Small talk

Page contents

  • Why is small talk important at work?
  • Some basic small talk you could practice
  • End of Module Questions
  • Download alternative formats

Why is small talk important at work?

Small talk

  • Is a big part of neuro typical people’s social style
  • Can help you discover things of mutual interest with people you work with
  • Helps you to find people at work who can help you learn about the job and the culture
  • Provides easy ‘light’ interaction Is not meant to be personal or challenging. It is not a good idea to go straight into controversial topics or issues.

Possible topics to discuss at work

These are general guidelines only – if in doubt, ask someone you trust.

  • It’s okay to talk about…..
  • The weather
  • Work
  • Transport
  • Films and TV
  • Holidays
  • Hobbies (when appropriate) – This is a great opportunity to find work colleagues who enjoy the same things you do
  • Sports.

It’s not a good idea to talk about

  • Religion
  • Politics
  • Other people (negatively)
  • Disability (unless you want to talk about share information about autism)
  • Salary (particularly other people’s salaries)
  • Review meetings and work meetings
  • A person’s appearance (depends on context)
  • Your private and personal business
  • Personal relationships (it may be okay if you know the person well)
  • It is usually not polite to talk about these personal topics. Not everyone would be comfortable sharing this sort of information. If in doubt it is ok to ask first.

Topics to avoid

  • Cultural judgements (For example, ethnic or gender judgements)
  • Gossip – talking “behind someone’s back”
  • Negative comments about the workplace. This is especially important if you want to keep your job. Your employer may not receive this information well. If you have concerns you should share them confidentially and tactfully with someone you trust. 
  • Criticism of someone else’s work performance. This includes telling other people that you can do their job better than them (even if you think you can).

Some basic small talk you could practice

  • When people say hello or good morning you could give a wave or a nod. You can also do that to initiate a greeting or to say goodbye.
  • With work social conversations try and listen and then ask people one or two questions about what they said.
  • If you ask someone about their weekend, try to ask them one question about what they said.
  • If someone asks you what you did on the weekend, make sure what you say is appropriate for work colleagues to hear.
  • Ways to end a conversation – “well okay I’ve got to get started on my work” or you could look at your watch and say “I’d better get back to work”.

Recommended Video to watch: Small Talk – 2 minute video from “Asperger’s from the Inside”

End of Module Questions

  • Why is it important to participate in small talk with colleagues?​
  • Why would it be important to remember the topics to avoid when talking with colleagues?​
  • If you heard someone engage in small talk relating to a topic to avoid, how would you address this?​

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