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People who excel at small talk are experts at making others feel included, valued, and comfortable.
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“All things being equal, people will buy from a friend. All things being not quite so equal, people will still buy from a friend.” The bottom line: It’s to your benefit to cultivate friendships, not just collect business cards.
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We become better conversationalists when we employ two primary objectives. Number one: Take the risk. It is up to us to take the risk of starting a conversation with a stranger. We cannot hope that others will approach us; instead, even if we are shy, it is up to us to make the first move. We all fear rejection at some level. Just remind yourself that there are more dire consequences in life than a rejection by someone at a networking event, singles function, back-to-school night, or association meeting. Number two: Assume the burden. It is up to each and every one of us to assume the burden of conversation. It is our responsibility to come up with topics to discuss; it is up to us to remember people’s names and to introduce them to others; it is up to us to relieve the awkward moments or fill the pregnant pause. Most of us hope others will assume these tasks. It is up to us to assume the burden of other people’s comfort. If others are comfortable in our presence, then they will feel good about doing business or socializing with us.
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Hairstylists are the consummate conversationalists. They understand that no woman will spend the better part of an hour or more sitting in a chair at the mercy of someone with a sharp instrument unless she feels comfortable!
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Small talk is the verbal equivalent of that first domino: It starts a chain reaction with all kinds of implications for your life.
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To expand your circle of friends and colleagues, you must start engaging strangers and acquaintances in conversation.
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Find that approachable person and include him or her in conversation. Chances are, that person is feeling as alone as you are.
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shyness could be mistaken for arrogance. While shyness and arrogance are worlds apart, the visible manifestation of each can appear the same. People generally do not give others the benefit of the doubt in this regard. Don’t risk being taken as haughty or pretentious by keeping silent; it can cost you dearly. Start small talking and let others see your personality. You know how much you appreciate the efforts others put forth in conversation. Make the same effort. Contrary to what your elders taught you, silence is not golden.
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Good things come to those who take action and start creating good things
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If you’ve largely ignored your conversational responsibilities, it’s time to take ownership. You cannot rely on the other person to carry the conversation for you—a monologue is a chore and seldom very interesting. Furthermore, one-word answers to questions do not count as shouldering your share of the burden.
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“I totally agree with you about the power of small talk. It is not about an agenda but is simply a way to acknowledge a person as being very real and there.
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Make it a point to remember the other person’s name; learning and using names is probably the single most important rule of good conversation, so stay focused during the introduction. Repeat the name back in your greeting.
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Never put off requesting a name reminder before moving on to chatting, or you will regret it.
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When you take the time to learn another person’s name, you are expressing a sincere interest in that individual that will be warmly received.
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Don’t ever assume that someone who sees you infrequently will remember your name, especially when they see you out of context.
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The approachable person is the one who makes eye contact with you or who is not actively engaged in a conversation or another activity
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Showing genuine interest is flattering and essential to conversing.
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The more interest you show in me, the more interesting you become to me. The simple act of truly being interested in the other person has an amazing effect on the conversation—it just snowballs!
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In the course of touring the country and talking to thousands of people in every geographic region, from all walks of life, I have affirmed that we are all more alike than we are different. It’s simply a matter of talking, showing an interest, and listening
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By asking open-ended questions, you offer your conversation partner the opportunity to disclose as much or as little as she wants. These questions demand more than a simple yes or no answer, yet they make no stressful demands. Your partner will decide how much she feels comfortable saying
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The bottom line is that you have to open it up, and you have to show you truly care. OPEN-ENDED QUESTIONS • Describe for me . . . • Tell me about . . . • How did you . . . ? • What was that like for you? • What brought you to . . . ? • Why?
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Whenever you begin a dialogue with a question, get ready to dig deeper so that the other person knows you are interested in hearing more. Digging in deeper indicates you truly desire a response and are prepared to invest time in hearing the response. Here are some suggestions: • How was your summer? Excellent. What special things did you do? • How were your holidays? Pretty good. How did you celebrate? • How was your weekend? Good. What did you do? I went to see that new play down at the Civic Center. Really? You’re interested in ______? I never knew that. Tell me more about that. • Did you do anything relaxing? • Is that something you usually do on the weekend?
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The key is to have a genuine interest in what the other person is saying, along with a genuine desire to hear the response. So while you get to be quiet, you do not get to be passive. You must actively participate in the conversation.
