Three rules for breaking the ice

The wrong small talk can hurt you

  1. Family photos can be great conversation starters–if you choose your comments wisely. (You: “Your mother has a great smile.” Him: “That’s my wife.”) “Making assumptions about the people in the pictures is dangerous,” says Debra Fine, founder of the Fine Art of SmallTalk, a Denver firm that teaches conversation skills to executives at companies like IBM and Wells Fargo. “If a picture is facing you, it’s fair game, but be vague: ‘What a great picture. Where was it taken?’ “
  2. Think before cracking jokes. “The safest, most effective kind of humor is self-deprecating,” says Albert Chen, executive director of graduate programs at Kaplan Test Prep, “but this is one situation where you don’t want to put yourself down.”
  3. Never talk about traffic, sports, or the weather. You don’t want to be the eleventh automaton that day to say, “Wow, sure is hot.”

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