Sports are a great social lubricant – a cultural framework that allows professionals to self-identify and connect with others. Consulting was our first real-world job experience and we quickly found that most ‘how was your weekend?’ conversations centered around one of three things: kids, weather and sports.
We couldn’t relate to having kids, and the weather as a topic gets dry fast. Sports, on the other hand, were a common ground that we consistently used to form and solidify relationships with colleagues and clients alike. A known sports interest can become a go-to conversation starter when seeing someone at work, whether you’re discussing their alma mater, hometown team or fantasy team performance.
Talking sports in the office to build rapport is hardly a novel concept, but we believe there are some commonly-held misconceptions. When we were deciding to launch our company Primer Sports, part of our due diligence was talking to hundreds of busy professionals about their sports-fan habits. Here are two of our surprising but consistent takeaways:
Many people don’t know as much about sports as you might think.
The 24/7 sports media onslaught makes it seem as though everyone is constantly reading their Twitter feed, checking their fantasy team(s) and closely following the latest news about their favorite teams. In reality, people are busy. Life gets in the way of watching sports on the weekend.
You don’t need to be an expert to chime in and add value to a sports conversation.
General awareness of a story, a fun fact or a timely question to ask someone who knows more about an issue can help someone be part of the sports banter at work without feeling left out. Some great conversationalists we spoke with don’t know a ton about sports but make sure to ask their colleagues that do what they thought about the headline stories from the weekend.
Regardless of your level of knowledge, here are some easy-to-follow tips for upping your conversational ability, and how we used them when we were consultants:
Make it a habit.
Even if you have fewer than two minutes a day to spend on sports, scan the headlines of the sports news publication that’s most relevant to you. For us, this meant reading the sports section in the city of our projects.
Set a Google alert.
If there’s a team/league/issue that’s particularly important to someone in your life, set an alert and get a daily news update. We did this regularly for a client’s favorite team.
Share your own fandom.
This is a two-way street – people want to talk to you about your school or hometown team. We let clients know we were fans of our alma mater (go Tar Heels), and they brought it up regularly.
This post originally appeared on Vault.com and has been republished with permission. View the original post here.