Settings and Small Talk

Most folks who know me, know of my passion related to social capital. It is an area I have studied, researched, discussed, and written/talked about over the years. It is also an area that we have made central to our work at CLASS ( And the drive behind this passion is simple. First, social capital is a concept for all of us; everyone's lives are enhanced through relationships. Further, it is through our relationships that we grow, learn, and broaden our perspectives - we actually become better people.

When I am invited to talk about social capital, or when people read my books/writings (Social Capital: The Key to Macro Change, LApress, 2015) I am often asked; "I get this concept and theory, but how do I start to make it happen(or how can I help people I support start)"?  It is a good, and important question; and it leads me to the topic of this blog. "Settings and Small Talk."

If you think of any/all current relationships in your life, you can track them back to some setting or place where you met that person. Somehow, someway, there was someplace that mattered! A setting is a place, a venue, where people might gather with some commonality or theme that is relevant to all.  In fact, if you think about the current settings that you frequent this framework might come to life.  Are these settings you frequent hospitable; are they welcoming? Are they accessible?  If you were a newcomer, how would you feel?  Are they attractive or accepting of new people?  More, have you thought about how you behave when a newcomer steps into your settings?

The second aspect is "Small Talk." All of us know that small talk is the initial elixir for relationship building. And small talk is a big issue. Think about the way you initiate with new people in your settings?  What do you say first?  What are safe topics? What are the topics that might throw up a red flag with you?  There is an art to small talk; and given that these conversations are the very first introduction to a new person, they become critically antecedent to a possible new relationship in your life.

Of course, social capital is a complex subject, with lots of variables and moving parts, but without a setting, and the initial small talk it is only a concept. Settings and small talk become the start point in social capital theory.

So think about settings - where can you meet people; and what is the premise behind the setting? And then once there, what is the best way to use small talk to begin to meet new people.  If this resonates, then social capital with that new person is possible.