U.S. Culture: Small Talk

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Are you good at making small talk?

Small talk is when you make polite conversation about trivial or uncontroversial matters such as the weather or sports. It’s also known as chitchat, and it’s the best way to make connections for people who don’t know each other well.

Americans like making small talk while waiting in lines, or in elevators, for example, but small talk skills are also needed at parties, on the job, in class, or anyplace where you don't know others well. I speak with many English learners daily. Typically they are quite proficient in the vocabulary of their work but they lack small talk skills. If you find yourself in the middle of an awkward silence, then try some of these best small talk topics:: 
  1. Weather
  2. Sports
  3. Arts and entertainment
  4. Current news
  5. Traffic
  6. Travel
  7. Work
  8. Hobbies
  9. Whatever holiday is closest
  10. Hometown
  11. Family
Avoid the following worst small talk topics. These are small talk “don’ts”:
  1. Personal finances
  2. Religion
  3. Politics
  4. Complaints
  5. Death
  6. Sex
  7. Weight
  8. Age
  9. Health isues
  10. Relationship and family problems
  11. Gossip

If you’re not experienced at making small talk, try thinking of one thing to say for every item in the “best small talk topics” list. You’ll find yourself making social connections and actually enjoying yourself as you wait in that long line or attend that party, or participate in that international conference. Chitchat and have fun interacting with others.

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