Making Small Talk Easy

Posted On: April 7, 2015

Is there an easy formula you can apply to make small talk with US Americans easier?

Let’s Take a Look at A Small Talk Formula

After you are asked a question, answer it like this:

        1. Yes or No  
        2. One or two sentences to back up your answer
        3. A question to turn it back to your conversational partner   
Small talk games
Participants playing a game on
identifying appropriate small
talk topics across cultures.


For instance:
You are asked, “Do you like your job?”
You can answer, “Yes, my job is challenging. As I work at TCS, I get to interact with a lot of foreign clients. Sometimes, I even am able to travel abroad to meet them in person. How about you?”

Typically, in any American greetings or small talk, one can answer with the same question that was asked or a variant of that question. For example:
“How are you?”
“Good. How are you?”

“How are you?”
“Good, and you?”

One more example:
“Have a great weekend!”
“You, too, have a good one!”

In this case, “one” refers to weekend, and is used in response to other salutations like:
“Have a great holiday.”
“You, too, have a good one!”

Have fun on your vacation!”
“Same here… have a good one!”
(Do not say “you, too” here unless you and your colleague have the same vacation days off.)


How do I know what topics I can make small talk about?

While, yes, there are some cautionary and avoidable topics, there are plenty of acceptable topics. In the game below, try to sort the topics into acceptable, cautionary or avoidable.


  • To make it easier to sort the categories, look at the category and think of a question you may ask using that category.
  • There are not an equal number of categories under cautionary, acceptable and avoidable
  • After playing, the game will tell you how many you got right and wrong and will give an option to show the right answers.
  • This is best played from this website on a laptop.

Have fun playing!


A video on socializing with Americans in English

Take a look at this helpful video for more good examples.

When watching this video, keep in mind these two important considerations:

      1. In the above video, she suggests to ask small talk questions about one’s family. I’d suggest to only ask such questions if the person you’re speaking with talks about their family first. Otherwise, Americans may feel uncomfortable to talk about family or relationships. It’s always better to stick to small talk topics that deal with the person him or herself.
      2. The question she suggests to use to return the conversation is “How about you?” Notice how she pronounces this. This is not said word by word – “How — about — you?” It’s said somewhat fast and sounds like, “Howboucha”. This is because in American English when one word ends with a T and the next word starts with a Y sound, the T and Y are dropped and a new sound ‘CH’ is created. Understanding these formulas will help you understand when Americans talk fast. More on these combined sounds by clicking here.
Testimonial from a successful client.
I learned to make small talk with clients


Jennifer Kumar, author of this blog, is a corporate trainer helping Indians communicate with more clarity and cultural understanding with their American counterparts. For more information on her Small Talk Program, Building Trust & Good Relationships with US Clients. Contact her today for more information on these exciting and interactive programs for your team today!


Related Posts:
Small Talk with Americans
“How did it go?” – A common question used in American conversations
How to make small talk with US colleagues
T+Y = CH!? – Learn more about sound combining in American English

Work photo created by freepik –
Original posting date, June 2015, updated Feb. 2024



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