What Do You Talk About With Your Coworkers?
How do you start a conversation with a coworker? Many people have difficulty striking up conversations with their coworkers. They know they should do it because networking is important for their career, but they don’t know what to say or how to break the ice. Here are some suggestions for starting a conversation with your coworker.
In general, you can start a conversation with a coworker by making small talk about neutral topics. This includes making statements, asking questions, and showing interest. Starting with small talk allows you to bridge the gap toward friendship.
If you have social anxiety, starting a conversation might feel stressful. However, as mundane as small talk might feel, evidence shows it makes people feel seen and heard. Remember that other people at work might be feeling awkward or lonely too. Choose someone who seems to want to talk, and they will likely be grateful for your friendly gesture.
Start With a Neutral Subject
So, how do you start a conversation with a coworker exactly? If you’re not sure what to talk about, you can always start with the weather. Discussing the current conditions and your thoughts on the forecast will give you an opportunity to get things rolling. If it’s too cold/hot/snowy/windy for your coworker, they should be able to share some of their thoughts on the subject.
If your coworker is wearing something interesting (a new tie, a new shirt, etc.), you can ask them about it. If you’ve noticed that they’re working on something new (the latest software package, an improved organization system), it’s perfectly acceptable to ask them what they think of their new task.
If you’re feeling especially bold, ask your coworker if they like working in your department. If they don’t but love their job otherwise, you can always ask them what it is that they would change about the company or the department; this will give you an idea of how to proceed with further conversation topics.
If you feel awkward starting a conversation about the weather, try asking your coworker questions. Asking “How is your day going?” will usually give you some kind of answer (and might even initiate an activity like coffee break together).
Try asking open-ended questions that require more than a yes or no response; asking things like “What did you do last weekend?” will usually result in your coworker sharing at least a few details.
You also might want to try asking questions based on what you know about your coworker. If they’re wearing an interesting t-shirt, ask them where they got it or how much they like the band that it promotes. If they have a child with an unusual name, ask why they chose that name.
Your coworker is more likely to enjoy the conversation if you’re asking questions that interest them. If you’re really nervous about what your coworker is going to think, ask them if it’s okay for you to talk with them; completely opening up the topic of conversation this way might make things easier.
Be Interested in Your Coworker
Asking good questions and starting the conversation will likely get your coworker talking, but it won’t be the same as having a real conversation. To prevent your conversation from getting stuck in small talk, you should actually listen to what they have to say and take an interest in their responses.
Show your interest in what your coworker says by doing the following:
- Nodding and smiling during the conversation. This is especially important if your coworker is talking about something that’s important to them.
- Asking follow-up questions. If your coworker says that they have a cat, you might ask what its name is or how old it is.
- Making an effort to remember details they shared during the conversation. If they tell you that their cat’s name is Fluffy, you might want to remember that detail when you’re talking with them later.
- Sharing your own stories and opinions, if they’re relevant to the conversation. If your coworker mentions a new movie, you can tell them whether or not you liked it.
Small Talk at Work Examples
Still unsure how to start a conversation with a coworker? Following these tips will help you have a workday conversation that doesn’t feel forced. Remember, the point of making small talk with your coworker is to get to know each other better and make things more interesting.
If you’re still not sure how to proceed or what kind of questions to ask, here are a few examples of small talk that might help you get started:
- When is your day off? [General discussion]
- I’m really excited for the Super Bowl this weekend! How about you? [Sports talk]
- How do you normally spend your days off? [Conversation starter]
- What’s your favorite part of being a [Title]? [Job-related small talk]
- What are some of your hobbies outside of work? [Conversational starter]
- I’ve heard that these kinds of days can be really stressful. Is it always like this for you too, or do you have any tips for making them more enjoyable? [Open-ended question]
- What types of things do you enjoy doing when you have time off? [General conversation starter]
- Where’s your favorite place to go on a day like this? [Conversation about the weather]
- I love sunny days, but I can’t stand it when they’re too hot. What about you? [Weather talk]
- What do you usually do when it’s really hot outside? [Conversation starter]
- I usually stay inside or go to the beach. What about you? [Responses]
- How long have you lived here? [Small talk about the area they live in]
- Do you like living here? What are your favorite things about it? [Small talk about the area they live in]
- I actually grew up here, but that was a long time ago. I didn’t move back until recently. What do you think of the city so far? [New to town]
- If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would it be? [Conversation starter]
Too often, we try to rush through our conversations with coworkers by simply asking “how are you?” and then move on from there. By doing this, we end up not actually having a conversation at all.
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Whether you’re brand new to your company or you’ve worked with your coworker for years, making small talk can help you get to know them better and make the workday more enjoyable.
How to Talk to Coworkers at a New Job
Starting over with a new job can be tough, especially if you don’t know anyone and aren’t sure where to start. At first, your goal is to learn as much as you can about the place so that you have a good idea of what’s going on around you.
In order to do this, you should talk with different people in the office to get their take on what’s going on. By doing this, you can learn about the following:
- What people do in different departments and how they work together.
- Any new projects and initiatives that are coming up and how they affect your department.
- Your co-workers and whom you’ll be working with the most so you can learn about them.
- Common areas of the office that are good for collaboration with other departments.
Because you are new on the job, it’s likely that you won’t know any of these people yet. To make things easier, here are some tips on starting up small talk with people you don’t know at work:
- Make yourself known: When you start at a new job, people will probably already know who you are; but, they’re still getting to know you. One way that they’ll get to know you better is through small talk, so make an effort to be friendly and introduce yourself whenever possible.
