From the first chapter of Small Talk Big Results: Chit Chat Your Way to Success!
Locubrevisphobia (n.) A pathological fear of making small talk, often resulting in the sufferer avoiding social and networking events [from Latin “locu,” speak, and “brevis,” short + phobia].
OK. I made that up. But many people do have fears that hold them back from making small talk.
Let’s take a look at the four most common fears that hold people back.
1. Fear of the unknown. When I was little, my mom said, “Don’t talk to strangers!” For some people, that childhood fear of strangers persists into adulthood.
Attitude Booster: Act like a host, not a guest.
You are at a business networking event and have done your reconnaissance—checked out who is there and identified potential conversation partners. You’re ready to make your move, but there is that twinge of nervousness. Are you nervous about introducing yourself to total strangers?
Consider a different scenario for the next networking event you attend. Think of yourself as an event’s host and not its guest.
As a host, you would introduce yourself to people you don’t know and introduce them to others. Wouldn’t you tell them where to find the food and drinks? Wouldn’t you introduce people as they arrive? A host has an active role as opposed to the passive role of a guest. You can play the role of the host even though you are not the actual host. Get in the habit of holding out your hand first and saying, “Hi, my name is ____________.”
2. Fear of rejection. Anytime you open your mouth and speak, even just to chit chat, you risk rejection. If you never talk to people, you won’t be rejected. But guess what? If you never talk to people, you will also be very lonely.
The best way I’ve found to overcome the fear of rejection is to focus on how I feel when I am accepted. It’s a great feeling and it’s worth risking rejection.
Attitude Booster: Recall the beginnings of your important relationships.
Ask yourself: what do I have to lose? Nothing! What do I have to gain? Possibly everything! Think back to when you first met your spouse or another important person in your life. How did it all start? You probably started with small talk.
I remember when my husband and I met. I was 17 and at my first beer-kegger party. As neither he nor I drink beer, I suppose it was fate that the only two sober people there would strike up a conversation. We were both geeky types, so our geeky small talk worked out just fine. More than 30 years later we are still together.
3. Fear of being a bore. You know what it’s like to hear someone drone on and on, so you don’t want to be the person others want to escape!
Attitude Booster: If you are afraid of being a bore, you probably won’t be one.
There is a simple solution, too. As long as the other person is talking, they are NOT bored! By encouraging them to talk, you become the most fascinating conversationalist they’ve ever talked to.
4. Fear of looking stupid. You are afraid that if you open your mouth, you will insert your foot. Or, maybe you won’t know what to say.
Attitude Booster: This fear is bigger in your mind than in reality!
It just doesn’t happen that often. But if it does, an effective technique is to make fun of yourself. If you can make fun of yourself, you will put others at ease. This fear is easily overcome with practice and preparation.
Have you ever suffered from locubrevisphobia? What has helped you overcome your fear of small talk?
Brush up your small talk and networking skills by getting the book!