Win Big with Small Talk

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Have you ever found yourself in a one-sided conversation with someone who is talking on and on? You’re nodding your head and looking at them but not hearing a word they’re saying. You might even be thinking to yourself, how much longer will this go on?

They believe you’re listening because your eye contact, head-nodding, and occasional “I see” have them fooled into thinking they’re communicating, but you are not in the same conversation and might as well be in a different room.

You are likely relying on habits to get through the conversation and not really thinking at all.

Studies indicate that from 40 to 95 percent of human behavior — how we think, what we say, and our overall actions — falls into the habit category. The Thought-Habit Action Pattern is the steps you go through in making decisions.

Those whom we are trying to influence also go through this process. They evaluate and interpret words and actions based on their filter or value system, making decisions based on how they interpret (filter) our words and actions.

Your filter system is a combination of stored data, goals, desires, prejudices, likes, and dislikes. Those you want to influence also go through these steps to filter information. The Thought-Habit Action Pattern breaks the thinking process into a logical step-by-step process.

  • First Step: We sense (hear, touch, taste, etc.) something.
  • Second Step: We investigate our subconscious (our memory) and associate the sensory input with what we already know.
  • Third Step: We evaluate what is happening, considering what we already know: our past experiences; our habit patterns.
  • Fourth Step: We decide, which always has a mental aspect and sometimes follows with a physical action.

You must understand a person’s filter system to really understand their needs.

When you do not have an automatic, appropriate response ready to go, you rely on your ability to “wing it.” You may be good at winging it, and sometimes you may even give the right response. However, often you probably say something less than your best.

It’s not what you know that counts! It’s what your habits remind you to say and do that count. Having good automatic responses is a necessary part of being your best.

The next time you are talking to someone who is nodding their head and saying “I see,” stop talking and start asking questions.

Leadership is a contact activity and, therefore, requires verbal and interpersonal (relationship-building) skills. Skills can be learned in a classroom, but to implement them proficiently you must practice them.

Many people believe you are a natural-born leader if you are outgoing, friendly, and a talker. The truth is you can be extremely successful using your own style — one that comes naturally to you.

Make sure your automatic responses are genuine. Read the room! Be aware of the people you are talking to; make sure you are communicating as well as you think you are. Practice your relationship-building skills, so that they become automatic yet true to your personal style.

For more help with habit-building, go to and download this PDF to start learning about your habits and make them work for you.

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