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You can choose any of that free information to find out more about what interests you the most.
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Team apparel and other logo-identified clothing, accessories, water bottles, and clipboards are great conversation starters. Be observant for a new hairdo, a book or magazine, a child’s artwork, or a cast on a broken limb.
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The location and occasion of an event offer a wide variety of free information.
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At a seminar or convention, simply asking What brought you to this event? is an easy and unobtrusive way to start a conversation.
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Consequently, the speaker is always on the lookout for cues to validate receipt of the message. Visual cues, which offer the easiest form of feedback, let the speaker know you are paying attention. Facial expressions, head nods, and positive body language are clear ways of expressing interest in your conversation partner’s words.
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When talking with people, behave as if there are no distractions in the room.
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POSITIVE MESSAGES TO THE SPEAKER • Lean forward • Maintain eye contact • Open up your arms and body • Relax your body posture • Face your partner • Nod and smile OFF-PUTTING GESTURES YOU SHOULD NEVER USE • Pointing • Covering your mouth • Rubbing or fondling body parts • Fiddling with jewelry • Tapping a pencil or pen • Swinging your leg • Crossing arms across your chest • Putting hands on your hips • Glancing away from the person who is speaking
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You can also increase the comfort level of your conversation partner by modifying your own style to be more similar to hers. If you are chatting with someone who speaks slowly and softly, work to keep your volume low as well.
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Ten Tips for Tip-Top Listening 1. Learn to want to listen. You must have the desire, interest, concentration, and self-discipline. 2. To be a good listener, give verbal and visual cues that you are listening. 3. Anticipate excellence. We get good information more often when we expect it. 4. Become a “whole body” listener: Listen with your ears, your eyes, and your heart. 5. Take notes. They aid retention. 6. Listen now, report later. Plan to tell someone what you heard, and you will remember it better. 7. Build rapport by pacing the speaker. Approximate the speaker’s gestures, facial expressions, and voice patterns to create comfortable communication. 8. Control internal and external distractions. 9. Generously give the gift of listening. 10. Be present, watch the tendency to daydream. Don’t drift off from conversations.
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Regardless of how many appropriate questions you have on hand, sooner or later you must talk about yourself. The rules of good conversation require give and take. If you only ask questions, your conversation partner will resent the lack of parity. It’s important that each person tell about herself
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Your choice of conversation material should be appropriate to the occasion and to the depth of rapport and intimacy established.
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told something about myself, giving others the opportunity to feel more connected to me.
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Speak No Evil Barring exceptional circumstances, avoid these often-controversial topics that can stop a conversation in its tracks: 1. Stories of questionable taste 2. Gossip 3. Personal misfortunes, particularly current ones 4. How much things cost! 5. Controversial subjects when you don’t know where people stand 6. Health (yours or theirs). The exception is when you’re talking with a person who has an obvious new cast, crutches, or bandage. In that situation, the apparent temporary medical apparatus is free information. If you skirt the issue, it’s a bit like having an elephant in your living room and ignoring it.
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One of the easiest ways to start or keep a conversation going is to compliment another person. Finding something nice to say about someone is usually not that difficult. Surely they have something to like about them.
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A good compliment acknowledges the object of admiration: That’s a nice sweater you’re wearing, or What an unusual tie. An excellent, top-of-the-line compliment goes beyond that to give conversation material by expounding on why you like the item. For instance, you might elaborate on the sweater by saying, I love your sweater. That shade really enhances the color of your eyes. You can turn your appreciation of a good-looking tie into a more powerful compliment by saying, That’s a great tie. Its unusual design really sets it apart, I always enjoy it when men make fashion statements with their ties. Beware of complimenting appearance in the workplace. In many instances it can be construed as a subtle form of sexual harassment
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A good compliment would be: You have a lovely home. Turn that into state-of-the-art flattery by saying: Your home is lovely. I really like all the photos you have—they personalize your home and give it a lot of warmth. Instead of saying, This is a great cup of coffee, consider, I love the richness of Indonesian Sumatra, and this is a great-size mug.
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You may find that the person you are complimenting has difficulty receiving the praise. He may try to neutralize the compliment by denying it or feel obligated to return a compliment. If that happens, reaffirm your sincerity and move on to another subject.
