small talk book
Book Reviews Business/Personal Finance Relationships

Small Talk: How to Start a Conversation [Book Review]

Small Talk – How to Start a Conversation, Keep It Going, Build Networking Skills – and Leave a Positive Impression!

Author: Debra Fine

Ever gone to a party where you only know 2-3 people? You probably spent most of, if not the entire party clinging to those 2-3 people because you didn’t want to be by yourself or start small talk with someone you didn’t know. Well, where’s the fun in going to a party when you only hang out with a few people? You could’ve just gone to get coffee or lunch with them instead. This book is filled with ways to become more of a conversationalist so you don’t have to worry about what to say next time you’re around strangers or meeting new people. A long time ago I was the kind of person to cling to whoever I knew at social events because I was too nervous to start conversations with new people. I got around smart, ambitious people, though, and they helped me fix that problem. Anyway, if I had never gotten around those people, this book would have been able to do the trick for me as well.

Side note: If you read this article on 7 things the most successful people do, you’ll see that one of those 7 things is creating strong relationships!


So, how exactly do you start a conversation with someone you don’t know? Fine goes over all of the best possible ways to do that. She lists conversational icebreakers for any situation you could possibly be in. Here’s a very short version of the list Fine provides:

Business Icebreakers

  • Describe a typical day on the job.
  • What do you enjoy most about your profession?
  • Why does your company ________?

Social Icebreakers

  • Tell me about the best vacation you’ve ever taken.
  • What one thing would you really like to own? Why?
  • Who would star as you in a movie about your life?

There are 6 for you, for now. There are close to 50 listed in the book.

small talk handshake businessOpen-ended Questions FTW

Everyone’s favorite topic of discussion is themselves. That’s one thing I’ve used to my advantage for a long time now. When I first meet new people, I allow them to talk about themselves as much as they want to by asking them open-ended questions and digging deeper into each answer. Don’t get me wrong, though, I don’t shoot off rapid-fire questions at someone like I’m the FBI. It’s about the balance between asking questions and discussing the answers as well. Fine shares this same strategy in the book and explains it a little better than I can. Regardless, using open-ended questions is the key to getting any conversation rolling. Try asking questions that begin with words like “Describe for me…” or “Tell me about…” and so on.


Small Talk is a fantastic book and anybody who reads it will benefit greatly from it. I know I say that about most of the books I review, but there’s a reason I read self-improvement books. They are written to help people. Some of the other topics Fine covers include conversation killers (what not to do during a conversation,) how to properly ask for business and referrals, how to stay focused on whoever is speaking, etc.


Interview with Debra Fine



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Avid book reader obsessed with self-improvement and learning. I read an average of one book a week on topics like personal finance, health, character building, and so on.

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  1. It’s funny to me because you would think this would come easy but it just doesn’t for some people. I read somewhere the best conversationalists are the ones who ask great questions. I am not a very good conversationalist. I will definitely check out that book. Thanks for the review.

  2. Thanks, Hummy! I’m pretty social but still get a bit stuck in “polite” social situations. “Describe a typical day on the job” (or some adaptation of it) sounds like one I’ll be using. Thanks for the heads up! 🙂

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