It works at work, too.

Great managers and teammates use relationships to be more effective at work. They use what they know about their colleagues and direct reports to connect and to work more effectively with each other, just like David did with me in that beach house kitchen.

That doesn’t mean only extroverts can be great managers. Not at all. There’s skill in relationship building, and while it may be less natural for us, introverts can learn this skill too.

Here are two things that even introverts can do to get better at the fine art of small talk, both at home and at work. Two things to help actually use small talk to get better results.

First, respond authentically to others’ “small questions.” Let others get to know the real you, not the sanitized “just please stop asking me questions” you. Let them learn about you so that they can better connect with you down the road. You’ll benefit from this connection, too.

Your direct reports, particularly the more extroverted ones, will want to know about you. This will likely make you uncomfortable. Roll with it. They’re not being nosy. They’re not trying to get dirt on the boss. They’re not going to use that information against you later.

On the contrary.

They want to know about you so that they can connect with you, in order to work more effectively with you. So that they can give you more of what you want and need from them at work.

Let them.

Second, ask “small questions” and listen to the answers. File away the information that you hear, with an actual file folder or notes on your phone or computer, so that you can use it later to connect.

“How was your weekend?” you ask your new direct report. He just moved from Cleveland for this job. “Good until yesterday,” he replies. “Cavaliers lost the first game of the playoff series.” Later, basketball fan — Cavaliers goes into the file. You casually pay attention to the remaining games in the series, to give you something to talk about in the coming weeks.

This is how relationships build. How trust forms. And how work gets done more effectively.

“So what’s new?” you ask another direct report as you walk into the meeting room a few minutes early. She tells you about the dog she just adopted from the local shelter. You file that away. When her 5-year anniversary with the company comes up a couple of weeks later, you present her with a gift certificate to the pet supply store in her neighborhood.

Step 1. Ask small questions.
Step 2. Listen.
Step 3. Use what you’ve learned in the future by asking follow-up questions about it, or doing something related to the information you’ve gathered.

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