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The words we select for conversation can convey messages we do not intend to deliver
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The woman who topped the initial woman’s story didn’t really commiserate. She stole the show. She took the spotlight off the other woman and put it right on herself. She stopped the other woman in the middle of her story.
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Her story is the one that got the group so enthusiastic. It’s important to acknowledge that and to enjoy such a great story. There’s no need to rush to the next. It’s like hurrying through a glass of fine wine—you miss most of the experience in the rush to complete it!
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I never talk for more than five minutes before passing the ball. Time can fly when we are talking about ourselves!
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Remember, as the host, your goal is not only to get the monopolizer to yield the floor, it is to include others—especially the quiet ones. Invite them into the dialogue with a question or comment directed to them. Even when there isn’t a monopolizer in the conversation, pass the ball to everyone.
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There are only three good reasons for interrupting. The first is that you need to exit immediately. The second is that the topic of conversation is too uncomfortable to bear, and you need to change the subject right away. And the third is if you are in the company of a monopolizer who has refused to offer you a natural break in the conversation for more than five minutes.
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Many people remain in a conversation longer than they should for two reasons: they feel trapped, especially if it’s just a two-person dialogue, or they are so comfortable that they don’t want to leave.
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When you prepare to depart a conversation, recall why you originally connected with your conversation partner and bring the conversation back to that topic. Doing so will allow you to make a meaningful connection and then take your leave easily. For instance, I was at an open house thrown by a large corporation. Before I left my conversation partner, I said, Tom, it’s been wonderful talking with you about the changes impacting the health-care industry. I need to catch up with another client before she leaves. Thanks for sharing your expertise. Tom returned the compliment, we shook hands, and I headed to my client while Tom went in another direction.
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There is no mistaking the fact that you have a specific agenda that you are trying to accomplish. By highlighting your own goals, you take the burden off your conversation partner. Your small-talking associate now knows that your need to move on has nothing to do with the quality of time you just spent with that person.
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When a new person enters the group and begins talking to one or two people, one or more other people bow out. It is a quick and easy escape used by people all the time. The downside of this technique is that it only facilitates an exit, but if you are just looking for the nearest emergency exit, this is your ticket.
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Remember to end the conversation the same way you began it—with a smile and a handshake. Even if you have to get up and walk around the table to do this, make sure you do. You make a lasting impression when you seal a conversation with a handshake. Just that fleeting hand-to-hand moment enhances the rapport you’ve worked hard to establish.
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Before you leave a conversation, have a clear destination in mind.
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Remember, people want to be with people who make them feel special, not people who are “special.”
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Don’t think of what you’re doing as “singles” socializing. Just think of it as networking. You have something to offer others, and they have something to offer you: connection to humanity.
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It’s sometimes effective to start small talking with a person of the same gender; it’s less threatening and will get you over your stage fright. Plus you never know, they might introduce you to someone really interesting!
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If you had a follow-up question in mind that you were tempted to use but did not, then you are on the right path. Although you didn’t follow with a question, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have had one at the ready. As a general rule, always formulate at least one follow-up question and keep it in your head even if you may not use it.
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First I reconnect how we met. I refresh his memory about a couple of incidents at the event. I tell him how much I enjoyed our conversation there and mention that it would be fun to resume it over coffee or lunch. As assertive as I am, I never ask a man out for dinner on the first date. It seems less threatening—both to me and to him—to suggest something more casual.
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Invitations like Would you like to get together sometime? are too vague. Be specific in order to receive a direct answer.
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Don’t plan a movie/theater date for the first few dates. Interaction is key to getting to know each other.
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A Whatever response indicates one of two things, neither one of them positive: You either don’t care about this person or the conversation, or you don’t know what you want
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People like to feel good about themselves. Dating is the perfect opportunity to do that for someone else. Make them feel like they’re attractive and interesting. Focus on your date rather than worrying about what he or she is thinking of you.
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Give yourself a chance to bond with this person instead of trying to find out everything about them in this one encounter and then making a snap decision about whether or not you want to see them again. And keep your sense of humor. Don’t tell jokes (unless you’re great at it), but allow yourself to be funny. As Larry King says, “Never stay too serious too long.”
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People part with their money for two reasons: to solve a problem and to attain good feelings.
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It’s hard to quickly evaluate the expertise of a new dentist. But you immediately know which one makes you feel more comfortable.
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Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men of talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent
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relatively sophisticated creatures like humans possess propositional knowledge, ability knowledge is far more common.