small talk english

Not everyone’s a natural at small talk

“By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin

Do you prepare for small talk?

Not only natural small talkers are good at small talk. How much time do you spend preparing for a presentation? Let’s assume you don’t make those up as you go, why should it be different with small talk? Being a confident small talker means you need to be prepared and give some thought to what you can ask and say.

Knowing what to ask

When you are back in France visiting your colleagues at the local plant, recall prior conversations you had. What did you talk about in the past? Holidays, children, work, hobbies? Remembering specifics is great but not necessary. Perhaps you remember that your colleague told you they were going on holiday, but you forgot when and where. Ask something like, “The last time I saw you, you mentioned you were going on holiday. How was it?”

New Call-to-action

hbspt.cta.load(455190, ‘fb6190cd-7261-42f7-a8fd-cf6e754676d6’, {});

Knowing what to say

When you know you will be put in situation where you must make small talk, for example lunch with a client or visiting a project site, think about what contributions you can make. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What interesting books or movies have I read or seen recently?
  • What are my upcoming holiday or weekend plans?
  • What interesting places have I traveled to or visited recently?
  • What new projects am I excited about at work?
  • What new challenges am I facing at work?
  • What are my current hobbies?

Answering these questions to yourself will help prepare you with topics of conversation to share in small talk that you feel are safe. Try to have three or four experiences or contributions in mind before entering a small talk situation.

Remember what small talk is

“Every great romance and each big business deal begins with small talk. The key to successful small talk is learning how to connect with others, not just communicate with them.” Bernardo J. Carducci

It’s great to ask your small talk partner questions about themselves- it shows sincere interest. However, if you only ask questions and never share anything about yourself, it will sound like a job interview at best or an interrogation at worst. Try to strike a balance between listening and speaking.

For more small talk, here’s one I wrote earlier: Open up your small talk