start conversations with people or sit with people I don’t know very well for lunch or via zoom. I’m going to set up lunch. I’ve been doing this down in my own little life, reaching out to people that are my business friends, but I haven’t seen them. There has not been a reason to see them and say, let’s catch up. And most people are glad to do it. I say, let’s catch up for 15 minutes because that whole Jenn DeWall thing, it’s going to be an hour. Nobody has an hour. So, okay. So let’s talk about ways to launch conversations. I gave you the free information tip. Let me give you some other ideas. I alluded to it.

Jenn DeWall:

So, like so free information is anything that brought you there. Like that’s all the information that’s available for you that you can just look around and say, okay, well, perfect. I love that. I love simplifying it that way, like what is the free information that you can start a conversation? Alright, I’m ready for the openings. I’m ready.

Have Better Opening Questions

Debra Fine:

It’s about the occasion. If I get invited to your birthday party it’s so I’ll say, how do you, how are you friends with Jenn? If you’re at the same birthday, how do you know Jenn? That’s the free information I have. So either they crashed your birthday party or they know you. So the same thing is, like I said, is that a bar association event, you know, what’s your connection to this event. And by the way, that’s a perfect lead-in when you go to an event for business with spouses or partners are allowed to come. You better watch out, Oh, are you a lawyer? What kind of question is that? Here’s a much better one. What’s your connection to this event? Oh, I’m the spouse of an attorney. I’m the spouse of a vendor. I’m a partner, you know, don’t block yourself in with a question like are you an attorney?

Debra Fine:

Okay. So let me give you- Let me jump because you gave a good example of what goes on at, or in organizations that networking events. Say, hi, I’m Jenn DeWall, I do this. Or what do you do, Jenn? Don’t. You know, we’re going to get there. I mean, we, even, if this is transactional, we will get there. When we get there, I do not need to ask you what you do. This is what I’m going to ask. I have free information. We’re at a business conference. We’re at training. We’re at a meeting. I sit next to you and this is what I’m going to say to you. What keeps you busy outside of work? Jenn, this is my favorite way to get to know somebody. Because here’s the goal. Small talk.

What it really is, is like I said, cultivating connections. It may be on your name tag, what you do. We work together in the same building for goodness sake. So maybe you work here. So I don’t need to know that right now. Maybe when we make the introductions, I’ll find out or I’ll find out ultimately what keeps you busy outside of work. That is my favorite way to get to know somebody. So let’s find out about Jenn DeWall. I mean, I feel like I learned a lot about you.

Jenn DeWall:

What keeps me busy outside of work? As of today and lately we, a lot of painting around the house, not what I would always be doing. But right now, a lot of painting because we just bought a house. And so we want it to be, you know, just set up a different way and yeah, so just doing a lot of painting, okay.

Debra Fine:

Now, most people aren’t as good as Jenn, as Jenn at answering your question, especially shy or introverted people. Most people would have answered the question with what, at least in her case, what keeps you busy outside of work? It would have said a lot of painting. And actually, she paused then. And what I, what I don’t know is because this is not real. This is not authentic. So did she pause because she knew it wasn’t real. Did you pause because she needed to think. Most people would have said there’s a lot of painting going on. And that’s when I probably would’ve said what kind of painting. So but Jenn gave me a, quite a nice answer. So it gave us a lot to work with. We now know she has a new house. You know, how did she decide on the colors?

Jenn DeWall:

Who’s doing the painting when she says we, who is we? You know, I don’t ask people. This is the real conversation killer. That’s an important ingredient. Small talk to what not to talk about. I don’t say to people now I know you are married because you told me more than once. But if I didn’t know that about if I didn’t know your personal life, when you said we, number one, I would have said, who’s we? So then you tell me I have a husband, or I have a buddy, or my girlfriend’s helping me. But when I meet people, I never say, are you married? I never say, do you have any kids? What kind of questions are these? The answer, if it’s no, where are we headed down? Where are we going with this conversation? Which is why I say to people either, what keeps you busy outside of work? Or what do you for fun? Because then they’ll tell me what they want me to know.

