We all know it’s important to make your customers feel as relaxed as possible, and that means being an expert in small talk. Let’s face it, most people love a good chat, so how hard can it be to find something to talk about? The answer is, not that hard at all if you stick to the right topics. But be careful – these are five areas of conversation you should steer clear of.
Politics is one of those subjects that can get you into deep trouble fast. Even an innocent throwaway comment about how a famous politician is the worst dancer on ‘Strictly’ can get you into hot water if you say it to the wrong person. The reason? Politics gets under everybody’s skin, and – like religion (another small-talk no-no) – it’s also an incredibly personal, emotive subject. Even when you suspect you share similar political views to your client, don’t be tempted to go there. Trust us, the ground may look solid, but there’s almost certainly quicksand ahead.
Money is another very personal subject that people get wound up about. Even those who seemingly have lots of money usually don’t think they’ve got enough, and they certainly don’t want to hear about the money problems you’ve got. Also, talking about money (like talking about politics or religion) is bound to trap you in a downward spiral of conversation. What you should be doing is keeping the chat upbeat and making your clients feel good about themselves. Even though it might be tempting to moan about the rising cost of everything, take our advice: don’t talk about money, honey.
3. Your love life
This is going to sound brutal, but nobody cares! If you’re having problems with your other half, or if you’re looking for love, or if you’re still recovering from the one who broke your heart six years ago, keep it to yourself. Everyone’s got at least one depressing relationship story and they won’t want to hear yours. Although, if you start telling them your romance woes, your client will almost certainly turn the conversation around by telling you their more awful break-up story. Either way, it’s not going to be pretty.
4. Annoying customers
No matter how tempting it is to talk about another customer – especially one that pushed your goodwill to breaking-point – don’t. Not only will it make your present client feel incredibly uncomfortable, but they’ll also wonder what you might say about them to the next client who sits in your chair. And what if they know the person you’re talking about? Whingeing about an annoying customer might make you feel better because you’re getting it all off your chest, but it’s incredibly dangerous and unprofessional. Please don’t do it.
5. Your work problems
If you’ve got a problem at work, be professional and sort it out before the customer arrives (or after they’ve left). Don’t tell the customer about how much you dislike the new member of staff, or about how your boss doesn’t listen to your opinions, or how standards in this salon have declined, and it’s easily the worst place you’ve ever worked. Not only will it ensure your client never comes back, but it will certainly create an added friction that a) will only make your work problems worse, and b) will make everybody else unhappy as well. Most problems can be solved with clear and honest communication, but only if you talk to the people involved. Besides, if your work problems are that bad, wouldn’t you want to take the pressure off by chatting to your client about something more enjoyable?
There are plenty of safe subjects to choose from, and if you avoid the five traps we’ve listed, your small talk should be smooth sailing.