#212: Easy Social Small Talk | English Conversation Practice

Jul 21, 2021 | Business Professional English, English Confidence and Fluency, English Conversation, How To Develop Skills, Small Talk in English

Do you avoid opportunities to start conversations when you see a neighbor watering her garden because you’re just not sure what to say or ask? 

Or do you struggle with what to say when you see some every Monday and Wednesday morning at a yoga studio? Or when you’re getting to know new members of your book club?

Several months ago, I did a lesson on English Small Talk at Work

But what about Social Small Talk in English

Is it the same? What kinds of questions are appropriate politely but not too formal? 

What can you ask out without getting too personal too fast?


By the end of this lesson, you know the answer to all of those questions! 

You’ll learn to use open-ended questions to confidently start an English conversation AND establish a connection with anyone you choose in more relaxed, social situations. 

4 Question Types for Social Small Talk in English


Social Small Talk Strategy #1: Start with a Compliment

  • If you’ve watched my lesson on Small Talk at Work, you’re already familiar with this question-asking strategy. English speakers love it!
  • When you meet someone new for the first time, it’s difficult to immediately establish common ground and think of the right thing to say. 
  • The easiest way to start a conversation with someone is to compliment them and ask an open-ended question. 
    • Compliment + open-ended question


Scenario 1: Imagine you’re meeting someone new at a party. 

  • You might say “Your hair looks gorgeous! Where do you usually go to get it styled?” 

Scenario 2: On the other hand, you might want to strike up a conversation with a new neighbor

  • You might say “Your garden looks beautiful. What is your secret to growing healthy plants?”  

Social Small Talk Strategy #2: Inquire About Their Day or Wellbeing

  • Sometimes, it can be awkward to sit or stand in silence while someone does something for you – like when you’re checking out at the grocery store or taking an Uber. 
  • The best way to start a conversation is to simply ask them about their day or their wellbeing. You’d be surprised by their willingness to have a conversation with you. 
  • Here’s an easy formula to remember:
    • Topic + open-ended question


Scenario #3: When you’re checking out, the sales clerk will often ask how you’re doing. Don’t be afraid to do the same:

  • If you’re shopping during a busy time, like the holidays, you might say “It seems so busy today. How have you been holding up?”
    • How are you holding up is a casual way to ask how someone is doing during a particularly difficult time or circumstance.

Scenario #4: If you’re taking an Uber to work, remember that the awkward silence you’re experiencing is just as awkward for the driver.  

  • To make small talk, you can say “There’s always quite a bit of traffic in this area. How have your trips been today?”

Social Small Talk Strategy #3: Ask For Their Opinions/Suggestions

  • We’ve all been to classes or meetups where we’d like to connect with someone, but don’t know how to start a conversation. 
  • In a class or a group, you already have a common interest. The common interest is the group or class that bought you together. For example, if it’s an English class, you’re both working to improve your English skills. If it’s a book club, you both love reading. So you can easily ask for the person’s opinion/suggestion. 
  • Follow this formula:
    • Opinion + open-end question


Scenario #5: When you’re interacting with someone at the gym, you can focus on your fitness goals by saying:

  • “Building my strength has been a long journey for me. How do you stay motivated to get to the gym regularly?”

Scenario #6: Every person in a book club, podcast club, or even a film group, chose to join the group because they wanted to find people with the same interests. Comment on your pick and asking a question:

  • “I thought the author explored the theme of happiness in an interesting way. What is your opinion on the book’s theme?”

Social Small Talk Strategy #4: Connect Through Hobbies

  • Sometimes we struggle to move past a certain topic.
  • In these situations, keep an ear out for activities or hobbies that interest the person. Hobbies are a great way to push the envelope and keep the conversation open. 


Scenario #7: Everyone has experienced the awkwardness of searching for a topic of discussion that doesn’t involve work. Imagine you’re in a room with your boss and there’s a lull in the conversation. You could simply say?

  • I remember that you mentioned reading Obama’s autobiography. Which of his other books have you read so far? 

Scenario #8: On the other hand, maybe you’ve met another parent and can’t seem to push past the usual topics of school and parenting. Simply inquire about the person’s hobbies by asking:

  • What hobbies do you enjoy doing when you have some time to yourself?”

If you’ve struggled with small talk in English, I’d love to hear from you!

After watching today’s lesson: 

  • Did you have an “aha” moment? If so, what was it? 
  • What questions are you excited to try the next time you have the opportunity for social small talk?

The best place to practice and share is in the comment section below.

Have a fantastic Confident English Wednesday!

~ Annemarie


P.S. Are you looking for a community to provide support, help you stay motivated, and guarantee that you grow? Check out our Confident Women Community.

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