Small Talk

What it is and Why we do it

Small talk is a short, informal conversation or discourse and a type of social communication.  It is really conversation for its own sake.

Small talk is usually made between people who do not know each other well or at all.

It is used for a number of purposes: to “break the ice” and start a conversation between two people; to keep a conversation going and fill in ‘gaps’ to avoid awkward silences; to fill time while waiting for something, and to end a conversation in a non-abrupt manner.

Small talk also allows two speakers to show each other that they have friendly intentions and, in business, to establish each other’s reputation and level of expertise. Used to fill in ‘gaps’, small talk makes people- who as social beings find silence uncomfortable, even disrespectful – to feel more at ease.  Using small talk to end a conversation affirms the relationship between both parties and avoids ending the exchange suddenly.

In workplace situations, small talk often occurs between co-workers and peers, as well as between managers and supervisors and the staff who report to them.

The need to make small talk depends on the nature of the relationship between the people having the conversation. For example, if you see a co-worker in the lunchroom tor the first time, you might introduce yourself, say hello and comment on the weather or sports. The next time you see each other might be the right time to initiate a casual conversation provided the other person smiles and acknowledges you.

While small talk may seem like meaningless chatter to some internationally- trained professionals, it is an important skill they need to learn.

Small talk is not ‘small’ in importance: it can help a person build a meaningful connection with someone else, and will benefit him or her in their professional work.