This is part one of a four-part series on developing your conversational skills. 

Can you name a more infamous pairing than strangers and small talk? Socializing with new people can be anxiety-provoking for some, but the ability to strike up a conversation and be at ease in social situations are your bread and butter as a REALTOR®. You should view making new connections and building relationships as business investments, not obligations. With these three etiquette tips, you can bypass the common conversational blunders and improve your social interactions.

Safe subjects and small talk (F.O.R.M.)

Small talk is useful for revealing common ground with strangers. As a rule, you should play it safe with small talk, especially when speaking with someone you don’t know well. You’re better off steering clear of subjects that are overly intimate or divisive, such as religion, politics, and money. The “F.O.R.M” acronym can help you remember safe, conventional topics to help you get to know the other person. Then—as your relationship develops—you can move into deeper, more compelling conversations.

  • Family and Friends: spouses and how they met, children and their activities, mutual friends, family, siblings, hometown, etc.
  • Occupation: what they like most about their career, the challenges they face, their colleagues, previous jobs and employers, dream jobs, schooling, etc.
  • Recreation: hobbies, movies, music, sports, travelling, etc.
  • Motivation: aspirations, inspirations, passions, etc.

Strive for equal give-and-take

Good conversation flows naturally. It’s up to you to recognize when one person is doing all the talking and adapt accordingly. You may find that when you’re nervous, you ask successive questions without adding to the conversation. While this keeps a conversation moving, the one doing all the talking may feel that you’re disengaged or insincere if you don’t pause between questions to reflect on his or her answer. If you’re struggling to relate to someone’s experience, try relating to the emotions associated with the experience instead. On the other end of the spectrum, the person with whom you’re speaking may feel marginalized if you’re dominating the conversation. To overcome this, pull back from your monologue and get the other person speaking. Try posing an open-ended question or asking for his or her opinion on a subject to encourage an elaborate response.

“If you want to be interesting, be interested” – Dale Carnegie

Genuine curiosity is one of your greatest assets in a conversation. Being interested is not pretending people are fascinating when they’re not, it’s adopting an empathetic mindset and offering your undivided attention—that means putting your phone away unless it’s relevant to the conversation. One way to do this is to discover a subject in which the other person is knowledgeable and try to absorb as much information as you can. In doing this, you create a teaching moment for the other person, which can mutually strengthen your relationship. Too often when people sense asymmetric knowledge, they nod politely and then quickly switch the topic to avoid having their self-perceived ignorance discovered. Don’t feel embarrassed—express your curiosity and ask questions. You should be receptive to any engaging, rapport-building topic of conversation. Plus, in future conversations, you will have a broader knowledge base from which to draw.

Being mindful of conversational etiquette can help ensure that each interaction you have is positive and respectful. Whether you’re naturally introverted or extroverted, remember that real estate is a people business so it’s important that you get comfortable socializing with others.

Click here to read part two of this series, which focuses on social events. 


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