Style of Small Talk
|1.||The role of ‘small talk’ in communication||4|
|1.1.||The notion of ‘small talk’||4|
|1.1.1.||Small talk users||4|
|1.1.2.||Reasons for small talk usage||5|
|1.1.3.||Time and place appropriate for usage of small talk||8|
|1.1.4.||Small talk definitions||9|
|1.2.||Stages of conversation involving small talk||11|
|1.2.1.||Introduction of conversation||11|
|1.2.2.||Body of conversation||14|
|1.2.5.||Conclusion of conversation||21|
|2.||Historical comparison of the small talk topics and formulas||23|
|2.1.||Small talk subject matter||23|
|2.1.1.||The subject matter determiner in small talk introduction||23|
|2.1.2.||The subject matter determiner in small talk body||26|
|2.1.3.||The subject matters unacceptable for small talk||30|
|2.2.||Formulas used for small talk||32|
|2.2.1.||Formulas used for small talk introduction||32|
|2.2.2.||Formulas used for body and conclusion of small talk||38|
|3.||Centuries differences in small talk||41|
|3.1.||Reflection of small talk in the 19th century realism literature||41|
|3.2.||Small talk in contemporary sources reflecting communication||47|
The theme of the present paper - Style of small talk – has been little investigated so far. It is scantily represented by research papers, although small talk is essential in building every kind of relationship and networking in any business and private areas as well to the opinion of specialists practically working in the area of communication. Small talk as a part of colloquial style of language employs certain rules and possesses its own features, which are to be investigated in order to use this means of communication as efficiently as possible. If to remember history, every higher society person, especially a girl was taught to talk in public (together with the principles of polite behaviour), for example, during late middle ages and even up to the middle of the 20th century, but this means of communication is grossly disregarded in modern society regardless the utility. Issues concerning small talk appear in such practical advices like “How to make friends” or “How to like to people”, but there is a lack of deeper scientific research of the style and its functions in literature.
The present paper tries to fill the mentioned gap and to draw conclusions which would be suitable for improvement of communication, so its goal is to investigate, as it was mentioned, the literature accessible on this theme and examples of small talk in order:
1) to find out what is understood by ‘small talk’;
2) to define what parts small talk consists of and how they are related,
3) to investigate what the functions of small talk constituents – tools and strategies – in communication are, and
4) to find how the elements of small talk may be used by a person to reach the goals of communication.
Therefore, the paper will research means and strategies promoting or hindering communication during small talk conversation in order to point out to those tools and strategies, which help, and to avoid those which hinder successful communication. For this purpose, some samples from the 19th century realism literature will be analysed, since they reflect the style of communication at the mentioned period. In order to show the development in such communication, examples of contemporary sources will be considered and compared.
The hypothesis of the research paper: the style of small talk has changed during the course of time and small talk has lost its significance in official training of practical communication, being essential in a person’s social success simultaneously. The style of small talk demands for the reconsideration of its importance and development of practical training methods suitable for the modern situation. In order to prove the hypothesis and point out to the possible solutions of the problem, theoretical literature will be investigated and small talk samples analysed.
The Chapter 1 will be devoted to a theoretical investigation of the role of small talk, its kinds, contents and functions. Historical development of small talk will be considered in the Chapter 2, basing on samples taken from fiction in the first sub-chapter and contemporary sources as personal experience, internet discussions, newspapers and journals in the second sub-chapter. The Chapter 3 will analyse topics and formulas used in small talk basing on the examples provided by the Chapter 2 and compare the development.
The conclusions made as the result of the research may be practically used in order to improve training in practical communication for foreign language students, as well as for any person interested in the development of its own communicational abilities.
The first thing to be researched is what exactly is understood by small talk. In general terms, small talk practically always means oral communication with few exceptions Since there are not many definitions of the term found and small talk is rather little investigated, it is more convenient to begin with a general overview who, where and why uses small talk in communication and, later, to come to conclusions what it means and how it may be defined.
1.1.1. Small talk users
The basic question of this chapter is: “Who”? Who uses small talk? The users are people with many different relationships and, especially, if they do not know each other well or have met for the first time at all. Communication among people is closely related to the notion of politeness as a strategy of interaction, and it demands to say at least a few words in certain situations. It is also common for people who are only acquaintances, often called a “friend of a friend”, to use small talk. Other people who have short casual conversations are office employees who may not be good friends, but work together. Customer service representatives, waitresses, hairdressers and receptionists often make small talk with their customers, (www.debrafine.com) since it is often uncomfortable for both parties to work in a complete silence, also postmen or taxi drivers may be added to the list. Any people may talk each to other beginning from complete strangers who has met at a bus-stop or in an airplane to businessmen or scientists taking a tea-break at a conference, people who have met in a celebration or at a party, who are standing together and watching a football game or parents at a parental meeting.
Small talk may be considered to be underestimated because of its relative unimportance in the public opinion. Scientists, on their turn, have proved it to be significant. There is an account on research carried out by Dr. Thomas Harrell, Professor Emeritus of Business at Stanford University, in the early 1990’s. He has studied a group of MBAs after a period of ten years after their graduation with an aim to identify the traits of those who were most successful. The conclusions were that “grade point average had no bearing on success. The one trait he identified in common among the “successfuls” was their verbal fluency. They were confident conversationalists who could talk to anyone: colleagues, investors, strangers, bosses, or associates. They could speak well in front of audiences, and they were easy to talk to”. (RoAne; undated) Conversation is the basis of the communication. It establishes rapport and connects people to their colleagues, clients, cronies, competitors, co-workers, subordinates, superiors, and friends. (RoAne; undated) In the late 1980’s, Dr. Nathan Keyfitz, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Harvard, concluded that in the year 2000 most people will be specialists in their fields, but those who succeed will be the “people who can talk to people.” (RoAne; undated) There are more similar opinions: “It is critical in both social and professional settings. Often business is framed in small talk, and some cultures do a tremendous amount of training in it,” says Lewis. (Monthy: 1995) Even casual conversation helps people to know their clients, potential clients, colleagues, co-workers, and friends better, (RoAne; undated) therefore it is important also for one’s career and for business relations. Although it might seem, that professions employing linguistic skills to a great extent, for example, lawyers, teachers, lecturers might be better in communication including small talk, also this assumption turns out to be misleading:
“I am frequently present at functions where there are a lot of lawyers in attendance. And one of the most amazing things that I discover is that although many lawyers make their living through speaking, they can appear to be profoundly at a loss for words when they are in social situations.” (Werner: 2004)
Thus, it is possible to come to two conclusions. The first is more general: it is essential to possess good conversational skills in the environment of fierce competition prevailing with the modern world, since small talk as a kind of linguistic competence is used by everybody. The second – it is useful to introduce small talk as a subject within the course of applied communication for any professionals, also, as the case may be, for interpreters and, especially, English [and other foreign and native] language teachers who, on their turn, may distribute their knowledge to their own students. …