Hello fellas. My name is Jay, and welcome to The Mansplainer column. This is where I step out of my Gucci’s to put myself in your shoes, and then try to outwit life’s greatest conundrums known to men. Keyword being ‘try’, because unlike bad advice columns out there, I don’t pretend to be a wanker of a know-it-all.
This time, one of our community members needs help unsticking himself from mind-numbing small talk at professional networking events.
“How can I try to escape boring small talk at a networking event?” – Clark L., 28, startup co-founder
Small talk is inevitable during a networking event. You don’t expect to be at one and not talk right? Instead of helping you take an escapist approach, broski Clark, I’m going to help you manage it. After all, you need to work the conversational foreplay to ease the other party into what you’re really there for: promote your own agenda.
You cannot avoid small talk, but you can avoid the boring part of it. Lead the conversation; the onus is on you to make it interesting. Before you stroll into an event, come up with 3 to 4 relevant topics you could talk about in-depth. If you really want to cover all the bases, rehearse. Before you know it, you would have conquered the boring part of small talk, and become the talk of the night.
If you have nothing interesting to say, then play bad cop and ‘interrogate’ the speaker. Remember back in primary school, we were taught the 5 W’s and H? Very often, small talk only covers the ‘Who, When, Where and What’. Ask the Whys and the Hows to solicit personal perspectives from the speaker. This gives the impression that you are interested, even if you feel like you’re imprisoned in an oratory hell hole.
Bring a friend. Two heads (and mouths) are better than one.
Don’t blatantly ignore others trying to make small talk. You don’t want to spend the time there just to be labelled as rude. That reputation may stick, mind you! Besides, engaging conversations usually blossom from small talks, so don’t be too quick to assume you’ll hate the conversation. Give it some time to mature, you never know.
If you really, really, really need to bail, the trick is easier than you think. Simply excuse yourself from the conversation by either raising your empty glass or feigning a slightly distressed countenance, and then go get a drink from the bar or drop by the gents’. After that, get back in the pool and steer clear of the walking tranquilisers. Or you could ghost like how you normally would and fight the small talk battle another day.
Got bouts of troubles keeping you up at night, and don’t know how to deal? The Mansplainer may not have the magic solution, but a little mansplanation goes a long way.
Write in to firstname.lastname@example.org and have your burning questions answered in the following weeks – if they are important enough, that is.