6 Ways To Master the Art of Small Talk

Not everyone was born with the gift of the gab* or the social confidence of a talk-show host. For non-native speakers in particular, small talk can be intimidating and anxiety-producing. But, according to Debra Fine, it’s the appetiser for any relationship, so it’s well worth mastering.

You just might meet a potential client, the love of your life, or a future employer at your next event.

Try and use these strategies to master small talk in any social environment—online or offline—and you might even learn to look forward to social events:

1. Be curious. Use the power of questions. The great thing about asking questions is that it takes the focus off you. A good question can keep the other person talking for a few minutes.

And a few decent questions on your part will also leave the other person thinking you’re a brilliant conversationalist. Just avoid questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.”

2. Be courteous with your attention. Nothing drains the energy from a conversation faster than one of the parties showing an obvious lack of interest. Maintain eye contact and be a good listener. This one tip will boost your success.

3. Steer the conversation to something interesting. The weather and the price of petrol might be fine for a few minutes, but everyone gets bored with this type of talk. Most people love to be part of an interesting conversation.

4. Avoid controversial topics. Religion and politics are questionable topics. Everyone has their own opinions, and those opinions rarely change.

Overly personal issues are another subject to avoid. You might have just come out of hospital, but keep that conversation for your best friend or your mother.

Find something to talk about that’s unlikely to lead to aggravation.

Something interesting in the immediate vicinity can be a good conversation starter.

5. Get the person’s name, remember it and use it often. Just imagine being able to use their name if you happen to bump into them again!

6. Smile. You appear more inviting and less intimidating when you smile. You’ll feel more confident, too. There’s no reason to grin all the time. Just smile easily.


The best way to master any new skill is to practise it. Use this information and work on your small talk skills. Master them, and you’ll expand your social possibilities.

You’d like to practise your conversation skills? Come and join our “Colourful Conversation” group on Thursdays from 5—6pm. You’ll master the art of small talk in no time whatsoever.

*gift of the gab = Redegewandtheit, Sprachgewandtheit


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