Hey guys, I get asked all the time how to get past weather talk and maintain good conversations with acquaintances and friends. I wanted to create something super helpful that could fit into one diagram – it’s called The Three Timelines model.
Here’s a link to the model http://i.imgur.com/qOq3553.png, and here’s essentially how it helps you seriously upgrade your small talk skills:
- In any small talk situation, you have three primary areas to discuss: something involving YOURSELF, the ENVIRONMENT (either your surroundings or what’s happening in society, etc.), and THEM. With me so far? 🙂
- To help you come up with stuff to talk about, it’s important to always consider The Three Timelines.
First, YOU have a timeline. What have you been up to? What did you do last weekend that was interesting? What are you doing tomorrow or this weekend that may be interesting? Of course, your present timeline matters too, what are you doing now/today that’s interesting?
Secondly, the ENVIRONMENT has a timeline. What has been happening in the world recently? What is happening right now in your immediate environment? What is happening soon? Is Michigan playing Michigan State? Is there a big presidential debate coming up?
Thirdly, the last timeline is the other person’s (THEM). What have they been up to? What are they doing now, and in the near future?
Everything in all the timelines are simply facts. Nothing more. The events serve as great starting points for dialogue. You’ll always struggle if you aren’t good at thinking about timelines. It’s up to you to connect to the facts in order to form your commentary. Take advantage of the timelines to help you come up with comments. When you feel like your brain is blank, just start thinking about timelines…yours, the environment, or theirs. I always suggest knowing yours really well because if you’re always aware of your own timeline (I mean, you can reference events QUICKLY from the past and talk about events in the future), you’ll do well regardless of situation or how much you know about their timeline. What if you don’t know about their timeline? Well, that forms the basis for some great questions: e.g. “How was your weekend? Got any fun plans this weekend?” etc.
As a side note, the shallowest small talk – the kind you may have with people you hardly know, or the kind you need to get the ball rolling – almost always starts in the center of the timeline (the Present). As you get more comfortable, start to move back and forth on the timelines.
I apolgize if I crammed too much into one diagram. If you want to go more in depth, check out The Conversation Code on amazon.