What is “small talk” and how can I master it?

“Small talk” ––casual conversation that is light safe and impersonal in content––is an essential component of everyday manners. It is what comes after someone has “broken the ice.” Participating in small talk is an everyday event and it is important to know how to do it properly.

First, small talk requires the cooperation of both parties. At the beginning, if only one person is asking questions and the other person is answering in short phrases, the conversation will eventually stop. If both parties are contributing equally by responding to questions and then asking other questions, the conversation will continue.

Second, if both people seem interested in conversing, they may have to try several subjects before they find one that they are both interested in. If a person mentions that he is from Dallas, for instance, then you can ask about the city and what kinds of things are interesting to do there. If a person mentions that he is just visiting the city where you are, then you can ask how long he will be in town and whether he is on business or just sightseeing. If you mention that you are from Japan, he will probably start asking you about your country or telling you about the time he visited Japan.

Another good way to continue a conversation is to ask the other person’s advice on subjects related to his or her hobbies or general expertise. If he is interested in baseball, then ask which team he supports. If she is interested in gardening, then ask advice on how she takes care of her plants. If she is a businesswoman, then ask about what kind of work she does.

“Small talk” may lead nowhere or it may lead to lasting friendship, but whichever the case, it is important to leave a good impression by showing interest in other person and a willingness to show who you are.