If they want me to know they have kids, they’ll tell me. If they want me to know that they’re going back to school to get an MBA. They’ll tell me that. It’s not a personal question. It is an open question. And let me just take it another step, Jenn, and I know you didn’t ask, but when I meet somebody that, that they’re not identified in a professional setting, I’m not at work. I’m not in a business networking event. I’m at a party. What I’ll say to them is something like that. What keeps you busy outside of going to wonderful parties? I don’t ask them, what do you do? Because I hate that question. It’s mundane. It’s the same old, same old. It will get there. If we’re supposed to get there, I asked what keeps you busy outside of this fabulous party. I happen to be a Rotarian. So I’m, I’ve been in Rotary for 27 years as well. And I’ll go to a Rotary meeting or my Rotary meeting, and I’ll say, what keeps you busy outside of Rotary? They’ll talk about work. They’ll talk about family. They’ll talk about jogging. They’ll talk about skiing. You have complete permission to talk about whatever want. That’s why I love the question. What keeps you busy outside of___?

Debra Fine:

So if you’re at a back to school night, those of you listening that have kids, what keeps you busy outside of your kids? Now, she might say, well, I stay at home with my kids, but I like to, I like to do yoga. That’s how you find out what keeps you busy outside of your kids. They’ll talk to you about work. They’ll talk about yoga. It’s just a way to get to know people without those limiting questions that feel like an FBI agent. What do you do? Are you married? Where are you from? Geez back off.

Jenn DeWall:

I wonder, you know, that made me think because I love your opening question. Like what keeps you busy outside of this? One of mine- because I wonder- here’s the other end of the spectrum, right? I think that I might be a very overwhelming communicator because one of my favorite questions is if it’s uncomfortable, I’m like, well, let’s just throw a random question out there to keep people on their toes. And so the question that I love to always ask is what was your favorite activity to do in high school? That’s something that can be like 20 years removed, 30 years removed. And I always think that’s funny and just like a way to get people out of their heads. Oh my gosh. But sometimes I think that that almost is too much of a question when you’re first meeting someone. So I’m curious, I know you talked about questions, you know, the closed-ended questions. Like, do you have kids? Yeah. If someone said that to me like I don’t. So that then where does the conversation go? Or are you weird? But I’m curious. Are there any other questions that you would say, you know, you want to soften that approach because maybe my approach of asking people is a little bit too much.

Debra Fine:

Yeah, I mean, if we were at a party and drinking and you asked me that I’d be okay,

Jenn DeWall:

But in a networking event, I’m sure that would be a little weird.

Debra Fine:

So, I mean, in a way I have a great sense of humor in a way, and because of the way you deliver it, I would probably go, wow. But I think like, would you, I’m going to say something, maybe that’s not politically correct, but I cannot imagine me saying that to some male executive.

Jenn DeWall:

Yeah. And that’s just it, right? Like, are there questions and you’re right, know your audience?

Debra Fine:

Now if I’m at Rotary and I see these people regularly, then I would say, then I think that’s a wonderful thing to say to people, but I don’t, we’re talking mostly about people we don’t know very well.

Jenn DeWall:

So that’s fair. That’s actually something that I’m learning and taking away. It’s like, you know what, John, you might think that these questions are more fun and they’re going to loosen people up, but are they actually appropriate given the occasion? And sometimes we want to pull back or we can wait until that conversation is a little bit warmer. I want to go into one of the things because you said that to become that we become better conversationalists when we employ two primary objectives, the first is to take the risk. What do you mean by that?

Take the Risk – Walk up to Someone New

Debra Fine:

Walk up to somebody new. Most of us, even extroverts, most extroverts don’t do it. You know why? Because people cluster around them. They all know. They don’t even need to walk up to strangers. They, they’re more likely to be willing to, but they, they usually don’t need to. So they’re off the hook, typically. It is a risk to walk up to someone new because you might reject them, Jenn, you might. But I know it’s risky to take the highway in a car. It’s a fact. So just to remind you when you’re feeling like I don’t want to walk up to somebody new. If they walked up to me at church after services or synagogue after services, I would welcome them. If they came up to me and say, I’ve never met you before, are you a member of the congregation or are you new in town or you’re just visiting. Wow, wouldn’t it be great if congregations did that, but they don’t, you know what they say from the pulpit? I don’t care what religion you are. Look for somebody. That’s an ambassador or a part of our membership committee does have special name tags on, walk up to them, introduce yourself. Well, that’s fascinating. So you’re asking me this shy person, who’s new in town to walk up to somebody with a nametag on. Some people might have the courage to do that. I say, and this is my mantra for myself. I go to my Rotary. I’ve been there for 27 years. I’m a past president. There are 120 members in my club. When I walk in the room, the energy comes to me just like you, Jenn, because I behave like an extrovert. I’m very well-known yada, yada. But guess what I do?

