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How Small Talk Can Save Your Life

Posted Sep 27 2009 10:43pm

Make Small Talk

This guest post was written by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval, authors of THE POWER OF SMALL.

In today’s deadline driven, digital world, taking the time to ‘shoot the breeze’ with a coworker, neighbor, or passing stranger can seem like a waste of time.  But, in reality, nothing could be further from the truth.  Whether you’re a Washington politician or a barista at a local coffee shop, every one of us has the unique ability to inspire change in our lives and in the lives of others around us.  And small talk is the key.

When we were writing our book, THE POWER OF SMALL: Why Little Things Make All the Difference, we discovered a truly amazing story that brought our attention to the unexpected ways in which ‘small talk’ can change and save lives.  In this case, it all started with a cup of coffee and a simple conversation.

The Story of Annamarie and Sandie

Every morning, when Annamarie Ausnes would head to her local Starbucks to pick-up her usual coffee, she looked forward to making a bit of small talk with the barista, Sandie Anderson, but she never imagined that those little conversations would one day save her life.

Over time, what had begun as a casual, “How’s your morning?” or “Nice weather, huh?” eventually grew into more personal exchanges about their grandkids, weekend plans, and holiday traditions, until one day Sandie noticed something wasn’t quite right with her “short-drip double-cupped” customer. And instead of ignoring it, she decided to trust her instincts and asked one simple question: “Are you okay?”

At first, Annamarie was reluctant to confide in her barista buddy, but with a little prodding, she opened up.

“Actually, I’m not doing so well,” she sighed.  “I was just placed on the national kidney transplant list and I’m getting ready to go on dialysis.”

To her shock, Sandie would discover that her friendly customer faced a bleak future.  Distraught and determined to help, Sandie announced that she would get tested to see if she could become a donor.

As luck would have it, Sandie turned out to be a match and donated a kidney to Annamarie. Today Annamarie is not only alive and well, the two women are dear friends.  And it all started with a cup of coffee and a little small talk.

Of course, not all of us have the ability or courage to make the huge gesture Sandie made by donating her kidney to a virtual stranger, but by simply making small talk, we open ourselves up to new people, new experiences, and new opportunities.  As children, we make friends easily.  We ask for each other’s names, we join in and play with one another.  But as we grow older, we tend to close ourselves off, shield ourselves with technology, and forget to acknowledge the people who are right in front of us.

So put away the iPhone for a minute, look up from your laptop, and take the first step by saying hello to the stranger sitting next to you.  You never know, they just might be the hero you’ve been hoping for.

In Their Own Words

Here’s a short video clip of Annamarie and Sandie sharing their story in their own words:

Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval are co-authors of the national bestseller THE POWER OF SMALL: Why Little Things Make All the Difference, which debuted on the best seller lists of the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and The Washington Post.

Photo by: polandeze

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