Here to return to the previous page
Paul Sparks, Sino-Canadian International College, Guangxi University, Nanning.
Plans for "Watch, Listen & Speak", Semester 2
Listening & Speaking, Role Playing: Making Small Talk
How to make Small Talk: If you can't make small
talk then you will have difficulty in approaching people. Just think about
all the possibilities this eliminates. When you're standing around with
someone you're not that close to, you'd rather look at your feet, play with
your nails, and daydream about the other night instead of forcing yourself
to make small talk. But small talk can lead to big talk, which can lead to
big people, and huge opportunities.
Small Talk Situations:
Situation 1: The first
You and your date are sitting at a cafe after having seen a movie. This is
always a tricky one because your small talk should lead to interesting
conversation and make a great first impression (assuming you like your
Ask a lot of questions:
Asking your date many questions is always a safe thing to do, since not only
does it help you get to know her and provides the basis of good
conversation, but asking questions is also a turn-on for women.
Questions show that you
have a genuine interest in your date, as long as you show her that you also
listen to her responses (she may quiz you later, believe me).
Ask her questions that
* Work-related: what she does; how she likes it; how long she's been working
* Family-related: what her family's like; what they do; whether they're
* Hobby-related: what she likes to do in her spare time; what she does on
* Pop culture-related: what kind of music she likes; what her favorite movie
is; whether she liked the movie you just saw, etc.
topics can be a whole article unto itself, but in a nutshell, keep the
conversation light, interesting and avoid anything philosophical, sexual and
Situation 2: The acquaintance...
You're at your best friend's engagement party, and a man who looks familiar
approaches you and starts talking to you. You just want to scope out the
single women and make your way to the bar for more vodka shots, but this guy
is awkwardly standing next to you.
Talk about who you know
and what you have in common
If you have common ground with a stranger, use it to your advantage. Don't
take the opportunity to gossip and bad mouth your mutual friends, rather use
it in order to fill up space and maybe make a friend while you're at it.
If you're at an
engagement party, for example, say how happy you are for the couple, and ask
questions about the person's relationship with the bride or groom, like how
long they've known each other.
And if you know he's a
member of the same golf club, talk about your drive, slice and what happened
at the club the other day.
Situation 3: The manager / colleague...
You're at your company's corporate Christmas party, and you're sitting at
the same table with your department -- which translates into your colleagues
How do you make small
talk with your manager, who only talks at you while barking orders?
Stay informed with news
and pop culture
Even though you want to make it look like you take your job seriously, it's
a good idea to show your manager that you still have time to watch the news,
read the paper and see movies. In other words, that you make time to stay
informed and that you're a well-rounded man. Your life should not only
consist of the codes, laws and rules that you encounter at work.
Make small talk by
mentioning whatever's in the news lately. "Did you hear about what
happened in England?" Or ask your manager whether he's seen the latest
James Bond flick.
When talking about
current affairs, try to avoid political topics; so if you know your boss is
a devout Republican, don't tell a George W. Bush joke, no matter how funny
you think it is. You can ask your manager what he feels about a certain
event to gauge what his political views are, but you might want to save that
conversation for an occasion when you're not sipping martinis all night
Situation 4: The pickup...
You've made your way across the bar and approached the stunning redhead.
Besides the fact that you're a sucker for redheads and their fiery
personality, you have no idea what to talk to her about.
You want to be yourself,
while making a good first impression and showing her that you're a good guy.
Talk about casual topics
You can't go wrong by being casual. Talk about how loud the music is. Make a
remark about how great the Cosmopolitans are and that she should try them.
Make a general comment about the situation you're in; don't worry, you won't
be able to have a whole conversation over the vibrating bass anyhow.
Just don't say anything
cliché or anything she expects to hear, like asking her if you know her
from somewhere, or if she "comes here often." Throw her off guard
by being more situation-based, like asking her where she bought her purse
because it's original. And take it from there.
Mixing it up with small talk...
Each of these small talk methods can be used for each situation; the one
highlighted for each section may just be the most recommended. So don't be
afraid to ask your manager how his golf game's going; ask your first date
whether she read John Grisham's latest novel; tell an acquaintance how great
your new car is; and ask the woman you're picking up whether she's ever been
And if all else fails,
just talk about the weather, which always gets people riled up (unless you
live in Florida).
As long as you avoid
anything personal, philosophical, political, and controversial -- at least
during a first encounter -- and know which questions to ask, you'll be
talking the talk and walking the walk... of a certified schmoozer.