Have you ever been to a function in a room full of strangers and found yourself lost for words?
The art of introducing yourself to others and creating small talk may come natural for some, but most people confess to feeling shy, embarrassed and don’t know where to start.
There are four levels of communication: Small talk, fact disclosure, share viewpoints and opinions and share personal opinions.
- Small Talk
In new relationships or acquaintances the safest place to start is to talk about surface issues.
For instance, make a comment about the weather, current events or the surroundings you are in.
This is called “small talk”, and is used to “size up” the other person to determine the comfort zone between the two of you.
There is no need to disclose any personal information with the other person at this stage, as this initial interaction assists you to determine how “safe” they are on your first meeting.
If you are comfortable with each other at a surface level you can easily slip into the next level of communication: fact disclosure.
- Fact Disclosure
Fact disclosure is slightly deeper than small talk in that you disclose facts about yourself without triggering topics of emotional interest.
The purpose of fact disclosure is to find out if you have something in common.
You can use these common areas to build a friendship. You may want to talk about your career, occupation, hobbies, or where you live.
Avoid topics like marriage, divorce, politics, sex and religion in this second level of communication.
If you find a topic of mutual interest you may want to progress to the next level of communication: sharing viewpoints and opinions.
-Share Viewpoints and Opinions
Once you have established that the other person is “safe” through small talk, and have found areas of common interest, you can build rapport by sharing your opinions and viewpoints.
By sharing your viewpoints and opinions you allow yourself to become vulnerable to the scrutiny and objections of the other person.
Enter this level of communication once you are comfortable that you both share positive feelings through the first two levels.
Be prepared to listen to the opinions of your new friend. This will enable your friendship to survive.
Make sure you don’t use your opinions as a form of “character assassination” of other people.
You may be thought of as a negative person and this may cause your new friend to distance himself/herself from you.
The fourth level of communication is sharing personal feelings. Solid friendships over time usually enter this fourth level of communication.
- Share Personal Feelings
After building upon trust, finding things in common and listening to the viewpoints and opinions of others, you may be able to share your personal feelings.
This is when an acquaintance becomes a genuine friend.
Things of deep value to you can be shared without feeling threatened. You listen closely to each other without the need to “solve” your friend’s problem. You are happy to reflect their feelings back to them – forming a bond of empathy and compassion between the two of you.
At this level of communication, it is important that you provide a little distance between yourself and your friend.
If the distinction between yourself and your friend becomes unrecognizable, it is possible for your relationship to go sour.
If you know how to handle your own feelings, attitudes and behaviors while maintaining your friendship at this level, you will build a successful friendship that can last a lifetime.