How to Make Small Talk with Strangers

How to Make Small Talk with Strangers

Beginning a conversation with someone you don’t know can be very stressful moment for most people.

The art of conversation takes a lot of practice and so does being able to find mutually interesting topics for discussion.

Who have you had meaningful conversations with recently?

This ESL lesson will improve your English speaking ability and offer tips to help you make better small talk.

Part I: Let’s Chat about the Photo

Making Conversation 1

1. What are the men doing?

2. Why are they sitting so far apart?

3. What do you think they’re talking about?

4. Do you think they know each other?

5. Do you make small talk with strangers?

Part II: Take the Survey and Talk About It

1. Who have you had a conversation with today? Choose all that apply.

A family member
A relative
A friend
A colleague
A stranger
Somebody else

2. Where have you had a conversation recently with a stranger?

At a store
On the subway, train, or plane
With a taxi driver
Over the internet
At a bar

3. If I were to meet “YOU” for the first time (as a stranger) what conversation topics are most interesting to you?


4. If you were invited to a party with 25 people but YOU only knew the host, would you still go?

Of course
No way
I’d have to consider it

5. What might be inappropriate to ask a stranger at a party? Choose all that apply.

Where do you work?
Are you married?
Are you enjoying yourself?
What religion are you?
Hi, I’m ___, what’s your name?
Where do you live?
Do you earn a good salary?
How do you know the host?
Who are you voting for in the next election?

6. What’s the secret to a successful conversation?

One person keeps the conversation going.
Both people contribute equally to the conversation.
The conversation is kept to a maximum of ten minutes.
Both people find a mutually interesting conversation topic.

7. Do you think someone can learn to become a great conversationalist or is that person just born with the “gift of gab”?

They’re a natural conversationalist.
They can learn to converse better with practice.

8. Some people believe conversation is unnecessary and it’s easier just to send an email or text.Do you agree?

It depends

9. Studies show that no single factor better predicts your future income than the size of your vocabulary.Do you agree?

Of course not.
Yes, that makes sense.
Maybe for some people this is true.

10. What famous person, living or dead, would you like to have a dinner conversation with?

Sports figure
Historical figure
Religious person

Part III: Share Your Opinions

Making Conversation 2

 Discussion Activity

A study at the Stanford University School of Business tracked MBAs 10 years after they graduated.

The result?

Grade point averages were no reflection of success. Their ability to converse with others mattered more. Being able to connect with others through small talk can lead to big things.

Read the 10 small talk tips below and provide examples of what you would say or what body language you should avoid in each of these situations.

Compare and discuss the tips with your instructor and classmates.

10 Small Talk Tips
  • Prepare 3 topics and 4 basic questions to get others talking.
  • Be the first to introduce yourself.
  • Get the other person talking by making a common ground statement.
  • Take time during introductions to remember and say names.
  • Never glance around the room while people are talking to you.
  • Listen more than you talk and use confirmation statements.
  • Watch your body language.Don’t appear uncomfortable.
  • Have “exit lines” ready so you can gracefully exit a conversation.
  • Know your current events so you have something interesting to say.
  • Before entering a conversation in progress, observe and listen.

Did you enjoy this ESL Lesson? 

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