My friend and "She Negotiator", Victoria Pynchon blogged this week about women and small talk. Essentially, she reminded me that women are sometimes superior at making idle conversation (the social grace in us!) and yet in professional settings have often tried to mask or hide this innate ability, for fear of appearing shallow.
Here is a cute little reminder from none other than Larry David that small talk can be the key to forming the cornerstones of trust, rapport and cooperation at the beginning, middle and end of a negotiation. It is an art best practiced at dinner parties and while waiting at elevators, but is an art worth developing. Invariably, if you work at it, you can find some common experience or interest with most everyone you meet. A genuine curiosity about their interests will also serve you well. After all, mediation is designed to be a way to open up communication between two sides of a dispute who have shut down. Small steps towards creating a lifeline between the two will invariably break down the barriers built up to shield them from the discomfort of the dispute. World Cup Soccer anyone?
What efforts do you make to engage your opposing counsel or mediator in "small talk" in order to create rapport and get beyond polarity?