WHAT is small talk?

On the surface small talk is casual chitchat about nothing in particular.

WHAT is the purpose of small talk?

In spite of seeming to have little useful purpose, small talk is a bonding ritual and a strategy for quickly building trust, finding common ground, sensing energy levels and managing interpersonal distance. Small talk helps define relationships between friends, work colleagues, and new acquaintances by quickly exploring and defining each other’s social position. Most importantly it allows people to signal their mood, sense the mood of the other person and determine the next move.

As an opener small talk indicates you have friendly intentions and desire some sort of positive interaction. In a business meeting, it enables people who don’t know each other to establish each other’s reputation, level of expertise and relationship. Where there is already a relationship between the two talkers, small talk serves as a gentle introduction before engaging in more functional topics of conversation.

As a closer small talk can mitigate rejection, cement a relationship and soften a parting.

As a space filler to avoid silence and break tension, small talk can pass the time until a more substantial subject arises.

Here are 8 good reasons to make small talk:

  1. Signal and sense mood
  2. Determine energy level
  3. Explore social position
  4. Manage distance
  5. increase trust
  6. Find common ground
  7. Soften a meeting or a parting
  8. Determine the next move

Generally, humans find prolonged silence uncomfortable, and sometimes unbearable. This can be due to human evolutionary history as a social species. As in many other social animals silence is a communicative sign of potential danger.