This is the first video in a series I’m going to be sharing with you showcasing a recent conversation I had with Lisa Fain, the CEO of The Center for Mentoring Excellence. I’m so excited to share all of this with you over the coming weeks!

 

Lisa Fain: So, let’s start off. You’ve often said that your mission is to eliminate small talk. I’m wondering how that became important to you and what impact you think it’s going to have to eradicate small talk.

Chad Littlefield¬†Before anyone gets too angry, let me clarify. For me, small talk has nothing to do with the content of a conversation; it’s about the process. I’ve had a conversation about the weather that mattered deeply. It was with Eugene Claudio, a meteorologist, and we were studying seasonal affective disorder. The idea is, you can talk about the weather if you’re really curious about it, if it matters, etc.

A few years ago, on a kayak camping retreat in Maine, I got clear on my purpose. The intention was to disconnect from the world and reconnect with yourself and some higher purpose. Surprisingly, I got this clear language: “Chad, you exist to gently eradicate small talk and create conversations that matter.” After that, I thought of historical figures like Buddha, Gandhi, Rosa Parks, or Jesus. Imagine them asking, “How was your weekend?” I’m sure they did, but the people who change things have a way of cutting to the heart of what matters.

For instance, a mentor of mine, Jeff, just before I got married, walked up to me, put his hand on my shoulder, and asked, “Are you present?” He wanted to ensure I didn’t miss my own wedding. Ten years later, I’m glad he did that.

To answer your question concretely, I think we could probably double the good stuff in the world if we cut out idle chit-chat. You can still ask, “How are you?” or “What do you do?” and make it matter. But it’s interesting to note that by disrupting these routine questions a little, we tend to ask better ones. They’re more intentional, more thoughtful. Moving off of autopilot is useful.

Lisa: I’m really curious about the role of trust in eradicating small talk.

Chad: Let’s take that wedding scenario. If we hadn’t met and you crashed my wedding to ask if I was present, how could that be received well? The first chapter of “Ask Powerful Questions” focuses on being clear about your intent and sharing it with the person it affects. So, if you didn’t know me and crashed my wedding, you might say, “Hey, I’ve got a question for you. It might seem strange since we haven’t met, but someone asked me this on my wedding day, and it was really helpful. Can I ask it?”

By being clear about your intent and seeking consent, you build trust. You’re not going to walk up to someone and convince them you’re trustworthy immediately. It’s a lot easier if there’s already a relationship of trust, but being clear and seeking permission builds trust as quickly as I know how.

Lisa: Context is everything, isn’t it?

Chad: Absolutely. Understanding the importance of context and intent is crucial in meaningful conversations.