The 4 Levels of Conversation
Making Small Talk and Moving Beyond
Small talk is the ice-breaking part of a conversation; it is the way strangers can ease into comfortable rapport with one another.
Mastering the art of small talk can open many personal and professional doors. The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right place, but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at a tempting moment. It requires sensitivity to the stage of a relationship, the context of the conversation and the comfort level of the person you are talking to. There are 4 levels of conversation based on the degree and amount of personal disclosure. They are:
Small Talk - Commonly referred to as the ‘exchange of pleasantries’ stage. In this level, you talk only about generic topics, subjects that almost everyone is comfortable discussing. (e.g., the weather, the location you’re both in, and current events)
Fact Disclosure - In the stage, you tell the other person some facts about you such as your job, your area of residence, and your interests. This is the ‘getting-to-know-you stage, and it aims to see if you have something in common with the other person.
Viewpoints and Opinions - In this stage you can offer what you think about various topics about the business or even the latest blockbuster movie. It helps them to read and be curious about many things. Sharing viewpoints require the ‘buffering effect’ of the first two stages for two reasons. First, a person needs rapport with another before they can openly discuss potentially contentious statements. Second, sharing viewpoints requires there is some level of trust and safety in a relationship
Personal Feelings - The fourth stage is disclosure and acknowledgment of personal feeling. For instance you can share about your excitement for a new project of your worry about son’s upcoming piano recital. Depending on the context and level of friendship, you can disclose more personal subjects. In some cases, you may never get to this stage.
Listening is vital in all stages of the conversation but especially so in the fourth stage. Listen with empathy and understanding to acknowledge that you heard the feeling that they have shared.
Go for it!