Do you feel fairly comfortable speakingEnglish at a business meeting, making a presentation or negotiating a sale?
But what about when it comes to ‘small talk’ talk What is small talk?Small talk is pleasant conversation about common interests.
Does the thought of small talk in English make you nervous?
Do you feel scaredwhen you try to start informal conversations using English?
Do you suddenly forget what to say or how to speak English at all?
Don’t worry, small talk can even be a challenge for native speakers. We’re all in the same boat, as they say.The good news is that we have some tips to make small talk much, much easier!
Why can small talk be a challenge? You can talk about nearly any subject when you make small talk, the challenge is to have a fairly wide vocabulary
What is the solution?Expand your vocabulary by spending time on the Internet, reading magazines, or watching TV - especially documentary style shows and local orworld news reports of general interest.
Why is small talk important? Small talk helps to avoid uncomfortable silences.
SMALL TALK IS IMPORTANT BECAUSE … It helps you get to know more about other people who you interact with. It is a gentle way to lead in to business discussions and it’s a good sign of friendly intentions. Small talk can help soften a parting, Leaving both parties feeling happy and relaxed
HOW TO GET SMALL TALK STARTED.If your mind goes blank, DON’T PANIC! The secret is to think ‘wow’.
Wow? Well actually ‘w’ + ‘how’Being skillful at small talk involves using appropriate questionswell, so just remember the five ‘w’ question words and ‘how’? Use those words to ask some questions get the conversation started and to help it keep flowing
Appropriate subjects for small talk.Try to find something that you are both interested in, or something that you have in common. I see you’re reading the rugby results, did you catch last game on TV?
Inappropriate subjects for small talk.Keep things light, avoid discussing religion or politics or making people feel like you know better or more than they do. So, which do you think is the best religion? Don’t ask questions that are too personal. Tell me Bob, how much money do you earn here? Try not to make criticisms. What do you think of the company’s ridiculous decision to promote John in Sales?
A Warning!Don’t ask too many questions all in a row in case you sound nosey or as if you’re interrogating the person that you‘re talking to, that could make them feel uncomfortable.
Names are important!Introduce yourself clearly and pay attention when the other person gives you their name. Remembering someone’s name makes the other person feelimportant and will make small talk so much easier next time you meet them. Here’s a tip for how to remember someone’s name.When the person tells you their name, use it a few times straight away in your conversation – that will help you commit it to memory. For example: Nice to meet you Mike. Tell me, Mike, do you …. It’s interesting you should say that Mike …..
Make sure that you share some information about yourself. Find a good balance between conversation about you andyour interests and the other person and their interests. That way both parties will enjoy the conversation.
Body Language & Position Don’t stand too close to people when engaging in small talk. Being insomeone’s‘personal space’ will likelymake them feel uncomfortable.Don’t stand too far away or they may think that you are scared of them. Generally about an arms length away is a good distance.Also be aware of your body language, standing with your arms crossed may make you seem unfriendly, as if you disagree with what the other person is saying.
Your ears are important! Listen carefully to what the other person is saying, then see if you can use something they’ve said to carry on the conversation. This will help the conversation to flow nicely.You like to travel, you say? So, where would you recommend for a great holiday destination? I went to the coast last year, have you ever been there?
Don’t be afraid of change!Let the conversation flow from one subject to another naturally, new topics are not a bad thing.Nice weather we’re having. Yes, much better than Central America, that storm looks like it’s going to hit themhard. That’s no good, I hope it blows itself out before it gets there. Speaking of Central America I had a great holiday in Venezuela a few years back, have you ever been there?
Laying the foundation for your next chat! Sometimes we’re so nervous about making small talk that we don’t pay much attention to what they other person is saying.But remembering a few important details from your converstation will make small talkmuch easier next time. It’s well worth the effort. Eg. Make a mental note (or even a written one) at the end of your conversation: Mike grew up in America, speaks Chinese fluently, has three kids, holidays in the Carribbean and loves golf.
How to finish ‘small talk’.End the conversation with something nice. Make good eye contact to show your sincerity and give the person a friendly smile. ‘It was lovely to meet you’, ‘it was nice talking to you today’, ‘have a great day’, or ‘let’s catch up another time’.
Relax!Now all you need to do is ‘relax’ and enjoy becoming skilful at making small talk. It’s a fantastic way to make friends and have great relationships with others whether at work or socially – so what are you waiting for?