Small Talk Topics

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How to work a room? How to start a conversation with a stranger? Here Small Talk Examples For Conversation! In this Explearning lesson, I give you small talk topics and small talk examples so that you can talk to anyone with ease and confidence. I teach you how to have deep conversations starting with small talk!

Small talk can be a daunting task. What subject should you broach? What should you ask? When should you talk? All of this uncertainty concerning small talk make it seem more overwhelming than it needs to be. 

But we’re here to help. 

Using our Explearning CAP framework, you’ll be equipped to handle any small talk situation you’re in. Striking up a conversation in the elevator? What about with the nice people at the coffee shop you frequent? Or maybe at that networking function you attend.

So, what is the CAP framework for sincere small talk? Have a look…

Ready to change the way you make small talk…forever? Here’s how!

C. Connect:

First you need to establish rapport. The easiest way to do that is to highlight common ground. If you’re talking to a complete stranger, start out with the obvious commonality. The venue you’re both at. The talk you just listened to. The show you’ve just experienced. This will be your first talking point. 

  • That TEDTalk was revelatory!
  • I loved Chanel’s lineup.
  • What a cool exhibit! So neat how they incorporate AR!

A. Align:

Then you follow it up with something personal. You align the connection with your experience, background, perspective, feelings, etc. that will reveal a little bit about you. The interlocuter gets a glimpse of your personality, history, hobbies, and so forth. When you divulge a little something about you, your interlocutor is more likely to share something about them. Moreover, they will feel immediately more at ease.

  • In college I took an “Art of Rhetoric” course and I noticed that the TedTalker implemented a lot of the strategies I learned way back when!
  • My favorite was the Little Black Dress number. It exudes timeless elegance and sophistication. It reminds me of Audrey Hepburn, whom I absolutely adore.
  • There’s a really cool educational website about building AR and VR programs that I’ve been keen on trying. It’s called CoSpaces. 

P. Probe: 

Now is your time to shift the focus to the interlocutor by asking a thoughtful, open-ended question. An open-ended question (as opposed to a close-ended question) is an invitation to build on pre-existing conversation. It’s also a way to speak about something else entirely (if there’s a logical segue 😊 and topic shift!) if they wanted. By opening the floor to your interlocutor, they’ll get the chance to speak and share their thoughts. But instead of locking them into a Yes/No response, you are welcoming them to elaborate through a probing question. Or they can choose to talk about a related topic if they prefer. You as them a question that will enable them to hold the floor and give them a chance to share. And when you ask richer questions, you ignite deeper conversation and more meaningful engagement. 

  • What’s your take-away from the TedTalk?
  • How do you feel about the symbolism behind the LBD (little black dress)?
  • Do you think there are more applications for AR or VR? 

Once you’ve walked through the CAP framework the magic begins. CAP is a springboard for higher quality conversation, sparked by sincere small talk. Now, watch the conversation take an unexpected turn and unfold in ways you had never imagined. 

After CAP it’s important to keep building on the conversation. It’s a dynamic, not static, process. So if you find that your interlocutor gets stuck, which they’ll signal by an awkward silence or unequivocally long pause then you can jump in. Have some good follow-up questions handy.

Here are some question starters that you should keep in your back pocket: 

  • What brings you here today?
  • Tell me more about…
  • What’s the most surprising thing about …
  • What’s your take on …. (How do you feel about)
  • Why is …
  • How similar/different is that to…
  • What do you like most/least about ….

So, there you have it, Explearners! CAP your way to sincere small talk, which will open the doors to more meaningful, authentic, and deeper conversation. You can talk about the weather some other day…although now the volatility of the weather is encroaching on the “taboo list” so maybe just steer clear!

Isn’t the CAP approach to small talk so much better than the mundane “How are you?” Yeah, we think so, too!

Happy Explearning 🐝