I look around, I’m scanning the room. As I walk in, I’m thinking who’s here alone? Who’s here alone that I’ve never met? That I’ve never met or somebody that joined like six months ago, but I’ve never had a real conversation with them. And I make a beeline and people will be saying, hi, Margo, hi, I’ll catch up with you in a few minutes. Or let me come back around. I just really need to get over here. And I get over there and I walk up and I say, welcome to Rotary. I’m Debra Fine. What brings you here today? Now, if I know that they’re a member they’ve been, but they’re a new member. I’ll walk up and say, no, I’ve never had a chance to talk to you. Welcome to Rotary. How’d you find out about Rotary? That’s the free information. Remember we’re all at Rotary.

That’s the way I’m using that. But the point is I’m taking the risk of walking up to somebody new. And part of it is it’s not hard for me to do anymore. I mean, I don’t, I’m not worried about you rejecting me. I’m too old to care about stuff like that now. But I’m doing it because somebody’s got to do it and it’s going to be me as I’m not going to count on somebody else to do it. But for most people, they just avoid doing it because it is that risk. And I think if you’re a leader, you need to be willing to take that risk. It’s not a huge risk. It’s much, as I said, more dangerous to drive a car on a highway, North or South or East or West.

Jenn DeWall:

I like that because it gives you permission, right? If you’re just going to make the choice that of saying, I’m going to take a risk, I’m just going to go out there and talk to someone. I know if my husband listening to this right now, he would say, Oh, are you going to throw some people life rafts? Because I absolutely will look around and be like, who looks like they’re really uncomfortable? No way. When we were in Italy, we were sitting down at a cafe and there’s just a guy sitting next to us. And then I make up these stories, right? Like, oh, they’re all by themselves. Like they probably, I can tell that they’re not from Italy either. Like maybe they want to meet someone new. And then we meet a lot of people that way. Sometimes it ends up being a little bit funnier circumstance. But yeah, that’s my husband jokingly says I throw people life rafts, but it’s because I, you know, it’s that, that sensitive piece, like I never want someone to not feel seen. And so it’s that, but I know that it’s hard, because people, it is hard to get over the discomfort, right? My husband, that’s not going to be his first approach. He sees someone there. He’s like, well, they’re probably fine, but it is, you know, as us to be leaders, we do have to see the people that maybe aren’t invited to the table that don’t get included in some of those conversations too. We can show them that we care that we, you know, just like you ask them what brought you to Rotary. I love that. I’m just thinking, like take a stance, be that individual that takes the first risk. It gives you permission to do that.

Introduce Yourself to Everyone – No Matter Their Job Title

Debra Fine:

And not just permission, but make it your mantra. Because you not only have permission but if you’re a leader, you should be making yourself do this on a regular basis. You should be the one taking the risk all the time of sitting next to somebody new at the conference table, or walking up to somebody new and saying hello and welcoming them. And if you’re an emerging leader, which I’m sure is a huge part of your audience, let me tell you something. When you don’t walk up to the decision-maker, the VP of finance, because she is your VP and she’s in from the home office, and she’ll get over to say hello to you if she wants to talk to you, you become invisible.

If you don’t walk up to her and go, hi, I don’t know if you know, remember me, I’m my name is Debra Fine. You know, I’m, I’m a new hire basically, you know 2019, but just want to say hi, I hope you had a good trip. You don’t even have, don’t use a question. If you don’t want it, you don’t need to engage them. You need to make them aware that you exist in this world because that who’s, that is who’s getting the promotions. I used to think it was the straight A’s, but it’s not. You’re not on their radar. If you don’t even walk up and say hello, but most people don’t do it, Jenn, because they’re, it’s too risky. The VP of finance, she might reject me. She’s not going to reject you. If she wants to talk to you, then she’ll say Well, thanks for coming up to say hi, you know, tell me about some, the work that you’ve been doing lately. She’ll either say that and engage you. And you’re cool. Now you can visit or she’ll say, well, good, good to see you again. And then dismiss you. And, but at least you got on the radar, quiet people are seeing as arrogant and snobs. It’s not cool to be like that.

Jenn DeWall:

My husband called that sometimes People will assume that he is you know, a plethora of things just because he, he doesn’t talk or they’ll look at us and be like, Whoa. Yeah, we’re yin and yang. My husband is, if there are two Jenns in our household, I don’t even know what would happen, but talking about, because you hit on something. That actually was something that I really struggled with. As much as thinking that I can talk to people. When I was in my twenties, it was very difficult to talk to people that were of a higher like a senior level position for my first career. And that career, I was there for eight years, but I remember in my second promotion there, I that’s when we had to, like, they gave you an assignment here, take this report. And then you’re going to read this sales report to this executive.

