Tips from a comedian and a journalist on the art of going from small talk to big ideas – all summer long.

One afternoon, an article caught my eye on Twitter – all while procrastinating on writing a blog and giving myself a hard time about how I could choose some valuable insight to share with my clients.  (See below for the article and the book that it introduces)

During the course of 2017 my main projects have fallen into 3 main camps: culture change, performance improvement, and leadership capability.  It’s not quite as simple to simplify (if that’s a thing) the people side of things, as the folk involved have included creative designers, warehouse managers, retail directors, data analysts, senior operating committees and sales managers.

Anyhow, conversation unites this diversity.

Every one of these clients will attempt to talk with people daily… from those they know very well, through to those they have never met.  Whether they realise it themselves or not, there will be some kind of higher order agenda each party will be engaged in, during each interaction.  It could be about feeling more confident, being recognised, persuading the other to do something, or getting through the interchange unscathed politically. Sometimes it might be no more complicated than, “I wonder what the real purpose of us talking actually is?”

Everyone has a mindset or two of some description running upstairs in their head before, during & after conversations – few people become deliberately conscious enough of it to notice though.  More the pity.  More on that another time.  But these mindsets buzzing around sure do make a big difference to how people behave.  Consider the following list and how they might impact the way a conversation progresses:

  • She’s tricky and I don’t think she likes me much either
  • He’s a good guy and I trust him
  • She’s so much more experienced than me and might ask a question I can’t answer
  • She’s such a top performing star
  • He looks tired and worried, so I’d better go easy on him
  • He looks tired and worried, that’s his problem not mine
  • She makes me laugh, and we always get on well


All the above are ultimately perceptions of reality.  They aren’t fact necessarily.  They will though have an influence on what you hear, what you say, what you notice and how you act during that conversation.

Back to the article.  The guys who wrote it are a partnership of a comedian and a journalist.  That intrigued me immediately.  Two worlds colliding that inevitably means some creative friction and resultant innovation.  I bought their book, had a read and laughed a lot.  The 2 things they advised that really got my ideas flowing were:

“Ask for stories, not answers” and “Leapfrog over the expected response”

I won’t waste your time expanding on these because if these ideas intrigue you then read the article or book below.  Suffice to say, both ideas have caused me to experiment more during interactions.

There are times when they’ve helped me play it safe and keep things well and truly matched to the person I’m talking with so that they are comfortable and relaxed to then open up more – even if that has driven me nuts with impatience or boredom because it didn’t suit me personally.

There are times when they’ve helped me push the boundaries more and stretch the conversation to far more uncomfortable yet entertaining and exciting realms.

Both have their place.  Both have the opportunity to soar or crash.  Both come with health warnings yet in my opinion, life is too short and the opportunities so vast, to not try some new stuff with the approach of “I want to help you and me, be even more connected… so that we can both get and give more, of what we both want”


Click here for the article by Chris Colin & Rob Baedeker

The book that it showcases, by Chris Colin & Rob Baedeker, can be found here.