Making Small Talk BIG

One of the things that people find difficult in a foreign language and even in their own language, is making small talk. Exchanging banal 'niceties' with someone can feel so false and meaningless. I would like to suggest that small talk can be meaningful and can really help to create connection with another human being.

The art of making small talk meaningful is to ask open questions with real curiosity and interest, questions that are personalised. Instead of saying: 'Did you have a good holiday?' You can ask 'What made this holiday memorable?' or 'What did you like best about Sardinia?' 


If someone tells you that they just moved to a new town, you can ask : 'What's it like living in Vevey?' rather than 'Do you like living in Vevey?'

Instead of saying 'Wow, it's really hot today isn't it?' You can ask 'How is the heat affecting your business?'

When someone tells you about a hobby they have, like cross-country skiing or stand-up paddling or paragliding, you can ask them 'How did you get into cross-country skiing?' or 'What do you really like about stand-up paddling?' or 'What is the biggest challenge when learning to paraglide?'

If you are afraid of being intrusive, a legitimate concern, you can begin your question with : 'I'm interested...' or 'I'm curious, ...' or 'I hope you don't mind me asking but what made you decide to work in this field?' You may have noticed that questions using 'What' or 'How' are more respectful and productive than questions beginning with 'Why', which can sound like an interrogation or a judgement.

It is easy to be genuinely interested in the person and what they have to say if you ask a carefully crafted open question. Don't hesitate to show this interest with your eye contact and your body language. (More about body language and posture in a future blog!)

Small talk can be an opportunity to show that you really value another person's opinion or experience. When someone feels genuinely valued, an immediate connection is created.

At Cambridge Express, I help you practice this art and at the same time to build your confidence in connecting with others in English.

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