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The ABCs of Office Small Talk

It’s a deceptively valuable skill!

Even if your place of business is incredibly business-minded, sooner or later, there’ll be a lull. Maybe it’ll be a slow work day, or maybe the boss will take everyone out to lunch. It’s in these moments that you don’t want to talk about work-related matters. You need to be able to make proper small talk with your coworkers, lest you come off as a work-obsessed automaton.

Firstly, don’t try to control the conversation. If two of your coworkers have already started a conversation topic, don’t try to forcefully shift it to something else. A conversation is a living thing, branching off in a variety of directions; you can’t just shove a new branch in the way of one that’s developing. Listen and interact, and if the time comes, you can shift things elsewhere. Of course, when I say “interact,” I mean actually interact. Don’t just stare into the distance and mumble, that’s impolite. Make eye contact, listen carefully, and respond when prompted.

You should also be careful about the kind of topics you bring up. For example, politics and social issues are a major no-no. I get it, we’re all passionate about things, but topics like that are almost guaranteed to start an argument, and we’re trying to have a conversation here, not an argument. Going down that road is just going to make your coworkers mad at you. Speaking of you, you should also be mindful of how much you’re talking about yourself. Unless you have a relevant personal story to contribute to the discourse, try to keep things away from your persona life. Nobody wants to hear about what you had for breakfast that morning, unless, I suppose, you’re having a discussion about breakfast.

The most important part of getting good at conversing is to just do it. Don’t assume nobody wants to talk to you; everyone has something to say, and you do too. It’s okay if you’re a little awkward, you still have a voice waiting to be heard, and as long as you don’t drop any spicy takes, your coworkers will be happy to hear it.

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