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How to make small talk in English!

You may be able to give a speech or talk about your favourite topic, but can you make small talk? Small talk is when you chat about the weather, cinema or family while you’re at lunch, in a pub or waiting for the lift. In business, small talk is really important! In fact, your professional relationship is as important as your social one.

However, making small talk isn’t as easy as it sounds. So, just to help you, here are our top tips for making small talk in English.

1. LISTEN!

The number-one rule when making small talk is to listen. And while you’re listening, try to remember what the other person is saying. Then, use this information to create more conversation. For example, if the other person is talking about surfing, you could ask when she learnt to surf, where she goes surfing, and what she likes about it. Try to stop thinking about you want to say, and listen more to what the other person is saying!

 

2 HOT TOPICS

One of the biggest problems with small talk is what to say. To help you, use one of these popular topics: the news, film, football, sport, music, the weather, fashion, literature, cars, hobbies, the weekend, videogames, the theatre, family, local topics (shops, clubs, etc.), TV, celebrities, scandals, holidays, travel, entertainment, work, your hometown, food, traditions, customs
For example:
a) I went to this great restaurant last night.
b) What are you doing this weekend?
c) I saw this incredible film last week.

3 ASK QUESTIONS!

In order to keep the small talk conversation going, ask lots of questions. However, try to use question words such as who, why, what, when and where. These will force the other person speak more. For example:
a) What did you think of the conference? NOT: Did you like the conference?
b) Where did you go for your last holidays?
c) Who did you see at the party last week?

4 SHOW INTEREST!

While you’re talking, focus on that person. And use your body language to show that you’re interested: face the person, use eye contact and nod your head at the right time. That way, you’ll appear to be interested. Also, use words and sounds such as “ah ha / really? / yes / amazing!” to show that you’re following things!

5 FOLLOW UP!

Follow up on everything that the person you’re talking to tells you. For example:
a) You’re a lawyer, aren’t you? How did you get into law?
b) So, you like tennis, don’t you? How often do you play?

6 CHECK YOUR EGO!

Try to avoid turning the conversation back on yourself. For example, if someone mentions that they’ve just been to Italy, don’t say, “Oh, I’ve been there.” Instead, use this information to ask lots of questions: Where did you go? Who did you go with? What was it like? What did you see?

7 BE CAREFUL!

Avoid saying anything that sounds like criticism; and keep away from topics such as religion and politics.

8 PRACTISE!

Practise making small talk whenever you can. For instance, you could chat with cashiers, waiters and taxi drivers. Or, you could try to make small talk with strangers when you’re in a queue, in a lift or at the doctor’s. The more you practise, the better you’ll get.

9 READ!

Keep up-to-date on the latest news. By doing this, you’ll always have something to talk about. Above all, try to read things on a wide variety of topics: cookery, television, music, sports, fashion, art, baseball, hip-hop, shoes, poetry… anything goes!

10 WRITE IT DOWN!

Write down any interesting stories you hear. Also, make a note of funny things that have happened to you. Later, you can use this during conversations. For example:
a) I’ve had a terrible day. Just as I was leaving home…
b) Something really funny happened to me the other day. Just as I got to work…
c) I had a nightmare at the hotel yesterday.
d) I heard this funny story on the news last night.

11 THINK “SITUATION”!

Think carefully about where you are. For example, if you’re at a wedding, think of all the things you could ask: How do you know the bride? How long have you been friends with the groom? How did you get here? Where are you staying?

Or, if you’re visiting a new company, you could ask the following: What’s it like working here? How easy is it to get into the city centre? Where’s a good place to get lunch round here?

Conclusion

Small talk can be a lot of fun, but you need to prepare for it and practise. And remember, small talk can lead to big business! So, use these top tips and learn how to make really good small talk in English!

Definition

“Small talk” = casual conversation based on trivial topics (such as the weather, cinema, family, etc.) in an informal setting: while waiting for a bus, in a lift, at a business lunch, having a coffee in a café, at a party, etc.

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