Small Talk - dialogue for success: overcome fear of embarrassment


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Many people are scared to embarrass themselves to the bone in small talk. This affects even executives and Richard P. Feynman almost knocked out the Nobel Prize for it. But how do you overcome the fear?

Small Talk - Dialogue for success: Overcoming the fear of embarrassment Small Talk - Dialogue for success: overcome fear of embarrassment


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Dr. Cornelia Topf Dr. Cornelia TopfDr. Cornelia Topf is a certified business coach and international management trainer.

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The Nobel Prize knocked out?

The physicist Richard P. Feynman once said that he had almost knocked out the Nobel Prize. Not because he considered academic dignity to be undeserved. But because he was afraid of the small talk.

Fact: The thought of having to talk casually to ministers, princesses and diplomats at the subsequent reception panicked Feynman: "What should I talk to them?" shot through my head.

Small talk has nothing to do with intelligence

Even though most people think they have to say something particularly intelligent in small talk, it has nothing to do with intelligence. On the contrary: When even the smartest minds on the planet panic at the thought of small talk, it is not surprising that most “normal” people feel the same way:

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We stand there like the ox in front of the mountain, do not get a sound out, or tell us all the tricks and bruise ourselves to the bone. At least we are afraid.

Fear of sinking in the ground

This fear is also felt by Hans, 37, production manager. During the coffee break of a meeting, he takes an interested look at the new colleague from Customer Support, who is three meters away at the coffee table. Jürgen, the chief controller, shakes his head: "Now speak to her!" Hans is embarrassed and says: “What should I say? 'Do we know each other from somewhere?' I'd rather drop dead. ”

An apt formulation that describes the emotions that come to us at such moments in a relatively precise way: we would like to sink into the ground. Just thinking of small talk. And then several times during the small talk, when we "have once again brought up the stupidest saying that is conceivable!"

The fear of disgrace

"Help, I'm embarrassing myself!" - That probably shoots through the mind of many people who are told to talk to others as casually as possible, according to the motto "Just say what you can think of .." Oh God ...

Because they are afraid of embarrassment, of failure, of being exposed, of rejection, ridiculousness and "Yikes, I can't think of anything now!" paralyzes most people of western civilization.

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Even executives are afraid

But the good thing is: do not think about it! Almost everyone is like that. Men and women Gatekeepers such as board members.

Everyone is afraid of embarrassment. That's the problem. And the solution: If you're afraid of embarrassment, then all we have to do is find topics, openers, first sentences that are 100% embarrassing. Is that there? Yes, there is:

Just no killerphrases!

What do small talk lay people do instead?

  • They say memorized killer phrases: "Do we know each other from somewhere?"
  • Or make stupid compliments: “Pretty chain.”

Those who work with such sets from the moth-crate, but rightly afraid of Small Talk: This always goes wrong. I give you a guarantee. Forget about phrases! Choose a subject.

That is why so many people talk about the weather: this topic always works! Maybe that's too worn out for you. Hans also: "Is there nothing else?" But clearly:

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The most obvious Sachthema is always good!

Just because it is obvious and therefore connects both conversation partners. This is the first thing in common! And commonalities strengthen a conversation. What is Hans's closest topic? Now, where is he now? Right, in the meeting pause.

So he finally gives himself a kick, exhales deeply, takes the five steps over to the new colleague and says: "How do you get from customer support with the new standards that our respected sales manager just presented?" So what. Go then. Why? Because Hans thought about it and got informed before contacting him?


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