When Small Talk Isn’t Small, and Little Details Mean A Lot
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Submitted by Caroline Ceniza-Levine on Wed, 2016-10-19 04:37

In a job interview, the small talk at the start isn’t small but critical to a positive first impression (the right small talk can build rapport). I write about other ways to make a good first impression at a job interview in my latest Forbes post. Of course, job interviews aren’t the only times when little details like small talk mean a lot. From high-stakes business meetings to daily interactions with colleagues to reconnecting with extended members in your network, little details can signal that you’re fully present and genuinely relating, rather than just transacting or running on autopilot. Here are some examples of small details that mean a lot:

Personalized email openers

A friend of mine was contacted by a former colleague whom she hadn’t heard from in several years. Other than my friend’s name, there wasn’t anything personalized to introduce the note – no update from the several years that had passed, no inquiry about my friend’s update – just right into the request. That my friend was annoyed enough to relay the story to me shows just how much even a short but personalized intro can mean.

Personalized invites

When you send a LinkedIn invite, mention how you know the person even if you recently spoke and you’re sure they will remember you. You don’t know when they’ll look at their invites – enough time may pass that they may actually not remember you. Besides, they’ll appreciate you making it as easy on them as possible – I know I do when I get unsolicited invites!

Answers that aren’t routine

When someone asks How Are You, don’t default into Fine (or worse, Busy). Try Spectacular or Enchanted or something else that breaks the auto pilot for you and for them. You also might will yourself in a better mood!

Questions that aren’t routine

Similarly, don’t just ask How Are You as a default greeting. Ask about a specific event you know is coming up for them or something they’re working on. The specificity requires just enough effort that it shows you care.


When you acknowledge someone, you call out something they did or perhaps even just a quality that they are. Social media makes it easy to do this more often and with a broader network. You can like or share something that someone posts, add a comment to forward the discussion, or send a direct, personal message acknowledging the news (more work, but more of an acknowledgment!). These little touch points can reconnect you with people you haven’t spoken to in a while.

These small details can turn day-to-day interactions into relationship-builders. What other strategies help you better relate with others?

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