Advice for making small talk~Use open ended questions

Making Small Talk Can Be a Challengechat balloon people

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, making small talk can be a challenge for non native speakers.

Fitting In

My accent reduction coaching clients often tell me;

Susan, I want to fit in more with my colleagues. But I don’t always know what to say at lunches or business dinners.

They want “fit in” and they know that making small talk will help them to do that.

They’re just not sure what to say…or how to speak in a manner that’s not about business.

Open Ended Questions

One tip that I tell my clients is to ask open ended questions.

Open ended questions begin with the words:

  • what
  • where
  • why
  • when
  • how

Why Ask Open Ended Questions?

Why do I advise my clients to ask open ended questions instead of questions that’ll be answered with a simple yes or no?

It’s because when you use open-ended questions, you’re  inviting the other person to talk.

And people love to talk about themselves!

Listen & Gather Information

While they’re talking….you can listen and learn more about them. You’ll get information:

  • about their kids
  • about their weekend
  • about the movies, food, sports they like

So that you can interact with them more on different topics.

Your Tone for Small Talk

Now, when asking open ended questions, you must be sure to use a rising falling tone.⤵

This is critical!!

If you don’t use a rising falling tone when asking open ended questions, you won’t sound inviting at all.

In fact you may sound rather abrupt….which will undermine your attempts at friendly small talk right away.☹

How to Use a Rising Falling Tone

Below are 4 examples. Note the rising falling tone at the end of each question.

  1. What did you do on the weekend? ⤵
  2. Where do you like to shop?⤵
  3. How did you like that movie?⤵
  4. When did you move to Texas? ⤵

You’ll sound super friendly and interested in your listener if you can use this pattern.

Friendly Small Talk Summary

If you want to make friendly small talk, invite others to talk about themselves using open ended questions.

Use a nice rising falling intonation when you ask these questions….. and people will love to engage in small talk with you!

Learn to Do This!

I teach you to make friendly small talk using open ended questions in my accent reduction programs. You’ll learn the patterns and you’ll practice them in sentences and dialogs.

Take a free trial lesson if you like.

About the author

Susan Ryan is the author of the ConfidentVoice blog and an American English communication and accent reduction coach.