We underestimate the importance of small talk, don’t we? It’s filled with conventions which we take for granted.
Is there a commonality across cultures about what we typically should and should not do when making small talk? No. Is there an argument to suggest what typical conventions should be applied to small talk in an international setting? Yes, although this is largely based on an Anglocentric model.
Have any of your business English students ever said this to you?
Deals are made over drinks and not in the boardroom.
I have. In fact, I’ve heard it with such frequency that it has elevated the position of small talk from something you just do, to a speaking skill which really requires more attention and deeper levels of investigation. But why only in a business English setting? After all, everyone makes small talk at some point.
Here’s a lesson I made on making small talk. It was originally intended for young learners but it’s really appropriate for any age group.
Download the lesson here: Lesson. Speaking (making small talk)
The lesson has been adapted from Business Result, Upper-intermediate. Student’s Book. Duckworth and Turner. Page 14, 2012. OUP.