My opportunity to engage in small talk, in a business environment, happened coincidentally. I happened to pass by the Jubilee insurance company offices late last month. My engagement there was to check on the status of my mother’s medical cover, which she feared expired. The insurance industry always fascinates me, and a chance to interact with such a firm either on a general level or intimately was a chance I relish. In the elevator, I chanced to meet a man who looked senior to the firm, judging from his demeanor and slightly graying hair. He looked approachable if the amiable smile he wore on his face was anything to judge by, additionally, we happened to ride the elevator with no company, which seemed the perfect time to exercise my small talk engagement skill.
I started meekly with a barely audible ‘Hi’, to which he responded warmly with a knowing grin to my relief. I was a bit nervous which mad the situation a little uncomfortable. I found my feet, however, introduced myself and requested for his time. He identified himself as Mr. Graham, an executive with a commercial insurance wing of the company. I advanced with the enquiry on whether he knew where the life insurance wing was located. It was a poor icebreaker, although I knew where the life insurance wing was; I was afraid I would lack words for further conversation after hearing his response. He directed me after which he remarked of my seemingly tender age and inquired on what occupies me. This response was my redeeming feature, as he showed a willingness to interact with me. I gladly responded to his query with the anticipation of his willingness to engage me further. I was relaxed by then and much confident in my responses. I followed up my response with a comment that the firm looked like a good place to work. I was hoping he would share the same thoughts with me, which he did. Owing to the limited time the elevator ride presented, I was hoping that by now I would have generated a ground for which he would be willing to engage me.
I indicated to him that I would be happy if he explained to me the workings of health insurance. He smiled and offered me his card with the directions to his office. I promised to meet him at his office once I was done checking on my mum’s health insurance matter. At his office, I showed a real interest on the matters explained which motivated him. It was easy engaging him since he was a friendly man and easy to talk to. He provided more of the light moment of the conversation than I did with his light jokes. At the end of our interaction, I found that I knew more about the insurance industry than I ever thought I’d know. I was courteous enough to limit my enquiries since he had made an important sacrifice offering me his time.
The small chat experience to me was a cocktail of both successes and a few failures. The time available was limited to the ride up, which limited the exchanges to short answers, which gave it more of a professional feel than casual. At his office, however, the engagement was much more relaxed, with room for details on the responses. I felt, however, that it would be imprudent if I engaged him further than a few minutes going by his busy schedule. It would have been a more successful engagement than it turned out to be, if the time were not limited.
Morel, M. (2005). Talk up your business: How to make the most of opportunities to promote and grow your small business. Crows Nest, NSW: Allen & Unwin.