Small talk, big connection

Small talk, increasing your emmotional bank balance

‘Do you keep a penny’ jar?  Somewhere you regularly toss your small change? When I was a kid we had a green glass elephant that dad used to pop any odd coins into, and then he’d empty it out when he had to put petrol in the car. (Petrol obviously didn’t cost so much back then.) At the moment I keep a small glass jar for money we earn from selling eggs. We only have four hens so we don’t exactly make a killing from egg sales, but anything we get I pop in the jar. After a while it adds up – today I’ve got a grand total of £19.30!

So what’s this got to do with kids?

Well, connecting with our kids can sometimes feel like hard work. We don’t always have the energy for deeply involved conversations. They don’t always have the inclination. But how about dropping in the ‘pennies’ and watching them add up to the pounds? As the business communication coach, Diane Windingland says, “Creating moments of connection builds up an emotional bank account.” So, learn how small talk can add up to big connections.

Small talk tips

Try these tips any time, anywhere, like getting in from school, in the car, in the park, in a queue at the till. Anywhere.

  1. Be the first to say “Hello”. Kids are spontaneous and often quick to express their feelings, but if they’ve been teased at school, or are just very tired they just might not ‘feel’ like saying it. Be the first. Break the silence with a warm and loving “Hello”.
  1. “Tell me about …”    A simple invitation for your child to share something about their life with you. So, it could be “Tell me about your day at school” or, “the story you’ve been reading”, or “the film you saw last night at Tom’s”. It’s just a non-threatening opportunity for them to ‘let you in’.
  1. See and Say.   Comment on something you can both see at that moment. “Looks like they’re having a party this weekend from the number of sausage rolls in that trolley!”  Or, “Looks like the dog needs a brush.” This is the verbal equivalent of you offering your hand. They can join in the conversation and make their own observation,or not, but it’s particularly useful if your child’s been absorbed in an activity for a long time and you want to draw them out of it. Or perhaps if they’ve fallen out with you and become sullen and moody. It offers them an easy bridge to cross.
  1. Make a positive comment about your child like “You seemed to really enjoy that game with Lucy,” or, “I love that jacket on you. It makes you look so grown up.”
  1. Share an anecdote from your own day. They might choose to share one back, but even if they don’t they have at least had a glimpse into your world and know a little bit more about you than they did. Later on their curiosity might get the better of them and they’ll come back and ask you something about it when you least expect it.
  1. When you ask them a question make sure it’s an open one that won’t just result in a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. Use these words to start off: what, why, who and how. That way they have to add some information of their own.
  1. Comment on something you both have in common: “My stomach’s rumbling nearly as loudly as yours – I hope we’re having something nice for tea tonight.” Or, “This road’s a bit bumpy”.  Both these examples are acknowledgements that you are sharing an experience together. They might not want to engage in a debate about the council’s poor highway maintenance, but they get the idea that they’re not living life in a bubble. Other people experience things the same way they do.
  1. Invite your child to join you in doing something you both enjoy: baking biscuits, watching a film; riding your bikes or going for a pizza. You get the idea.
  1. “Thank you.” Say it often and sincerely. Tell your child how what they’ve done has really helped you, and whenever possible, say it in front of others. Tell them over dinner, or when you’re at Grandma’s – it will reinforce their connection to, and appreciation of you.
  1. Creative small talk. How about just sticking a post-it note on the fridge saying, “I love you”. Or, if they’re old enough for a phone, send them a quick text or PM via a tweet.

All these things are so simple, and can easily be done regularly.  Each little bit counts. Each ‘penny’ adds up to make a pound. Small talk really can lead to big connection.

What other great ideas could you add to this list?



Image courtesy of Ambro/


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