Tourists show more interest in the pigeons of Trafalgar Square than in Nelson’s Column. And more attention is given to the squirrels of Russell Square, than the looming Senate House or BT Tower.
Why is this?
In part, this is because little things matter to us. Big things are important but usually it’s the small things that pre-occupy our minds. We tend to accord them a disproportionate level of importance.
In a metaphorical sense the same is true when it comes to communicating.
Trying to convey a big message without firstly addressing people’s individual and smaller concerns doesn’t work because people are not in a ready state to listen and engage with you.
People are more likely to listen to your ‘big’ message if in the first place you’ve dealt with their own personal and specific concerns.
A smile is also a small thing, but can make the difference between a bad encounter and a good one. People also generally like it when you remember their names, or offer them a drink before you get talking.
The small things which help put people at psychological ease and build rapport must be addressed first before you can develop a meaningful conversation.