Even though in my head, I was like, they’ve already read this because it’s Monday morning, and they want to know the sales anyway. But there was one executive and she was really high up. And I just remember every time I talked to her, I was so afraid. Another executive asked me to do a special project for her and I will never forget this. And my boss was with me. And so I go in and I do this special project for her and I am sweating profusely because I am so uncomfortable. And then finally Laura was like, Jenn, like, what’s going on? I’m like, I don’t know. Like I’m just so nervous. Like she had asked that and then fast forward like it became a joke and she gave me an award in our division that was like, never let them see you sweat. Like Jenn, you just got to get over that.

But thankfully that she was so warm and endearing to understand that I was so intimidated, but I love just the approach of like, you don’t have to go out there and have a brilliant idea. Like, just get on the radar. You can just say hi, introduce yourself. Say you’re happy to be here because that was really, really hard for me. Like I can even remember delivering something. And this was my third position there where I had my first presentation and I don’t think people had really heard me speak that very often. And so another very high-level senior executive chased me down into my cube to tell me that I did a good job. And I was like, thanks. And I just like went back because I still felt so uncomfortable. So anything to, you know, I’m an extrovert and I’m still uncomfortable with that, but now I’m not, you know, now it’s fine. But that was a really difficult thing as an emerging leader, to talk to someone that may be of a different organizational hierarchy than you. Right.

Take Genuine Interest in Others – Even if You Are Shy

Debra Fine:

That’s key. You know, one time I before I did this, I had a girlfriend who worked for Memorex. If you remember that company, she’s very high up. And I, she, she was single. And so she would, I was single at the time and she would invite me to parties with her. And her boss was this very handsome man. And you know, I was introduced to him many times and I’d see him and he’d come over to say hi to Johnnie. And he’d say hi to me. And that was it. So I went into a whole new career. I was leaving, I was left engineering and I went into being a head Hunter for engineers. So I decided to call him. Bob was his name. Because I thought, well, I’d like to place engineers at Memorex. Hi Bob, this is Debra Fine.

Johnnie Holt’s friend. And we’ve met. Do you know what he said to me? Oh, I said, I’m starting a new business. I mean, I didn’t own the business, but I’m now a recruiter for engineering. And I was hoping that we could talk about anyways I could be a resource for you. And I’m just hoping we could either come for coffee or we could just speak about it on the phone or whatever. This is what he said to me. Are you kidding me? You’ve never said hello to me at a party. You’re the biggest snob I know. Why would I do business with you?

Oh, I broke down, I mean, luckily he couldn’t see me. I mean, he hung up the phone and he was absolutely right. This is long before I thought of this in business. Or actually long before I thought I could be anything but shy. I was, I had just, you know, a lot of people that are shy, they pat themselves on the back and go, well, I’m shy. That’s why I didn’t go over and say, hello. I never went over and said hello to him. If he came over and said, hello, I’d say hello. I never said, how are you? Which not that its the greatest opening line ever. I never said, how are you? Or bring me up to date on your life. Bob never, never showed an interest in him. Do you know why I was waiting for him to start the conversation, waiting for him to show an interest in me?

Because that’s what shy people do. We wait for other people to get the conversation going. He just thought I was a snob. And I mean, that was one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned in my life for business is that you can’t call me when you need something, but not show any interest in me and otherwise. Right? And if you don’t show any interest in me and we know each other, because I work for you or I’m your colleague, but you now you want collaboration. Well, we have to build trust and trust comes from being friendly and not a Jenn DeWall 15 minute conversation, a five-minute, three-minute conversation where you actually asked me who I am instead of what I do. Right.

Assume the Burden of Small Talk Wherever You Are

Jenn DeWall:

See the person as a person. So you talked back again, it’s going back to the importance of why you need to just take the rest, like in that environment, who knows what the, how the outcome could have been impacted, but just taking the risk and saying, hi, the second thing that you say is to assume the burden. What does that mean?

