Small Talk

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WHO makes small talk?
People with many different relationships use small talk. The most common type of people to use small talk are those who do not know each other at all. Though we often teach children not to talk to strangers, adults are expected to say at least a few words in certain situations (see where). It is also common for people who are only acquaintances, often called a "friend of a friend", to use small talk. Other people who have short casual conversations are office employees who may not be good friends but work in the same department. Customer service representatives, waitresses, hairdressers and receptionists often make small talk with customers. If you happen to be outside when the mailman comes to your door you might make small talk with him too.

WHAT do people make small talk about?
There are certain "safe" topics that people usually make small talk about. The weather is probably the number one thing that people who do not know each other well discuss. Sometimes even friends and family members discuss the weather when they meet or start a conversation. Another topic that is generally safe is current events. As long as you are not discussing a controversial issue, such as a recent law concerning equal rights, it is usually safe to discuss the news. Sports news is a very common topic, especially if a local team or player is in a tournament or play-off or doing extremely well or badly. Entertainment news, such as a celebrity who is in town, is another good topic. If there is something that you and the other speaker has in common, that may also be acceptable to talk about. For example, if the bus is extremely full and there are no seats available you might talk about reasons why. Similarly, people in an office might casually discuss the new paint or furniture. There are also some subjects that are not considered acceptable when making small talk. Discussing personal information such as salaries or a recent divorce is not done between people...
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