Walk the Walk with Small Talk
It’s a necessary evil in the workplace. No, I’m not talking about meetings. No, I’m not talking about overtime. No, I’m not even talking about giving presentations. I’m talking about the dreaded small talk. Someone walking by your cube or riding in the elevator with someone are situations where small talk will present itself. Small talk can last anywhere from 30 seconds to a couple of minutes and it can be awkward for a lot of people. The ill timed pauses and the filler phrases like ‘so…’ and ‘yeah…’ start to infiltrate the conversation. However, there are a couple of topics you can almost always use to navigate through small talk.
1. The Weekend
This is probably one of the easiest topics to small talk about. ‘What are you doing for the weekend?’ ‘How was the weekend?’ This allows each of you to share your plans. Also, you can learn more about someone outside of work. Perhaps someone is a runner and they are training for a marathon or maybe someone is going to see their favorite artist in concert. So now not only are you engaging in small talk you are also learning about that person outside of work.
2. Current Events (not controversial)
Now I said not controversial, because you don’t want to walk into work talking about politics, religion, or other touchy subjects that might be inappropriate to discuss at work. There are plenty of relevant topics you can talk about in the news that can prompt a short easy conversation. I always start the morning with news when I am getting ready for work so that I can be aware of what’s going on in the World so I can be in on any conversation that might begin at work. ‘Have you seen what’s going on in the stock market?’ ‘Did you hear the latest news about our company?’ ‘Did you watch the Royal Wedding?’ ‘Did you hear that Pyeongchang, South Korea is hosting the 2018 Winter Olympics?’
You should always be able to encapsulate what you are working on at work. Special projects, important dates, and deliverables are any of the work items that you can share. You can ask anyone about how work is going, but prepared to share as well. ‘How is work going?’ ‘Did you get started on Project XYZ?’
This is ALWAYS an ‘old faithful’ when it comes to small talk in the workplace. ‘Did you see the game last night?’ ‘What do you think about the NBA/NFL lockout?’ ‘Did you play any sports as a kid?’ ‘Are your kids athletes?’ This is an easy way to get the conversation going and you can possibly identify a fellow fan or establish a friendly workplace rivalry.
5. Family (kids/pets)
This is probably the hardest topic for me to grasp in the world of small talk primarily because I don’t have a family. However, it is a good way to kick start small talk, because those who have kids ALWAYS have something going on. From birthdays, to family vacations, to funny things that their children do and say, to graduations, there is always something to share. ‘How old are your children?’ ‘When do they start school?’ ‘Where are they looking to attend college?’ ‘I remember you saying little Jacob was sick, is he feeling better?’ Pets also are a great way to spark a conversation. People LOVE their pets.
Everyone watches something!! I have heard (and been a part of) so many conversations that started around: The Office, American Idol, Two and a Half Men, Superbowl commercials, The Voice, Weeds, True Blood, and the list goes on and on….and on! Chances are if you watch a show someone you work with probably does or has at least heard about it.
So there you go, a list of topics that will help keep you from the awkwardness that small talk can bring. Now, it’s time to hear from you! What are other ways that you engage in small talk with those that you work with?
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