Debra Fine:

You know, that of all things right now with virtual communication, that really lends itself at this time, more than ever. And what I mean by that is if you ever land in a breakout room where you’re not given a task. So when they give you a task and they say, okay, go around the table and say, what’s your number one challenge is for 2021. Okay. Well, that’s easy. Everybody goes around and says their challenge. Oh, but what if, what if you’re done? And there’s still five minutes left on the clock. There’s everybody’s taken their turn. Let’s say you landed in a small group. All the other groups that were five people, but you’re to three, you know how this stuff happens sometimes. Absolutely. Now there’s silence, right? The spot. There are three of us here in this little chat room. There’s complete silence.

Do you know what I used to do? Well, I’d stay silent. I’m waiting for you. I mean, Jenn, we’ve established this, you’re vivacious. You’ll get us talking about something. We’ve finished the task. What’s there to talk about now. There’s this is the time for small talk folks. If there’s ever a better time for small talk, you can’t even tell me what it is. And here we are. And we’re sitting there. Assuming the burden is me assuming the burden. Not hoping Jenn DeWall because she’s vivacious or because my boss happens to be in my group, my boss will start a conversation. It’s up to me to assume the burden say to everybody. So what was the highlight of your holidays? I’m assuming the burden of coming up with something to talk about, to get us through this five minutes where we don’t have a task at hand anymore.

The same thing goes when you’re in face-to-face situations where you’re sitting at that table of eight, and everybody’s now playing with their food. I will look across the table because I will have everyone’s name memorized. That’s a whole other thing. I love everyone’s name memorized, or I will have done a cheat sheet in front of me one way, one way, or the other. I will know your name, or if your name texts big enough, then I’m lucky there, I’ll look across the table. And I’ll say to you Luanne, you know, tell us about you. I haven’t had a chance to meet me. What brought you to this table for United way? I’m assuming the burden from the whole table, getting everybody to join in the conversation. Now I could turn to the person on my right or my left. This is when there’s that awkward moment when people are playing with their food, I assume the burden of starting the conversation.

Sometimes I’ll just look, especially now. I might, I do it in zoom calls. So what’s been your silver lining during this pandemic. So, because I attend my Rotary meetings, we’re, we’re put into breakout rooms of six people. So everybody, you never know who you’re going to be with. People say, Oh, hi, Ohio high. And then there’s this silence. It happens every time there’s complete silence. I assume the burden every single time. Nobody else seems to. And I’ll say, so what’s your silver lining or somebody, you know, a Joe, you know, tell us what’s new in your life because we’re in Rotary. So I mean, we know each other so I can get away with something like that. But if nobody assumes the burden, there’s this awkward moment to continue. It’s all about you, you’re a leader and you’re walking down the hall. It’s with a candidate for a job. It’s with a stakeholder that works for you. But you’re getting to a conference room to meet up with another department head, right? And you’re walking down this long, long hall.

Hi. Hi, how’s it going? Good. How about you? Good. And now there’s still an awkward moment, walking down this hall. Who’s going to assume the burden of making us feel comfortable. Guess what I’m going to, whether I’m the leader or the stakeholder. We must assume the burden of making people feel comfortable. You know, who gets hired for a job. I’ll tell you what. There are two candidates, both have the same academic credentials, both have the same professional ability. It’s the person that walked down the hall and I didn’t feel like an awkward dork with. That’s who I pick because you don’t even think about it. You just think, Oh, I felt comfortable with her. She, he was easy to be with. That’s what you pick every single time. So if you don’t assume the burden, when you’re walking down the hall of making people feel comfortable, guess what?

Always Be Prepared for Small Talk

Debra Fine:

Do you know how you can assume the burden? Always be prepared. I never walk into a zoom meeting, a networking event, a one-to-one without two to three things to talk about. The worst time to think of something to talk about is when there’s nothing to talk about. So I’m prepared. If I know something about you, okay? I know you bought a new house. I know you’re painting the house. Next time I talk to you if I am in search of things to talk about I’ll be prepared. It’ll be in my notes. If not, if I don’t, if I’m just going to sit down at a table for an interview or be at a networking event, I have two to three things to talk about. It may be current events. It may be things related to the association that we’re attending. And maybe about the speaker there that night, I’ve done my homework in advance.

Remembering Names

Jenn DeWall:

I love it. It goes back to even what you had opened with like why we dislike networking events is because we don’t have that control. We- and this is what it sounds like to me. When you think about taking back control, take the risk, assume the burden. Those are two ways. If you think that you don’t have control, those are two ways that you can actually take control in those situations. I’ve loved our conversation. I there are so many other things you had mentioned. One thing I want to, I want to see this one, because I know that names are the thing that probably really just gets people they’re like, I don’t know. I forgot your neighbor. I’m so awful with names. Can you offer any advice on remembering names?

