In most English-speaking countries, it is normal and necessary to make “small talk” in certain situations. Small talk is a casual form of conversation that “breaks the ice” or fills an uncomfortable silence between people. Even though you may feel shy using your English, it is sometimes considered rude to say nothing.
If you look back in history, small talk has always been quite common, even in Prehistoric times. This funny video portrays 3 cavemen at work making small talk.
As you may well understand, Prehistoric cavemen didn’t excel at their command of English, so excuse their English, please.
So, how does small talk work in 21st century?
The most common type of people to use small talk are those who do not know each other at all. Though we often teach children not to talk to strangers, adults are expected to say at least a few words in certain situation.
People make small talk just about anywhere, but there are certain places where it is very common. Most often, small talk occurs in places where people are waiting for something. Some social events (such as a party) require small talk among guests who do not know each other very well.
Just as there are certain times when small talk is appropriate, there are also certain rules that everybody follows when small talking:
• use the person’s name
• listen and make listening noises (I see; yes, of course; really) and keep the conversation open by using question tags, reply questions, etc (see post) • limit the amount you talk; take turns
• show that you are interested with positive body language (eye contact, smile)
• look for common ground as a platform for topics
• avoid controversial topics, which means no politics, religion,salary or intimacies…well, nothing you would only confide a friend.
The hardest part about making small talk is knowing how to start a conversation. Review these conversation starters and try to do the practice. Finally, take the time to see how much you have learned about small talk by taking the Small Talk Quiz. And remember, in an English-speaking environment it is often better to make a few mistakes than to say nothing at all!
If you want to listen to some examples, try this site with interesting samples.
And here comes the time to leave… it was nice writing this post but I really have to leave now. See you around!