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 awkward silence between people. Even though you may feel shy using your second language, it is sometimes considered rude to say nothing. Just as there are certain
times when small talk is appropriate, there are also certain topics that people often discuss during these moments.
Read through the “Who, What, Where, When, Why?” sections to gain a better understanding of small talk. The hardest part about making small talk is how to start a conversation. Review the conversation starters and practise them with a friend. Finally, take the time to see how much you have learned about small talk by taking the small talk quiz in the Tasks Section. And remember, in an English-speaking environment it is often better to make a few mistakes than to say nothing at all!
Small Talk: Who, What, Where, When, Why?
WHO makes small talk?
People with many different relationships use small talk. 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 situations (see where). It is also common for people who are only acquaintances, often called “a friend of a friend,” to use small talk. Other people who have short casual conversations are office employees who may not be good friends but work in the same department. Customer service representatives, waitresses, hairdressers and receptionists often make small talk with customers. If you happen to be outside when the mailman comes to your door you might make small talk with him too.