Debra Fine:

Well, my best advice is most people will tell you to repeat their name. So her name is Jenn. Her name is Jenn. Right? And, and we do repeat them. It’s nice to meet you, Jenn. Nice to meet you, Joe. Nice to meet you, Marianne. You know, we do that, right? Like we’re like our heads are like this. Nice to meet you. Nice to meet you. Like one of those dogs in the back of somebody’s car, those fake dogs. Okay. So here’s the deal. We’re repeating the name because we’re on automatic pilot, but we’re not thinking about their name. So the best trick I know. I mean, there’s, there are books written about it, but the best trick I know is number one, and I don’t know if we’re going to be allowed to shake hands anymore, but I have no idea what’s going to happen next, but let’s say we’re at a table of eight.

Number one, I get to the table. There are already four people at the table. I don’t sit down. I might put my stuff down. Then I go around the table because I can’t reach across- I’m a tall person and I cannot reach across the table to shake the hands. And especially now, if you can’t shake hands, I go around the table around to you. I get to you. I say hi. And I do an elbow. Do a Namaste, whatever we’re going to do now. Let’s say I’m Debra Fine. Good to meet you. And you say, I’m Joe Moran. I’m going to say, I’m going to give you that personal attention for one second. And when you say I’m going to say, Joe, it’s good to meet you. I’m not allowed to think about anything else. I’m not allowed to think about the business at hand. I’m not allowed to think about what I’m going to say next. Because that’s usually what I’m doing. I do not only do most of us do that, but I’m an engineer. So of course I’m like have to control everything. What am I going to say next? I’m not allowed to. I need to think his name is Joe. His name is Joe. And I do that with all those four people that are already there. Then I sit down. Okay. Then somebody comes to the table. I stand up. Hi. I don’t necessarily have to walk over to them. Hi, I’m Debra Fine. You’re Oh, now watch this, Jenn, this is host behavior and this makes you a leader extraordinaire. Oh, hi, Michael. Michael, let me introduce you to everybody else. That’s here. Oh, well for some I said, Michael, do you know everybody? No, no, no. I don’t know anybody.

Well, Michael, this is Marianne she’s with Coldwell Banker and Anne, Anne Harris with Wells Fargo, and everything I learned or just their name. And I’ll be able to host behavior, introduce people to other people there. So how do I remember the names? Number one, I focus on their name and spend one whole moment being present and listening to their names. Number two, if you can scratch down our names like I said, number three, look at the roster in advance if you can. So you and I are both members of the national speakers association. Now we weren’t named texts. Let me go to the meetings. But you know, sometimes people wear their name tags down here. I’m not looking down there to see what your name is, you know, give it up, forget about it. I actually go through who signed up and I think- now my friends from the national speakers association, I know their names.

Okay. So we don’t have to worry about it, I know you’ve done. I don’t have to be reminded of your name. Okay. But then there’s really a whole segment there that I’ve met that put like right there being faced with them. I would not remember their names. So I’m going through all the who signed up, who signed up. Okay. I’ve got their names in my head. So I’m much better prepared with their names. Lastly, if I don’t know your name, if I forgot your name, I assume the burden, in the past, I would just go all hi. Good to see you. Good to see you. And then we’d be talking for three or four minutes. We both know, we don’t know each other’s names. For some reason that was comfortable for me. I have no idea why. Now I assume the burden. I’m the one that’s going to suck it up. I’m going to be the hero and say, I feel like a jerk. You know, I’m really great with names usually, but I forgot your name. I know I’ve asked you three other times. Could you please remind me of your name? Whatever I have to say to get your name unless I can escape you or unless I can, you know, get somebody to be my right-hand man here and help me out. But I’m going to say, remind me of your name. Because if I don’t know your name, Jenn, I’ll guarantee you. This is what’s going to happen next. And leaders listen carefully because this is going to be what happens next. Somebody’s going to walk up to that group. Okay? You don’t know this other person’s name. You can’t remember it. You’re hoping for a religious experience to take place where the name just comes to you, that never happens. And up comes another colleague, how are you going to save your colleague? Oh Martin, let me introduce you to dada, she works in our it department. You can’t do that because you don’t know her name. Now I know what you’re hoping. You’re hoping Martin will go. Hi, I’m Martin, whatever. And that this person whose name you can’t remember will say their name. 50% of the time that might work. And 50% of the time those people were raised by, I don’t know who, where you say hi, I’m Debra Fine. And they go, hi, good to meet you. That’s all they give you.

