Learning Lab: Who is someone you’d really like to know better?

3 min. read

Inspired by our “how do you talk to yourself” discussion with Kaitlyn Kenealy, I’ve been paying closer attention to my self-talk. As a result, I’ve started to notice frequent questioning of myself after ending work-related meetings and conversations: “Ugh, why do you ALWAYS talk about the weather?!?”

It’s not like the conversations were bad. Or even awkward for that matter.

But, I’ve read my fair share of books and career-building articles to know that small talk only gets you so far.

I found myself saying/thinking (to myself): “You know better” or “You can do better than that!”

But then, Dr. Alan and I chatted about this common habit of MANY people. Of course, Alan helped me think about it differently.

It’s not that “small talk” about the weather or sports or kids or pets are “bad” or “wrong.”

It’s the fact that many of us END there — that’s the problem limitation.

Often, we don’t go any further with our questions or inquiry. Maybe out of time constraints, but often, I think it’s because we get stuck and don’t know what to say next. It’s not always easy though. It takes effort and intentionality. You need to practice becoming a good conversationalist.

When you think about it this way, there are opportunities to connect with others everywhere every day. We’re missing out on some major bridge-building here, people!

Weather, sports, pets, kids, and you-name-it-small-talk can actually be a great way to kick off a conversation and provide cues or prompts for questions to keep the conversation going.

So, here’s your lab assignment …

1. Think about individuals you’ve started to build a connection with. Trust is building up there. Credibility too. (If you’re not sure the foundation is there in the relationship, start here first.)

Then, ask yourself: Who do you genuinely want to get to know better? Maybe they are someone you are inspired by and you want to learn from. Or perhaps they can help you connect to more meaning & purpose in your work in some way. Your reasons may vary and that’s okay.

2. Start an intentional conversation with them and explore some common ground between the two of you. Maybe it starts with the weather, sports, dogs, kids, or other hobbies and interests. (Alan shared he loves to notice things behind people on Zoom calls and ask about them – LOVE this idea!)

Whatever you end up talking about – be curious, listen, and ask questions about them and their story. Don’t make it about you. And, make sure you don’t force this. If it’s clear they don’t have interest, the time, or are distracted otherwise, hang it up for now. Try again another time.

3. Notice when people start to engage. It’s usually pretty clear. They light up, they lean in, they smile or laugh, they share, and maybe even ask questions back. You connect. That’s the goal.

Where you take it from there is up to you. But, if you hit this point, sounds like you’ve built a bridge, my friend.

Give it a try and have fun, Ladderburners!

Some great small talk insight from Dr. Alan, a.k.a. Trouble…

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About the Ladderburner Learning Lab:
In Burn Ladders. Build Bridges. Pursuing Work with Meaning + Purpose, Patterson shares an essential formula for Ladderburners in pursuit of more at work. Chapter 7 dives into two of those skillsets – how to build a base of competence and credibility. This can be done through the Learning Lab – an approach to learning as much as you can about your job, the people around you, what success looks like, and how things really work inside the workplace. Learn more about the Ladderburner Learning Lab.