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What successful people say when making small talk: it’s not ‘How are you?’

Harvard researchers have revealed that successful people don’t ask, “How are you?” when making small talk.

In fact, “How are you?” is perceived to be the three most useless words when communicating. The person asking doesn’t really want to know and the person responding doesn’t tell the truth. This results in a meaningless exchange and a lost opportunity to make a real connection.

Researchers analyzed more than 300 online conversations and found that those who were asking more meaningful questions found the other person much more likeable.

So, what can you say that will create a better impact? Gary Burnison, CEO of global talent consulting firm Korn Ferry, shares a few tips:

Start with an authentic question. The question should allow the other person to connect with you and give them a taste of who you are. Example: You remind me of a celebrity, but I can’t remember which one. Who is someone you relate to?

Drop small talk on traffic or the weather. These are cliché and horrible ice breakers, unless of course there is genuine interest on the topics.

Observe your surroundings. There’s bound to be something you can comment about that will spark small talk and help make the conversation unique.

Share your news. For example, you might share: “I got my e-scooter driving license in Dubai yesterday” and get a lot of follow-up questions. By sharing something genuine about you, other people will feel more personally connected to you.

Segue to the issue at hand. If you sense that the conversation is already flowing, you can take your small talk to the next level and segue to a more meaningful discussion.

Always make an effort to speak up. The most important thing is to speak up. When you make this effort, others will listen and connect with you. ICA/Expat Media

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