Small Talk and Business Relations

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Author: Future Manager Research Center

Communication and sociability are the basis of human life. Who has never had an occasional or “circumstantial” conversation with complete strangers? In today’s world, strongly interconnected, there are frequent opportunities for interaction of this type and are called Small Talk.

In fact, when we talk about Small Talk, we refer to chitchat made lightly on superficial and not too intimate or reserved topics, such as time, hobbies, sports, food and so on.

This communication style has also increasingly crept into the business world, especially between colleagues and business partners. However, due to different cultural heritage, it is not always possible to socialize in the same way, especially the use of this “approach” is not always recommended.

For example, in the United States, to establish a good business relationship and to become familiar with the work team, it is very common to indulge in cheerful chats. However, in Germany it happens the exact opposite: in many cases, relationships must be nurtured over time and it is unlikely that a partner or a colleague will immediately be able to give in to a conversation, superficial or profound, that goes beyond the work context. It can take months, if not years, to develop a trustworthy relationship with a German, but once a bond is established it often turns out to be lasting and even confidential.

In China Small Talk is not particularly well received as well: Chinese people tend to be cautious when it comes to sharing personal information, especially if they have to interface with people they don’t know well or that they consider as rivals. The logic behind this excessive confidentiality is the fear that this kind of information can be used against them, resulting in a strategic disadvantage.

There are cultures such as Japanese, as well as the Chinese one, where the Small Talk moment is mostly relegated to outside the work context: it is quite common for these conversations to take place late at night over a glass of beer or liquor.

So, a legitimate question arises: how can you build relationships with customers, colleagues or partners if not with Small Talk? The key is patience, but especially respect. By developing relationships with a long-term perspective and nurturing them step by step, results will come straight away.

Moreover, another way to break through the wall of those cultures that do not adopt the communicative style of the Small Talk, is to make sure to be considered trustworthy and respectful of the values ​​of the work environment in which you are welcomed.

While Small Talk may not be universally appreciated, building relationships still remain an important aspect in the business world. Today’s managers are aware of this, so they adapt their behavior and expectations to build lasting and profitable bonds.