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Business English Skill Set - Small Talk

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What is Small Talk?

Kate July 21, 2020

Before we begin, let’s go over some vocabulary you will find in this section of the course. Feel free to refer back to this page as you move through this section.

Vocabulary:

Acquaintance (noun) – someone who you know, but not on a very deep or personal level

Gossip (noun/verb) – Talking about other people, normally in a negative way and often speculating about their personal lives

Tact (noun) – sensitivity, skill in navigating difficult or sensitive topics

Inconsequential (adjective) – irrelevant, something that doesn’t matter

Tactful (adjective) – to be able to navigate difficult or awkward topics with tact, sensitivity

Bump into (phrasal verb) – to encounter someone by chance

(To be) on/off the table (phrasal verb) – to be discussed (on) or not discussed (off)

Best bet (phrase, informal) – The option which is the best or most likely to be successful


What is small talk?

Small talk refers to the polite conversation we make with people. It allows us to build upon existing relationships, and avoid uncomfortable silences.

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines small talk as “light or casual conversation.”

We engage in small talk with people we don’t know very well, people that we are meeting for the first time, people that we work with and bump into, and people that we see from time to time.

Small talk is an essential Business English skill for building professional and comfortable business relationships based on mutual respect. It is also a useful tool for networking. Good small talk will help your colleagues and clients feel at ease when working with you, which in turn will make them more open to suggestions or proposals you may have for projects.


In this lesson we will learn more about what exactly small talk is, what topics you should talk about (how to get beyond discussing the weather and current business projects) and why small talk is such an important skill for doing business in English.

If you’re ready, let’s get started!