Ask the specialist: Does small talk make sense?

Small Talk or Big Talk

The British are world champions in small talk. One of our training participant asked us: ‘What is the purpose of small talk? To me it sounds like a waste of time’

Hence the question: Does small talk make sense at all? 

Our consultant Wojciech Kolodziejczak explains: 

The small talk is actually a very powerful tool and it has a goal of breaking the ice and bringing people together. It is indispensable at every contact – both during the first meeting and during subsequent meetings (even during negotiations!). 

  1. It is a tool used to break the ice, loosen up the situation and find things we have in common. Once you have established at least one common interest you can focus on that for a while to get to know the person better.
  2. Helps to relax – Meeting people at business meetings can be very stressful and small talk helps you and the other person to relax.
  3. People buy people, not their products, and small talk is a great opportunity to check who we are dealing with and whether there is any “synergy” and potential to build a good and lasting relationship.
  4. It makes it easier to stay away from emotional subjects like politics, religion and other topics that could “build a wall” between people.
  5. Gather facts – In a very non-intrusive way you can gather interesting facts ( like hobbies and interests etc. ) about the other person. People appreciate when you listen and show interest in them.
  6. People feel more comfortable if their views and beliefs are not being questioned or evaluated.
  7. Know – Like – Trust – With small talk you are not trying to “sell them anything” which is a great way of starting “KNOW-LIKE-TRUST” process. It sounds like we should call it: BIG TALK

A great example is Queen Elizabeth, who often asks her guests during the audience:

  • Queen Elizabeth: “Have you come from far?”
  • The Guest: “Your Majesty, I have travelled from Manchester”
  • Queen Elizabeth: “I really enjoyed my last trip to Manchester several years ago…”

The principle is simple – she speaks about things, places known to the guest. She talks about the place or asks questions about it. Then, she listens to the answers and follow up on those subjects she can explore further. She is looking for common ground or interests that they can chat about and start to build rapport.

Avoid taboo topics such as religion, politics and immigration, and earnings.
Let’s look for what unites us, not what divides us.


About the author: Wojciech Kolodziejczak
Wojciech is an International Business Developer, Cross-cultural Networker and Public Speaker. His mission is to promote cross-cultural networking and to educate professionals that building strong business relations can help them grow their careers, businesses and personal lives. I have been advising small businesses and corporate clients about business development and marketing opportunities in the UK and Poland. I have been also assisting migrant businesses as a speaker and business trainer specialized in cross-cultural networking and business development.

More about Wojchiech: www.lifenetworker.com