The workplace can be a great environment to make friends. Alternatively, it can also be a sanctuary for awkward moments and failed attempts at small talk.
Since you have to be at work nearly every day of your life, however, it’s probably best to get the small talk thing nailed down and create some positivity there. Unfortunately, making small talk isn’t always easy, especially when either party involved is shy or closed-off.
That’s why we’re here.
We’re going to give you some great headers on making small talk and potentially some new friendships in the workplace, which, as it turns out, is incredibly important for long-term happiness.
Keep reading for five key tips on making small talk!
Making Small Talk
Remember, making small talk serves multiple purposes. It can get you through the slow parts of the day, cut down on awkward silences, and can even earn you some new friendships.
While it’s not easy to create a conversation out of thin air, if you don’t do it, odds are no one else will. In fact, research shows that 40 to 60 percent of adults consider themselves to be shy.
Following these guidelines may help you break them out of their shell.
1. Ask Open-Ended (Easy) Questions
The best way to begin an open dialog is to ask open-ended questions. However, these questions, especially when used for making small talk, should be easy to answer.
A great way of opening someone up for conversation is to ask them about their past. Humans love talking about themselves, especially when theirs a good listener present. Be that good listener.
Ask them about where they grew up and went to high school. Ask them where they went to college and if they would change anything about it. Most people had incredibly formative years in high school and college and love sharing their experiences.
You can also ask a co-worker about their zodiac sign. Most people don’t realize how much their zodiac sign plays in their work habits and personalities. For example, those who fall under the Capricorn sign are generally ambitious and hard-working.
People who know about their zodiac signs generally enjoy talking about.
Favorite Movies or TV Shows
People also enjoy talking about the movies and TV shows they’re into. This works best if you can find common middle ground. It’s easier to relate to someone’s love for a show if you’ve seen it and feel the same way.
However, if you haven’t seen their movie or TV show, ask them to briefly explain it to you and why they like it so much.
Preferred Work Schedule
For a more work-related topic, ask your co-worker if they like the current work schedule they’re on. Additionally, ask them what work schedule they would prefer if it was up to them.
This conversation could easily lead to one about their personal life and why they would prefer said schedule.
Most people don’t like their job. It’s unfortunate, but studies show that nearly 85% of people hate their jobs.
Therefore, bringing up the topic of “dream jobs” may be a great move in making small talk. In fact, if appropriate, it’s great for a group discussion as long as it doesn’t turn into a talk about how terrible the current workplace is.
You might be surprised by some of the incredible and exciting hobbies your co-workers have. Asking about them may give you a great topic and allow you to talk about some of your hobbies as well.
2. Offer Something About Yourself That’s Not Too Personal
Sometimes, when making small talk, you need to break the ice by talking first. In this case, keep it light and casual.
Talk about your life, but nothing too personal. If a friendship develops, then there will be a time and place for more personal conversations. Otherwise, super personal conversations make people uncomfortable.
One thing you can talk about is any future travel plans you might have. People enjoy talking about travel and it opens the door for them to tell you about the places they’ve been.
Bringing up a tidbit about one of your family members is a great way to begin a conversation with a co-worker. If they don’t indulge and ask you more about your family, you can always ask them about theirs.
Many people come from dynamic work backgrounds and often end up in jobs that have nothing to do with their schooling or previous work history.
Making small talk by talking about your previous places of employment is a great way to share a little about yourself.
3. Ask Them About Their Family
People absolutely love talking about their family, especially their kids. Next time theirs a moment of awkward silence, ask a co-worker about their family. If they don’t have kids, ask them if it’s in their future.
Stick to questions that aren’t too personal. For example, ask them about what their wife does for work and what age their kids are. You can also ask if their kids play any sports are in any clubs.
4. Ask Them About Their Previous Jobs
As we mentioned about people come from a wide range of backgrounds. You may be in an office setting, but Frank from accounting could have been a Navy Seal.
Ask co-workers about their previous jobs, you may be surprised what answers you get. If not, it’s still a great way of making small talk.
5. Avoid Tabboo Topics
There are certain topics that just don’t belong in the workplace. These topics are not only inappropriate, but they can also lead to confrontation and high tension. Avoid these topics while making small talk for everyone’s sake.
The country is never going to agree on politics. No matter how loud you voice your opinion, people will remain entrenched in their own ideas and beliefs.
In our political climate especially, it seems as though conversations often lead to people being offended, aggressive, and insulting. While it’s absolutely okay and healthy to have debates, it should be left out of the workplace.
Religion is a questionable topic for making small talk. While it’s not as explosive as politics, it can be equally as off-putting depending on the individuals involved.
Religion and lack of religion often lead to judgment toward the other side, which can lead to a feeling of hostility in the workplace.
Finally, inappropriate conversations, in general, should be kept for personal time. Making small talk about sexual experiences, racist jokes, etc. is not only a good way to push people away, but it’s also a good way to get fired.
Relax and Be Friendly
In a world of constant digital communication, it’s becoming awkward to talk to someone face to face.
However, making small talk doesn’t have to be awkward. Just be friendly and relax! If people aren’t interested in talking to you, try harder and then move on.
Next time you’re at work, try to open up a friendly dialog with someone. Good luck!