30 Tips on the art of small talk!

Communications Tips (NRI and ESL Tips): Small Talk – how to carry-on a conversation effectively.

“Conversation should touch everything, but should concentrate itself on nothing.” ~ Oscar Wilde

I have written before on the importance of small talk . Small talk is a conversation, chit-chat or an informal discussion without any specific topic or subject. Small talk generally is not a problem if we are among our family and friends; there is always something to talk about. However, once we step into a wider social circle, it may become challenging at times to keep the conversation going or even start a conversation. Here are some of the tips on how to avoid uncomfortable situations, and carry on a small talk in all types of social settings:

1. Be a good listener: Pay attention and listen to what others are talking about. Good listening provides additional understanding about the people we are communicating with.

2. Introduce yourself if needed: Introduce yourself first, especially if you are in a new to the gathering, party or event.

3. Take queue from other’s conversation: This helps with the continuity of the discussion.

4. Ask questions…small ones: Questions or clarifications are important to understand the others involved in the conversation. The questions could be about the discussion going on, or general questions to ‘get-to-know’ the company.

5. Understand your audience: As a part of the introduction, try to learn as much as possible about others involved in discussion.

6. Be sincere: Its okay to let others know if you don’t know the topic of discussion or the question being asked, especially when  joining an on-going conversation. Providing an honest response will add to your legitimacy.

7. It is good to be bubbly…not superficial: Showing enthusiasm about a topic is good. However, avoid sounding superficial.

8. Do your homework: Knowing about the company or event ahead of time always helps with preparing for the occasion..

9. Learn the culture, language and slang: If you are new to the area, learn the local customs, language and local slang as much as possible.

10. Avoid long silent pauses: Long silence can certainly kill the flow of the discussion.

11. Induce others to join in: Don’t take over the discussion, small talk is all about going back and forth; encourage others to respond or join in.

12. Be relevant: Try to stay on the topic as much as possible. A slow transition into related topic is okay, but do not jump all over the place.

13. Keep the discussion light: Not everybody loves serious discussions or philosophy.

14. Offer suggestions…small ones: A good relevant suggestion, idea or a tip always help with the conversation; it makes you look smart :)!

15. Weather, sports and movie topics always help: These are good conversation starters as I mentioned in my previous writings on small talk.

16. Don’t interrupt: It is never a good idea to interrupt even in small talk. Let the speaker finish.

17. Share personal stories….short ones: Its okay to personalize the small talk based on real life stories or incidents.

18. Tell a joke…only if it is right for the occasions: Relevant jokes can lighten up the conversation and make it more interesting.

19. Don’t tell a joke… at someone else’s expense: It is never a good idea to make fun of others involved in or related to the discussion.

20. Understand the occasion: Make sure to stay with the mood of the occasion. This is a common courtesy to everybody present.

21. Do not be judgmental or opinionated: Small talk is all about creating a friendly vibe, not to judge others.

22. Avoid criticism of mutual friends or colleagues: Criticizing a mutual friend will always come back to haunt you. Just don’t, even in small talk.

23. Social etiquette: Be cordial and respectful to everybody involved -directly or indirectly- in the small talk.

24. Talk about food, not losing weight: Unless it is specifically related, avoid discussing the negative impact of the party or the gathering.

25. Avoid personal attacks: Rude comments and picking on someone should be avoided at all cost.

26. Know your boundaries: Make sure to avoid taking on topics that make others unconformable or are considered unfit for the occasion.

27. Take clues from your listener: Listen and feel the person(s) you are talking to. If others are showing little interest, something is missing in your small talk.

28. Avoid shouting and yelling: A commonsense, right? Even minor shouting in general or yelling at kids etc. creates too much distraction and spoils the mood of conversation.

29. Know when to stop: If nobody is showing interest or if you are getting subtle negative signals from your listeners, it is probably a good time to discontinue the monologue :) !

30. Know when to excuse yourself…or leave: Under extreme circumstances, if the talk is turning hostile or if you are being verbally attacked, leaving the scene may be a good idea. It may not be your fault, but conflicts and quarrels don’t go well with social etiquette. If you know the cause of this negative atmosphere, use it as a lesson for the next small talk. There is always a next time

The small talk is essential part of any conversation as I wrote before in the article on the importance of small talk. Many of these suggestions are commonsense and you are most likely using some of them. Consider further improving your small talk by using these tips; practice makes it perfect. :) !

Finally, to master the art of small talk and for small talk ideas, take a look at this article on the most common topics or examples : ’21 Topics for Small Talk Conversation for all occasions’; it is quite a useful and helpful piece of information.

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