Small talk is important because it helps people connect and establish relationships without the pressures of divulging too much personal information. In other words, it allows for brief social connection without the need for in-depth discussion about a person’s beliefs, values, and/or ethics.
Keep in mind that when you’re engaging in small talk, you’re laying the foundation for a deeper friendship. You aren’t building the house yet, but you’re learning more about that person and showing them that you’re interested in social engagement with them in the future.
Since small talk is a way to circumvent the pressure of over-sharing, there are some topics to bring up and others to avoid. “Safe” topics can include things such as the weather, hobbies you enjoy, sporting events, family updates, travel, or current news stories. Topics to avoid include money/finances, sex, personal gossip, political opinions, past relationships, religious views, death, and offensive jokes.
Other than avoiding using those “unsafe” topics, there are a few other mistakes to avoid during small talk as well. Those common mistakes include continuing the line of conversation when the other party is no longer interested, offering unsolicited advice or suggestions, giving your opinion about controversial topics, and/or giving or asking for private information.