- Go out of your way for others: Even though it might feel awkward at first, especially if you’re new to the office, helping others is a great way to make friends in any kind of environment.
- Be understanding when someone needs help: If your coworker or supervisor approaches you with a question that you don’t know the answer to, take some time out of your day to find them an answer. Even if you don’t know the answer, you can still help them out by pointing them in a direction that might give them a solution.
How to Talk to Coworkers at a Job You’ve Had for a While
Whether it’s been years since you started or just a few months, the people in your office are likely to have gotten to know you a little better. This means that starting a conversation with them will be much easier since they’re already aware of your interests and personality. Making small talk is simply an extension of what they probably do already when you walk by their desks.
However, if you find yourself getting stuck when it comes to talking with them, there are some things you can do to get the conversation started.
Introduce yourself again if you haven’t already. Even though people know who you are, you should introduce yourself every once in a while just to double-check that they still remember your name. This also gives them an opportunity to find out more about you, like new projects and interests.
Give them updates on how things are going outside of work. If you’ve gone through some major life changes recently (like starting a family or moving into a new place), let your coworkers know! This is a great way to start conversations because it allows people to give their own advice or show their support by sharing something they’ve been through.
Bring in pictures of your family or pets. People will have more to talk about with you if you share some things that are important to you, whether it’s a picture of your family or your dog that you place on your desk or in your work area.
Read up on current events that pertain to what you do at work. If there are some developments in your field (like a new technology or an influential company), read about them and mention them casually when talking with people at work. This allows you to make small talk without making it all about work, and it can help you get to know people better because they might give their opinions on the matter.
Talk with them about their interests. If your coworker likes to play hockey during his free time and you do too, bring it up when he’s working so that you can talk about it! This is a great way to connect on things that you both enjoy, even if you don’t have a ton in common.
Example Conversation with Colleagues
If you need some more help with examples, here’s a little conversation between two female coworkers.
Emma: “Hey, Alex! How’s it going?”
Alex: “Things are good – I had a nice weekend”
Emma: “That’s great! I hope you didn’t get too crazy” [showing that you’re easy to talk to]
Alex: “I actually did – my friend dragged me out again on Saturday night, but it was fun!” [sharing something personal]
Emma: “Oh yeah? Where’d you go?” [asking follow-up questions]
Alex: “That new club that opened up downtown”
Emma: “Oh, I went there last week! The drinks are pretty good” [sharing your thoughts]
Alex: “Yeah, they are! It’s a little loud in there though, so I might try out that new sushi place instead this weekend” [showing interests]
Emma: “I’m actually going to try that out, too. It looks pretty good!” [connecting with coworkers]
Alex: “Well, I’ll see you later” [concluding conversation]
People like to talk about themselves, so if you ask them questions about their lives (like how they spent the weekend), it gives them an opportunity to create a dialogue between themselves and you.
This conversation goes well because it’s easy to follow, there are lots of opportunities for Emma to respond, and they were both finding ways to relate to each other.
The only thing that could have made it better is if Alex had asked Emma about her weekend in return. This would’ve turned the conversation into a two-way street and would’ve given her a chance to share what she’d been up to.
Workplace Conversation Examples
One way to keep a conversation going is to use conversational threading. This means that if you’re talking about a topic and it naturally leads to something else, follow the transition. This allows for your conversation to flow smoothly without any awkward pauses or lulls in the discussion.
Below is an example of conversational threading:
Maria: “How was your weekend?”
James: “It was nice, I got a lot done around the house” [responding to Maria’s question]
Maria: “I’ve been wanting to get some more furniture for my patio. Did you end up going with that sofa or the loveseat?” [her response flows naturally from the previous topic]
James: “I went with the loveseat. But I still think I should’ve gotten the sofa instead; it would’ve been better for entertaining guests.” [he responds to her question, but also adds his own input]
Maria: “I agree. But if you need something for a small space, the loveseat is nice too” [she builds on his previous comment]
James: “Yeah, it is. The cushions are really soft too” [he responds and continues the thread]
Maria: “I know, right? I like how they sink in when you sit on them. It was a pretty good deal for how nice it is.” [she adds her opinion to his statement]
James: “Yeah, it was. I would’ve paid more for something with that quality” [another addition to the thread]
Maria: “I know what you mean! It’s nice when you get good value for your money.” [she agrees with James’ statement]
James: “Yeah, I’m glad I decided to go with it.” [concluding the thread]
Maria: “Me too! Well, I’ll let you get back to work. See you later!” [she leaves him with closing comments]
This conversation is easy for both of them to follow because the transitions are evident and James’ input is related to what Maria said. They use this technique throughout their whole conversation, making it easy for them to continue talking without any awkward pauses or long periods of silence.
How to Start a Conversation with a Coworker You Like
Coworkers you like can make your workdays more enjoyable. Here are some ideas for starting a conversation with someone you might like to get to know better:
- Compliment them on something personal – their clothes, their bag;
- Ask about an interesting article they’re reading;
- Engage them in a discussion about something you’re both interested in;
- Ask them if they want to grab some food or coffee with you after work;
- Invite them to join you for an activity at work, such as attending a professional development seminar together, going on a lunchtime walk, etc.; and
- Compliment them on their ideas or work.
Conversations that start this way will let your coworker know you’re interested in getting to know them better. If they return the favor, then you can use these topics as a starting point for further conversations. You may find out more about them and even become friends.
Related Posts About Making Conversation
- 6 Ways to Keep a Conversation Going (Even with Social Anxiety)
- How to End a Conversation in 6 Easy Steps
- I Hate Small Talk (What to Do)
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How Do You Start a Conversation with a Coworker?
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