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Business English Skill Set - Small Talk

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Lesson 1, Topic 2

Why is small talk important?

Kate July 21, 2020
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So now that you know what small talk is, why is this a skill worth mastering?

Whilst at first it may seem inconsequential, small talk is in fact an essential part of doing business and building strong and healthy relationships with clients formed on trust, loyalty and mutual respect.

Small talk shows the human side of your company. You are not just a business robot going through the motions, and neither are your clients! Show them that!

Think about it – would you rather do business with a company where you walk between business meetings in stony silence, or one where you are engaged with someone in friendly, chatty conversation and who helps you to relax?


In this TED talk from 2014, Julian Treasure has some invaluable advice on How to speak so that people want to listen and uses the acronym HAIL (Honesty, Authenticity, Integrity and Love) as the guidepost for his conversations.

Equally importantly, he talks about what things people don’t want to listen to. It is very difficult to listen to someone who is repeatedly negative. Complaining, which he describes as ‘viral misery’, is hard to listen to. Be sure also to avoid being dogmatic — recognise the difference between fact and opinion.


Quality small talk is important for:

  • Building relationships with people so you can work with them on an ongoing basis
  • Improving workplace atmosphere and general feeling of workers
  • Getting to know your clients and the people you work with – showing a genuine interest in them as human beings rather than just workers
  • Learning new things – learn from the people you work with (this could be business-related skills or just general knowledge)
  • Helping the people you are working with to relax and feel comfortable, thereby making them more open to proposals you may have
  • Improving your own self-esteem
  • Practising your English skills!

Activity

Choose one of the topics below. Take a moment to think and then try to talk about this topic for at least two minutes.

  • A film you liked.
  • A recent sports event.
  • A news story which interested you this week.
  • Your home town.
  • Your first job.
  • A food you like.
  • A hobby or interest.
  • A recent holiday or trip.

Ready to practise your small talk on one of more of these topics? Book a lesson with a teacher to practise what you have learnt so far.