What is small talk

Small talk is perhaps one of the weirdest cultural phenomena to exist in a language. Throughout centuries of linguistic development humans have tried to efficiently give a meaning to every word, action and event they might possibly encounter or create. They are all, in one way or another, functional. Or at least it would seem to be the case. However, when it comes to the phenomenon of small talk that changes completely.

Small talk is a type of conversation that is informal, common amongst all societal levels and most importantly does not carry a function. It is simply a filler.

While some types of conversations are meant for information gathering, others have educational values, and others help develop relationships, small talk does not accomplish any of these goals. It merely exists to fill in the pauses between other conversations that might have more meaning.

So how did small talk come to be? Well, first of all, when looking at the title of it, you might notice the adjective that would normally indicate a size of a thing. However, it is much more common for conversations or other cultural or especially linguistic encounters to be measured in length but small talk on the other hand indicates its irrelevance in the functional matter.

Small talk’s importance

Small equals not important? Not exactly. While it might not carry any further meaningful value than its beautiful upfront facade, small talk is anything but unimportant and mastering small talk can become a great feat (and a rather difficult one, you will see). 

If you wish to try and master small talk, head over to sciencebird.org/mastering-small-talk-tips to learn all about the tricks of this strange act of forming connections between people.

Being able to perform the act of small talk can come in handy in many situations, it may raise or save your social statues, but of course that is in most critical situations, in simpler scenarios it is solely your ability to connect and show yourself that is at stake.

It serves many purposes, including forming a bond and defining your relationships with people around you (you can read about different types of relationships and their categories at sciencebird.org/forming-relationships-what-to-call-them). It also starts a conversation, therefore showing initiative and confidence on your part, or may end a boring encounter without appearing rude or otherwise badly-mannered.

When is small talk used?

Small talk usually takes place between strangers, since it does not provide any in-depth conversation matter, personal information or carry a larger function, it is the best suitable option for two people, who do not know each other or anything about the other person, to interact. That is because small talk is simply an invitation to agreement (or in some cases, a vague response) rather than an actual question.

But small talk can also be used when trying to converse with people you do know, as it may serve as a conversation starter. However, in that case, it will be a conjugation, a bridge to a new conversation or even bond forming if applicable, rather than be left at an exchange of pleasantries, which would occur when speaking to a stranger.

What should I talk about?

There are a number of topics that a person may choose to display when interacting in the form of small talk. There is, however, certain topics that might be suited better than others, and therefore are more popular. These topics are chosen because of their neutral nature and little space for interpretation or negative feelings.It should be mentioned that they are to be chosen based on the level of knowledge a person has about the other person.

These topics include:

  • The weather
  • Health
  • Looks of a person
  • The surrounding objects or sceneries
  • Recent events
  • Popular news
  • Hobby talk (if a person is wearing hobby-related merchandise)
  • etc.

If you wish to master small talk as well and be able to converse with people from any background and with however much knowledge you might have, head over to sciencebird.org/mastering-small-talk-tips to become an expert at this social interaction.