Some dos and don'ts

Small talk is an important skill because it avoids uncomfortable silences, helps you to get to know your work colleagues or classmates better and makes you sound more fluent.

Timing is important for small talk.


  • make small talk when there are others around
  • make small talk when people aren't busy
  • make small talk when peopler aren't already talking


  • make small talk during an important meeting or presentation
  • make small talk when people are already discussing a specific topic
  • make small talk when someone else is about to give you an explanation

Body language

Not all communication in English is about speaking. You need to have the right body language as well if you want to have more conversations in English.

For example, if a group of you are all waiting and you spend the whole time looking at your phone, it is unlikely anyone will come and speak to you.

On the other hand, if you are waiting and you are looking at other people and someone catches your eye and smiles, there is a strong chance they would like to have a chat.


  • smile
  • make eye contact
  • look approachable


  • sit with crossed arms and legs
  • face away from people
  • look at your phone all the time


Now you have picked the right time and place, what do you talk about? Everybody knows British talk about the weather. The important idea behind this topic is NOT to complain about it, but to get the other person to SPEAK.

Good conversation starters:

  1. Funny weather we've been having, haven't we?
  2. Gosh it's warm at night, I've been having trouble getting to sleep. What about you?
  3. Good weather for this time of year, isn't it?

Bad conversation starters:

  1. This weather is awful.
  2. I've never been so cold.
  3. It's too hot.
What's the difference between good conversation starters and bad conversation starters?

Good conversation starters are open questions which means the person you are talking to has to give more than a yes or no answer. Bad conversation starters only require the other person to give a minimal response which ends the conversation. Example:

  • This weather is awful. - Yes, it is.

More than just the weather

You can also talk about other topics that are not connected to the weather but make sure you use open questions that invite the other person to continue the conversation.

  • Universal topics - It's good to talk about current news, sports events and entertainment but match the topic to the right person. Don't talk about TV shows if they don't like them. An example, "The football last night had me on the edge of my seat. Wasn't that a great save at the end?"
  • The Day - If you don't know what the other person likes why not just ask them about their day. For example, "How's your day been so far?", "What're you planning to do later?" or "I went on a trip at the weekend and it rained the whole time. How was your weekend, any better?"
  • The Workplace -Good topics for small talk at work include talking about upcoming meetings, work parties or deadlines. For example, "Good morning, Sandra. I'm really looking forward to the party after work today. I hear John is bringing his famous flapjacks." or "What a busy day. We've the deadline for that report tomorrow. How's it going over at the finance department today?
  • Things in Common - If you notice that the people around you have similar interests to you, it's a big help for ideas. For example,"I notice you have a Real Madrid phone cover, is that your favourite team?" or "I see you have Nike trainers on, where did you get them from?"

Watch the video for 5 helpful rules on small talk

How many did you know already?

What type of questions should you ask during small talk?

What should you do when you answer someone during small talk?

What topics should you start small talk with?