Small Talk And Active Listening

Moving beyond the weather and paying attention to body language, tonality and ‘connection’.

Anchor, Reveal, Encourage

Dr Carol Fleming formulated an extremely simple 3-part process for initiating small-talk: Anchor, Reveal, Encourage (ARE). Let’s consider each of the steps:

  • Anchor – you begin by anchoring the conversation in your “mutual shared reality”: what’s going on around you, the weather, food, an event etc. What you say is largely unimportant, it is simply “friendly noises”
  • Reveal – disclose something about yourself related to the anchor. “Yes, I left my umbrella at home and got caught in the rain”. The intention is to provide a thread on which the other person can pull – or allow them an opportunity to Reveal.
  • Encourage – invite them to Reveal more by asking a question: “How was your journey?”

ARE gets the ball moving. Now you need to keep the momentum with follow-up questions and comments. Try to alternate between the two – a series of questions can begin to feel like an interrogation and a string of comments makes it all about you.