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The Introvert's Guide to Small Talk

Small talk is big. It is HUGE. It is everywhere and it is an important skill.

Small talk is the small informal filler conversation in day to day life.

Small talk can feel awkward and weird because it looks like a conversation without an explicit and obvious purpose. But it has a purpose. Small talk fills awkward gaps in conversations and helps pave the way for deeper conversation and friendship (if wanted).
The android Data miming a conversation
Small talk is vital for networking in offices and conferences. It is the multitool for conversations.

It can be used to start conversations.

"How is the weather outside? Is it suppose to rain?"

And it can be used to end conversations.

"Yep, it is raining cats and dogs right now."
"Really? I better to run to catch my bus. It was nice chatting with you."

Five Topics for Small Talk

Here are my five go to topics for small talk.

  • Weather

    Everyone can talk about the weather. It is a good small talk topic but can feel dated and boring, especially if your location is always sunny or cold. It probably was the first small talk topic.

  • Pets

    Many people have them and those that do often love to talk about them. You get to see pictures, learn about childhood pets, or maybe why they don't have a pet. You probably will be asked if you have a pet as well.

  • Vacations

    Everyone either just came back or are planning their next vacation. Vacations can tell you much about what a person likes or dislikes and can easily lead into other topics. People are often very happy to talk about vacation.

  • Hobbies

    Some people read or watch movies. Some people go rock climbing or biking. Everyone has something they do when they aren't at work. There are many hobbies out there in the world and the only way to learn about them all is to ask.

  • Conversation piece

    Code shirts, code pins, figurines, and laptop stickers all fall into this category. Remember to compliment only what someone obviously chose.

These topics work best when phrased as a question. This encourages the other person to engage in the conversation and choose what level of detail they want to give.

Ending Small Talk

Being that small talk doesn't have an explicit point, it can be easier to end than other conversations. I often thank the person, state when I can chat again, and then leave.

"It was good chatting with you but I have to get going, I'll talk to you later!"

Small talk doesn't have to be scary or frustrating. It is a valued multitool for conversation, networking, and modern life.

Top comments (9)

rhymes profile image

When I saw the title of the post I clicked thinking it was an introvert guide to the language Smalltalk :DD

I tend to think that weather is a topic you bring up if you don't actually want to talk with the other person or you run out of options :D The other four can lead up to pretty interesting conversations even if then it might be hard to ending those conversation if you feel uncomfortable.

Networking is a tricky business ;D

nijeesh4all profile image
Nijeesh Joshy

me too

ruvans profile image
Ruth Evans

Thank you for sharing, I hate small talk but I've been practising and it's getting easier. I read a book called 'How to talk to anyone' and picked up some tricks,

  • Use their name
    People like to hear their name and it shows that you know who they are.

  • Never use a naked answer
    When someone asks you a question and you want to continue the conversation try not to give a plain or one-word answer.
    e.g. When Jane from QA asks if you have any pets, instead of saying 'no' say 'no, I'd like a cat but I'm allergic' or 'no, but I'd love to get a Labrador some day'.

  • Get a conversation piece
    As mentioned above, it's an good way to start a conversation so if you need to network try to have or wear something that will give people an easy way to start a conversation with you. A pokemon pin could help you find someone with common interests, a 'I <3 python' sticker on your laptop might lead to a job offer, who knows!

loilo profile image
Florian Reuschel

People like to hear their name [...]

That's a scientifically proven fact, right?

Because I, personally, find it rather annoying. My boss is doing it all the time, but I may just dislike it because I know he's been trained to do so back when he worked in a callcenter. It probably only works as long as it seems genuine.

ruvans profile image
Ruth Evans

Not a fact, just a generalisation. Sorry your boss is using yours in a way that feels uncomfortable.

Thread Thread
loilo profile image
Florian Reuschel

In his defense, he's not using it in a creepy way or anything like that. But he explicitely told us he learned to do so at work in a callcenter – which leads to kind of automatically associating it with some subtle way of manipulation.

Anyway, from their perspective (a marketing perspective) this probably makes sense if it's well-received on average.

vdedodev profile image
Vincent Dedo

While I've always described myself as an introvert, I would say that I've gone from insecure introvert to assertive introvert since I started working in development. Small talk isn't part of the job description and I don't have to do it if I don't want to. I've noticed that small talk can be used to fill time so you can talk about anything. I'll talk about D&D, cultural differences, food, martial arts, etc. and people often. If they don't care or talk about stuff I don't care about then I'm done, introverts can live without small talk.

tux0r profile image

I usually avoid any smalltalk. Works well.

jwinder profile image
Joe Winder

I try to ask questions that invoke positive answers. For example, instead of "how was your day?", ask "did anything exciting happen to you today?"