So you need to assume the burden as a leader. Let me tell you another little tip that I use because leaders are in a tough spot. Everybody knows your name, but you can’t remember everybody’s name. So be careful. And if I’m in a group setting where it’s possible, I’ve met you before. If I’m in Denver. Because I travel so much for my work. If I’m in Denver where I’ve lived for over 30 years now and where I have visibility, this is what I say to people. Oh, it’s good to see you. You know why? Because if I say, it’s good to meet you so many times they say we’ve met and they’re offended. So I say, if I think there’s even a chance that I could have ever met you before at a function once, I’ll say it’s good to see you. So that’s another trick up your sleeve.

Jenn DeWall:

I like that one. It’s good to see you. Because absolutely. I mean, it can be really challenging to remember someone’s name depending on how long it’s been.

Debra Fine:

Just admit it. Go, you know, it’s so important to me to know people’s names, but I just I’m overwhelmed. My Rolodex is full. Could you please remind me?

Jenn DeWall:

Well, and then the second you do that, then you’re not, you know, driving up that anxiety of like, I don’t remember their name and you’re actually then present in the conversation. Just assume the burden. You don’t have to make it any much of a bigger deal than what it is. It’s okay. It happens. Just assume the burden so you can, you know,

Debra Fine:

Right. And I’ll tell you something, Jenn like I’m married as well. And I happen to be married to a smart guy and he will tell you that he can’t remember people’s names. That’s so interesting. Like we just went through this whole fantasy football thing that ended for him yesterday. He has won trips to Europe. He has won trips to Vegas. He has won $50,000.

Jenn DeWall:

Wow.

Debra Fine:

Because he can remember every player in baseball, hockey, and football. That’s my husband. So he can remember all this, but he can’t remember. Your name was, that is fascinating. So you have a special disability where you just don’t remember names socially, but you remember everything about football and baseball and hockey, right? Is that correct? No. It’s because you don’t try, Steve, that’s the problem here. You’re not trying to remember people’s names. If you work since you’re a smart guy, you would remember them. So that really is the key to being a good person with names. When you try, you’ll much more likely to remember their name. If you don’t put the effort in to be present and to really focus on their name because you’re worried about the meeting, you’re not going to remember their name.

What is Your Leadership Habit for Success?

Jenn DeWall:

Oh my gosh. I loved our conversation. I feel like I want to have you back down the line so we can talk about conversation killers and conversational winners. Because I think that those are so important. Like how do I start? I mean, you gave us a great start of thinking about, have the task and then the free information, which I love. But you know, I want to ask you, you have clearly done a lot of research. You have written a lot of books. You’ve created a lot of success and the name of our podcast is The Leadership Habit. So out of curiosity, what is your leadership habit for success?

Debra Fine:

Well, I would have said- we spent so much time on assuming the burden- that my Leadership Habit was assuming the burden of making others feel comfortable when you’re in their presence. And that is because there’s this huge intangible where people decide if you’re a good leader based not just on your resume and your CV and all that. But they decide based on how they feel about you. And so if you make people feel comfortable around you, they’ll feel good about you. I mean, when you think about your husband, Jenn, and the same thing goes for leadership if you told me that your husband was a great golfer. And that he was really successful as an engineer, I would be surprised that that’s why you picked him instead of maybe someone else. But if you told me, well, Deb, he just makes me feel like the most special person in the world.

Debra Fine:

It’s not that he’s the most special because he’s such a great golfer and so successful. It’s that he makes me feel like the most special person in the world. Then I say, Oh, now I understand why I get that. And I think we all want that in our lives where people make us feel special, not in an authentic way. If I say, Oh, Jenn, I love your outfit. Okay. That’s a nice compliment because I, you know, your outfit is great. Let’s face it. It matches her lipstick She looks like, you know, the whole thing looks so perfect and the color that’s her color. We all know that now, anybody that’s been watching. But if I say, if I give her a real compliment, which is, you know, Jenn, that red really brings out your complexion. It just looks, I mean, it just makes you look so vibrant. That’s a real compliment. This is one that as leaders you can’t get away with because we’re not allowed to compliment someone’s appearance. But I’m just using that as an example.

