Small Talk, Big Value

People often devalue the importance of small talk. I have heard a number of different people tell me that they are really good at having a deep conversation but struggle with small talk. Mastering the art of small talk as a development professional can be extremely valuable, as it paves the way to deeper conversations.

Deep relationships take significant time and maintenance. It takes time to develop real trust and learn about what really matters to people. I believe we can only have a handful of really deep close relationships at one time. That doesn’t mean that every other relationship is going to be surface level, but it does tell me that with many people you are going to have to be able to build trust and grow the relationship quickly.

If we can only handle so many really deep and close relationships – especially if we do major gifts work – we need to find some way to maintain and create new relationships. Small talk can allow us time to learn important and valuable information without crossing the line of going too deep too quickly.

Small talk is the game that we play when we are feeling someone out. We learn about someone’s interests and passions, their hobbies and profession. Being good at small talk is a gateway to deeper conversations. Small talk is much more than talking about the weather or today’s traffic. (I hardly ever talk about the weather as my topic when meeting someone for the first time.) I use these opportunities to ask questions about how an individual first connected with the organization and what it is about the organization with which they connect the most.


One Response to Small Talk, Big Value

  1. Dan Blakemore says:

    In my experience, you are completely right about the importance of small talk in learning more about donors. Have you ever come across prospects or donors who are simply horrible at small talk? There are a few that I really want to engage, but have not been able to get very far as they give very simple answers to some of those basic probing questions. Any thoughts you may have would be greatly appreciated.

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