Small Talk 101

By Amanda Gordon

We all know it. We all hate it. It may be invisible, but it’s the elephant in the room. It can practically be touched, tasted, smelled and heard. The awkward silence. It is traditionally filled with sounds such as ticking clocks, elevator music, and the occasional cricket chirping. Although they are mere background noises, the formerly listed somehow emphasize the silence and appear to lengthen it.
Most of us aren’t as lucky as Mia Wallace and Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction. It’s not that easy to find someone with whom “you can just shut… up for a minute and comfortably enjoy the silence with”. But the awkward silence’s kryptonite? Good, old-fashioned small talk. Mastering the art of or merely enjoying conversation takes time, because situations and people always vary. Naturally, it isn’t the most exciting thing in the world; most groundbreaking conversations won’t occur in the Starbucks coffee line. However it’s the spark to many relationships and a great way to network. Next time you find yourself suffocated by an awkward quiet, these small talk tips can be of your assistance:

  1. Start with the basics: because flat out asking for someone’s life story might not go so well
  • The weather (the epitome of small talk)
  • Current events (not too controversial, but bonding over your hatred of a certain orange presidential candidate is acceptable)
  • “How are you?” (beware this could lead to a conversation rut if the person answers “good”)
  • Compliments (genuine compliments are the best and give you and the person something to further discuss)

2)  Ask about what you like: because common interests make talking so much easier
  • Music: “So, the Frank Ocean album?”
  • Movies/Shows: “Have you seen (insert latest blockbuster)”
  • Places: “Have you tried that new restaurant downtown?”
  • Books: “Have you read the new Harry Potter book?”

3) If all else fails, remember: a conversation is two-sided. Don’t be discouraged if someone is particularly brusque in their responses! It’s not your fault.


  1. Great chit chat advice! A compliment always leads me to a conversation.

  2. I like seeing instructional articles on Lithium. The advice very useful and formatted clearly for the reader!