How to make small talk

How to make small talk (and build better business relationships)

How to make small talk

How to make small talk

Let’s face it! Americans love to start with small talk.

For Americans, engaging in small talk is an important way to establish common ground.

It’s our way of making a connection with you before we get down to business.

Many of my accent reduction coaching clients get this. That’s why they ask me to teach them strategies for making “small talk” with ease and fluency.

Small talk topics

As you begin a conversation, find something that you have in common with the people you’re speaking with. Small talk topics could include:

  • your kids
  • health & fitness
  • restaurants & food
  • places you’ve lived or traveled 

These are all topics you can use to make friendly small talk with your colleagues, clients and customers.

Americans expect to start with small talk

Initiate small talk around one of these “common ground” topics and you’ll establish an easy rapport with the person you’re dealing with. 

After you’ve warmed up with small talk, getting down to business will be easier and more productive.

This is a critical skill for creating strong business relationships.

Small talk practice

In my accent reduction coaching sessions, my clients and I always warm up with small talk.

Once we establish common ground with some small talk, we build a stronger and more trusting relationship.  This relationship enables my clients to feel safe and to take risks with their new ways of speaking.

We also practice situations where they need to make small talk; both in their jobs and in their communities.

Once we practice making small talk together, my clients feel more comfortable initiating informal conversations in the real world.

About the author

Susan Ryan is an American English communication and accent reduction coach. Contact her at with your questions about speaking clear and confident American English.