Written by Arcelia Camacho, PMP
Stellar communication skills are the cornerstone of any professional career. The tricky part about communication skills is that they are measured by the culture you live in. That is why, as a newcomer to Canada, you may need to adapt your skills to the hosting workplace culture. Small-talk is one of the communication skills you need to develop if you want to be noticed. This skill will help you succeed in Canada. Here’s what you need to know about small-talk.
What is small-talk?
Small talk is a casual and polite form of conversation about unimportant, uncontroversial matters. Small-talk topics are often unrelated to the main intention of the discussion because the purpose is to engage people; to break the ice”.
In Canada, small-talk is an essential component of any conversation. Whether you are networking, interviewing for a job, interacting with colleagues at work, or participating in a meeting, you will need to engage your audience and create rapport.
Why is small-talk important in Canada?
Small-talk is important because it helps you create a sense of rapport with other people. It is often used as a friendly, unthreatening, light introduction to the “serious” portion of the conversation. When Canadians engage in small-talk, they are testing how comfortable they are talking to people they do not know well. Since small-talk topics are light and uncontroversial, they create a safe environment where people can find common ground and set the stage for the important part of the conversation. In Canada, your ability to forge relationships through small-talk can directly impact your ability to move up the corporate ladder.
What are some common small-talk topics?
Common small-talk topics include
- The weather. This is usually the most common small-talk topic. It’s now mid-April so you would expect I talk about the warm and colourful spring, right? Last weekend we had a snow storm that brought us back to the winter-like scenery. What do you think was the number one topic at work the following Monday? If you said the weather, you guessed right.
- Current news and events. It is best to avoid controversial topics such as laws concerning same-sex marriage.
- Arts and entertainment. These topics include popular movies, Netflix and TV shows, food, restaurants, museums, galleries, and more.
- Sports. Did you know that the number one winter sport in Canada is Ice Hockey?
What small-topics should you avoid?
A word of caution. Canadians generally do not discuss family matters, salaries, religious beliefs, politics or difficult personal situations when engaging in small-talk. Instead, they reserve these conversations for close friends and family. It is better to avoid questions that are considered private in the Canadian workplace. Here are some small-talk questions you should not ask:
- Are you married?
- Do you have kids?
- How much money do you make?
- Are you pregnant? (to a woman)
How can you prepare to make small-talk?
It is essential for you to prepare common small-talk topics. Some things you can do are the following:
- Follow the Canadian news. CBC is a radio station you could listen to on your computer.
- Subscribe to a Canadian newspaper.
- Become familiar with a couple of sports.
- Watch North-American movies.
Here are other interesting articles you can read to learn more about small-talk within a Canadian context.
- 5 ideas for better small-talk
- Small talk: tips to become a better conversationalist
- Quiz: Test Your Understanding of Small Talk in Canada
Small-talk is an excellent way to get to know people and find common ground. Small talk makes it easier for people to get acquainted, feel comfortable with one another and establish the foundation for a close relationship down the road. Prepare small-talk topics before you arrive in Canada, you will certainly use it when you get to the job interview stage.