The Art of Small Talk

May 11, 2023

The Art of Small Talk

YA ToGather March 2023

  • Article by Ng Xue Jen

Small talk, the seemingly insignificant conversation that we have with acquaintances or strangers, is often dismissed as a waste of time. However, it is an important social skill that can lead to meaningful connections and even open doors to new opportunities. In fact, the art of small talk is not just about killing time, but about building relationships.




On the evening of 19 March 2023, the young adults had Ivan Yun, a practising lawyer, founder of an activewear startup, and fitness instructor; Jess Kwan, an ex-marketing specialist, business owner, and retiree; and Chris Lim, church deacon, CEO of a property developer company, and father of three kids as as panel members to share with us how to navigate the simplicities and complexities of having to make small talk. The panel was moderated by Gabriel Long, a Young Adults Life Group Leader.


To make it easier to commit to memory, the committee had broken down the art of small talk into the acronym “TOSEH”, which stands for:


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1. T – Trivial but essential
Whilst small talk may be trivial, it is an opportunity to learn more about someone’s interests, thoughts, and experiences. It acts as a social lubricant to help to break the ice, gauge the other person’s interest, and provides a gateway to deeper conversation. It also helps build rapport and to get to know each other in a casual and relaxed manner. One useful tip Jess shared is to always start off with a smile to look friendly and approachable, and to ask open-ended questions to help encourage the other person to share more of their thoughts.


2. O - Observe others
It would also help to observe the other person’s body language, eye contact, tone of voice, and facial expressions to gauge the person’s interest and level of engagement. If the person replies with one-liners or seems disinterested, we should not be discouraged. Instead, we can assure them that we are there for them if they need us and then give them space by walking away. While we may have good intentions, we also need to respect other people’s space.


3. S – Strategise / Steer  the conversation
There will be situations where small talk needs to be approached strategically. For example, Ivan shared that if you are meeting someone professionally, you want to steer the conversation towards topics that can establish credibility and showcase certain abilities. There is nothing wrong with that so long as we approach the person with a pure heart and with the intention of genuinely wanting to know the other person for better relationship building.


4. E - Encourage / Edify others
Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no unwholesome word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” By being intentional and thoughtful in our conversations with others, we can show Christ’s love and it could be an opportunity to sow the seed of the Gospel into their lives. For example, when someone is grieving the death of their loved one, we can simply show love and encouragement by letting them know that we are here to assist in any way possible and offer a prayer when the setting is appropriate. 


5. H - The Holy Spirit is your helper
When engaging in small talk, it is important to invite the Holy Spirit to fill us with His desire to bless others, to show God’s kindness, and to do it out of God’s love. Small talk gives us an opportunity to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit, such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). It can also be used as a tool of evangelism, opening a way to share faith and hope. As Chris said, “small talk; big outcome”.





To close the session, Associate Pastor Richard Yun encouraged our young adults to start practising small talk skills in-house (i.e. within the church), and to be excited about our own faith and God, for then our conversations will be seasoned with salt. 


We are delighted to see that out of 59 participants, 14 were attending a young adults event for the first time; many expressed that they felt more equipped to navigate social settings with their small talk skills they picked up from this session and want to be more reliant on the Holy Spirit on practicing it.