Adjusting to the “Small Talk” Culture of the US

Judy Shen-Filerman with Dreambridge Partners shares tips  to consider, if you are a newcomer / immigrant to the US or if you are socially introverted and talking in large groups makes you feel highly uncomfortable:

1) Start with a natural smile, relaxed upper body and approach authority figures as if (s)he is a friend’s friend. You’ll feel and look less nervous! In professional settings, always include a handshake. 2) Have questions ready when you attend social and professional events. For example, at a social event: “How do you know the host?” At a career fair event: “Did you travel far to come to the fair?” 3) Go to events with a friend or two — just be sure to meet people individually, as it’s easier to start conversations this way. Look for other people who are standing alone or a group of 3 or more people to step into. 4) Don’t worry about feeling self-conscious or embarrassed — everyone feels this way when new to small talk, even Americans! Laugh at your mistakes. Be okay with feeling awkward – nobody else needs to know! 5) Remember, we’re all people first. Whether you’re from China, India or the U.S., we all care about the same fundamental things: family, friends and being welcomed. Find points of commonality! Ask, “What do you like to do?” 6) Small talk gets easier…with practice. You can’t “think” to toward small talk perfection — you’ve got to do it! Talk to bus drivers, cashiers, waitresses. Every contact will help you become more comfortable! Stay curious, be open and have fun!

One of the most important things to understand about small talk is that, culturally, it’s a sign of friendliness and professionalism for Americans. So small talk is incredibly important for becoming part of the American community and for professional success.

Read Judy’s full article to learn more about engaging in “small talk.”


By Kim Austin
Kim Austin Director