The ability to make small talk is a valuable social and professional skill. Many successful newcomers report that learning to make small talk and showing interest in their colleagues has been crucial to retaining a job and advancing their careers.
Small talk, or chit-chat, is pleasant conversation about casual topics and shared interests. It’s built around finding common ground with others, learning about them, and letting them get to know you. While small talk is often about trivial topics, it’s not insincere. It’s an important way of building connections and fitting in in the Canadian workplace. As you get to know someone better, your conversation may progress to include discussions on deeper issues.
The following five tips will give you a boost in making small talk in the workplace.
1. Be approachable
Show your colleagues that you are approachable by having an “open stance”—for example, smile, make eye contact, don’t cross your arms. Acknowledge the other person. Offer a friendly greeting or question. Examples that you can use are:
•Hi! How are you?
•Hey, good to see you!
•How was your weekend?
•What did you think about last night’s game?
•Can you believe how much snow we got?
Asking open-ended questions is a good way to engage other people and give them the opportunity to say something about themselves.
2. Find common interests
Some good small talk topics include:
•the daily weather or the weather forecast
•the news (especially sports news, entertainment news, or news related to your profession)
•asking someone about their weekend or vacation
•sports or other special interests
As you get to know someone better through making small talk, look for common ground. This can provide you with ongoing topics for small talk.
3. Stick to casual topics
Making small talk is a way of getting to know someone, so it’s best to stick to “safe” topics. Avoid asking questions about matters that may be considered controversial or more personal, such as religious beliefs, strong political views, and personal information (for example: salaries, marital status, health issues, personal appearance, difficult family events, etc.).
Make eye contact, use friendly body language, and focus your whole attention on what the other person is saying. Be sincerely curious about the other person’s experience. Listen for key points, and give positive feedback: “Yes,” “That’s interesting,” “I understand.”
Being a good listener will give you cues about how to continue or close the conversation, whether to ask the person another question, or politely end the interaction: “Good to chat,” “Have a good day,” “Catch you later.”
5. Share something about yourself
Be sure to share something about yourself in the conversation. Usually the person you’re talking with will ask you a reciprocal question: if you ask them about their weekend, they will probably ask you about yours. Sharing something about your experience and interests helps you to build a connection with your co-workers. You can also use light humour in small talk, which can help to show a positive attitude.
Take action: Use these tips to make small talk with three new people this week. If you would like to share your experiences with other newcomers, we would be happy to hear from you. Email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have questions about employment or the workplace, the Manitoba Start program offers free career development services to newcomers. Visit us at: www.manitobastart.com.