So we can tell when people are sincere with us and take the time and show an interest in, instead of me saying, how are your kids? If you have kids, I’m going to say, catch me up. What’s new with the kids. That’s the last thing they saw. And now, you know, I really want to hear about your kids. It’s like you, Jenn, this is assuming a burden. Next time I talk to you. If I say, how are you? You’ll say, well, in your case, you’ll say good. And then you’ll go on. But most people, when I say, how are you? They’ll say good, but instead, there’s a much better icebreaker, folks. Bring me up to date. What’s new in life, Jenn? Since the last time I saw you, I’ve let you know. I really want to hear what’s going on in your life. So assume the burden of making people know that you really care, that you’re truly interested when you have the time and the interest in small talk. And when you don’t have the time, you don’t have to do it. Just get back down to the business at hand. Thanks for asking. That was a long answer.

Jenn DeWall:

Just thinking it doesn’t have to be, how are you like, Hey, what’s been going on since we last talked, give me an update or just great ways to connect and know that you actually do genuinely want to hear because people want to feel connected

Debra Fine:

If you were, if I had your husband here instead of you, and I don’t know, I’m not, I’ve never met him. I would never say to him, how’s the new house? Because my guess is your husband would say, great, thanks for asking. Anybody else but you, anybody else but you.

Jenn DeWall:

No. And that’s why you know, I get that. I, you know, I’ve been going to leadership camp since I was little. And that’s when I did learn how to, you know, talk to people. And part of the reason I even, you know, we’re talking about being seen, like part of the reason that I even came into leadership is recognizing that you know, what I grew up within and I’m not going to go down to the specifics of that, but I, no one really saw me and I didn’t really quite fit in. And then when I started to go to leadership camps, I recognize that it’s our job as individuals to help people feel seen to take a walk in someone else’s shoes. And so you know, I love that because it’s given me so much permission to even go after what I wanted to buy. Just thinking about how can I connect with others and that small talk, you know, the art of small talk, you’ve written multiple books on it. It’s, it’s so important. It’s not just about getting the promotion or getting that next sale. It really is about connecting with people.

Debra Fine:

It is. Thanks for saying it so perfectly.

Jenn DeWall:

Well, my final, because I want to know, like, you’ve already worked with Google, you’ve worked with some of these huge organizations. How do people connect with you? How can they get to know more about your books? Get to know more about you? Where can they find you?

Debra Fine:

The best place to go is my, my website, which is DebraFine.com. So I spell, I own all the spellings by the way, but my spelling is DebraFine.com, D E B R A F I N E.com. And there’s everything, the books, my speaking programs, my workshops, etcetera. I’m thank you for asking that question. And if you Google me, I’m proud to say, because SEO is my middle name. Even if you spell it wrong, I usually come up on the first page. So there you go. Thanks for asking.

Jenn DeWall:

Well, I mean, I think so many organizations could just really benefit from knowing how to master the art of small talk, because that is really where they can create the inclusive cultures. That’s where they can create. So I, I hope that someone reaches out, I know someone will like, I just, because it’s, it’s really valuable and we need that. It’s the small thing that may get overlooked, right? Because again, we think it’s talk, it’s something That I should know how to do or that, you know, I don’t need to know how to do that, but it really is the glue of so many organizational cultures. So I’m just so happy that you do what you do.

Debra Fine:

Thank you. It’s been great. And you know, you, you make a great point about diversity and inclusion. If you really want to walk that, then you have to be the one that takes the risk in a sense, the burden of walking up to people that are different than you. And recruiting them and being their friend and cultivating connections. You cannot wait for them because you feel uncomfortable because you don’t know what to say. Organizations will not grow in a positive way if we continue to do that.

Jenn DeWall:

Deb, thank you so much for coming on the show.

Debra Fine:

Thank you for asking. I was thrilled.

Jenn DeWall:

Thank you so much for tuning into this week’s episode of the leadership habits podcast is I sat down and talked with Debra Fine about The Fine Art of Small Talk. I know that I gained a lot of value and I hope you did too. And if you enjoy today’s episode or maybe know someone that could benefit from just getting a nudge to improve their own communication skills, especially small talk skills, don’t forget to share this with them. Share it with them, help them be better because small talk can be intimidating, but Debra shared some great insights that can help make it more accessible and comfortable and help us be more confident in doing it. And of course, if you liked today’s episode, don’t forget to give us a review on your favorite podcast streaming service. And if you want to follow up with Debra, you can purchase her books in many different bookstores, Amazon, or wherever bestselling books are sold, as well as head over to her website. DebraFine.com.

The post The Fine Art of Small Talk with Bestselling Author, Debra Fine appeared first on Crestcom International.

62 에피소드