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Small Talk the British Way: At Work

In this blog post you will learn how to:

  • Respond to the speaker by agreeing

  • Continue the conversation with an opinion

  • Move the conversation on with a personal question

  • End the conversation politely

In our previous blog post on small talk, we identified ways to start a conversation in 5 different topics.


In this lesson, you will learn how to respond to a conversation starter at work and how to continue the conversation.


Responding to a conversation starter at work in 4 steps:


1) Agree with speaker


One of the most important ‘rules’ of responding is to agree with the speaker at first even if you don’t actually agree.


Example:

Steve: I hope the staff meeting doesn’t go on too long today.

Laura: Yes, I hope so too. I’ve got an appointment at 6.


2) Give your opinion


After agreeing, you can now give your own opinion.


Example:

Laura: Tessa is a good chairperson, so I don’t think the meeting will take more than an hour.


3) Ask a question


Move the conversation by asking another question - such as about their weekend plans or work projects.


Example:

Laura: Are you planning to go to Ken’s leaving party on Friday?


4) End the conversation


End the conversation in a polite, friendly way.


Example:

Laura: Well, I’d better go and finish that report. See you later


Example Conversations


Conversation 1 - Chips and Chocolate

Read the following conversation between 2 colleagues, Jim and Ruth. Notice how Jim first agrees with Ruth, then gives his own opinion, then asks a question and finally ends the conversation.


Ruth: Oh, at last, it’s lunchtime. I’m so hungry. I didn’t have time for breakfast this morning.


Jim: Yes, I’m starving too. I got up too late this morning to have breakfast, as per usual.


Ruth: I’m just wondering whether to get a sandwich or a bowl of soup and some salad from the café next door.


Jim: Sandwiches and soup don’t fill me up. I’m going to get fish and chips. I know it’s not very healthy, but once in a while, it’s ok.


Ruth: Fish and chips does sound tempting, but I haven’t got time to go to the fish and chip shop and anyway, I’m going out to eat tonight, so I don’t want too much for lunch.


Jim: Well, I might give you a chip or two, if I haven’t eaten them all by the time I get back to the office. As you’re being so healthy, do you want me to get you some fruit from the market? I can pass there on the way back.


Ruth: No thanks, I don’t want any fruit but I wouldn’t mind a bar of chocolate!


Jim: Ok. Good to know I’m not the only unhealthy one in the office! See you soon.


Questions:

  1. What does Jim say to show he agrees with Ruth?

  2. How does Jim give his opinion?

  3. What question does Jim ask Ruth?

  4. How does Jim end the conversation?



Practice with a Friend, Tutor, or Language Partner:

In pairs, practice a lunch conversation like the one between Jim and Ruth. Follow the 4 steps.




Conversation 2 - What a morning!


Now read the following conversation between 2 colleagues, Clare and Suzanne. Notice how Suzanne firstly agrees with Clare, then gives her own opinion, then asks a question and finally ends the conversation.


Clare: What a morning! Just about everything that could go wrong did go wrong.


Suzanne: Oh no, sorry to hear that. My morning wasn’t too good either. What happened?


Clare: My first client was 30 minutes late for her appointment, the next one was really rude, and the third one didn’t show up.


Suzanne: Oh, that’s really annoying. I had some problems with the spreadsheet, but at least I finished my report.


Clare: Well done. I’m sure you’re glad it’s done.


Suzanne: Yes, I am. Is there a code for the photocopier? I need to photocopy my report.


Clare: Oh yes, it’s 87654


Suzanne: Great. I hope your afternoon’s better than this morning.


Clare: Hope so too. Good luck with the spreadsheet


Suzanne: Thanks. I’d better go and photocopy that report. See you later.


Questions:

  1. What does Suzanne say to show she agrees with Clare?

  2. How does Suzanne give her opinion?

  3. What questions does Suzanne ask Clare?

  4. How does Suzanne end the conversation?


Practice with a Friend, Tutor, or Language Partner:

In pairs, practice a conversation like the one between Clare and Suzanne and talk about how your work is going. Follow the 4 steps.




More Conversation Starters for the Workplace


I thought this morning’s meeting was really useful.


It’s quite warm in here. Do you mind if I open a window?


I’m just going to make a cup of tea. Would you like one?


I like your jumper; that colour really suits you.


How’s your day going so far?


Did your presentation go well?


Are there any good places for lunch around here?


I hope it stops raining before we go home.


That’s a nice laptop case. Where did you get it?


The internet’s very slow this afternoon.


Have you seen Shirley today? I need to ask her a question.


One last tip...


Our self-study workbooks include some great topics for small-talk (or more in-depth talks) with friends or colleagues. Each workbook includes a real-world English article, audio file, or video you can use to build your vocabulary and confidence. Never worry about what to chat about again!

Click here.


#speaking #smalltalk #conversation #nativespeakers #howtospeak #selfstudy

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