Ever feel like you know someone after exchanging just a few words? There’s a lot behind that phenomenon, from speech rhythms to body language and even breathing, according to Dan Bullock and Raul Sanchez in Fast Company.

It’s easy to overlook the importance small talk, something that’s deeply rooted and a habitual part of our social fabric. But it turns out that small talk inspires much more than trivial babble, often setting in motion some of our most-valued relationships.

Studies show that small talk is responsible for nearly one-third of our speech, even if some cultures participate in it more than others. Being custodians of our own conversations by using small talk allows us to tap into relationship dimensions of power, solidarity, formality and function using what linguists call topic management to lead conversations toward intended outcomes, like business or networking pitches.

We often think the objective of our workplace conversations is to impart information, however, conversations also serve the purpose of maintaining relationships that stem from a deeper subset of linguistics called phatic communication. These synergistic forms of chitchat complement social and cultural considerations, rather than simply functioning to open dialogues. And there’s science behind the importance of these engagements.

You may wonder why you sometimes feel like you’ve known a person after only exchanging a few words. The familiarity has its roots in interpersonal synchronization, where speech rhythms, walking patterns and even breathing match with those of others simply from our shared perceptions that we notice as we acquaint ourselves with each other.

Findings from Princeton University on the act of human communication and storytelling revealed a powerful phenomenon called “neural coupling,” where our brains essentially get in sync during the act of storytelling. Researchers monitored audience members and storytellers via MRI machines and found that their brain waves synchronize during a powerful story, revealing that stories are one of our most powerful transcultural ingredients for communication.

Think of a networking situation where you jump-start a conversation with phrases like “Have you ever . . .,”; “What if . . .”; and “Did you know that . . .”

To make use of this information, be sure to approach small talk by forging a mind-to-mind connection with stories that:

  • Bond you with others over a professional, social or personal cause (pinpoint a shared value such as empathy, integrity, and honesty and then build a story around it).
  • Illustrate a skill, method or process important for personal growth (stories make things easier to remember just as with Isaac Newton and the apple).
  • Highlight how to overcome a shared challenge (think of powerful decision-making moments in your life that have the potential to inspire your counterpart to make similar decisions in their lives).