Are we scared of small talk? Top tips to break the digital barrier

Here, Jason Downes, managing director of, gives his top tips for breaking down the digital barriers to communication.

In this day and age everything we ever need to do can be done from a smartphone or digital device, simple tasks such as creating small talk is becoming more and more difficult.

Have you ever walked into a corporate event filled with dread, worrying what you’re going to say to all those strangers? You’re not alone. Recent studies suggest the rise in the use of smartphones and similar gadgets are killing small talk, which can present several problems in the workplace.

Dr Arthur Cassidy an established social media and celebrity psychologist, says digital devices are having an extreme impact on us and our ability to form relationships with others:

‘Psychological research shows us that while we ultimately depend on cyber technology for communication in today’s world, we have rapidly become virtually dehumanised. A plethora of research in mental health shows teenagers and many young adults have Internet Addiction Disorder.

‘This causes grave concern as it is reaching almost epidemic proportions. We become psychologically attached to our smartphones and tablets as a substitute for human attachment to family members.

‘There is a profound deficiency in how young people communicate face-to-face – no longer are they skilled at interpreting human emotions nor can they structure proper grammatical sentences.’

Communication skills lost?

So, you may ask what does this mean for the workplace? As the breakdown in actual verbal communication becomes more apparent it will eventually have a huge impact on business.

Terry Koutsios, CEO of skills-based online marketplace, believes businesses have a responsibility to keep face-to-face communication alive:

‘While technology has enabled teams to work seamlessly remotely, businesses need to ensure that younger employees are still being fully heard through face-to-face meetings. A business needs to have an integrated team to tackle challenges, get projects done and innovate.

‘While a lot of younger employees choose technology to communicate, senior members of staff are responsible for ensuring the importance of face-to-face meetings does not get dismissed.’

It is absolutely crucial that we keep communication flowing in the workplace as it is an essential tool in achieving productivity and maintaining strong working relationships at all levels of an organisation.

There are many benefits to effective communication with a business but the main one that springs to mind is efficiency. If employees of a company are communicating with each other successfully then they are more likely to be working efficiently to create the best possible outcome in terms of their workload.

Below are just a few ways that you can create a little bit of small talk both in the workplace and in your everyday life:
Keep up with current events- Make sure you know what’s going on from the Latest TV show to the current government party. This is a really simple way to make conversation with almost anyone.

Research your target- If you know who you might be having that awkward chit-chat with before a meeting maybe have a quick background check on them over social media and LinkedIn. This will help you gain a little insight into something interesting you will be able to ask them about to keep the conversation flowing.

The 30-Day Rule: Etiquette expert and business development consultant Michael Kaleikini swears by a character-building tool called The 30-Day Rule:

‘Talk about events or situations that happened 30 days before today, or will happen 30 days after today. If I know someone is a sports fan, I would ask about their favourite sport or team. Perhaps they are active in physical activity. I may ask what they like to do.

‘If I get a response to the effect of, ‘My wife and I like to bike on the weekends in the canyon,’ without giving me a lot of information I can already tell they live an active lifestyle, which means they are probably quite healthy. They like to ride together, a potentially solid and loving couple. They do it often on weekends. They make time to be with each other.

‘So, I’ve learned this is a family person that is loyal and likes to make time for family. Good qualities for a potential business colleague, wouldn’t you say?’

Jason Downes is managing director of

Further reading on digital barriers

Owen Gough, SmallBusiness UK

Owen Gough

Owen was a reporter for Bonhill Group plc writing across the and titles before moving on to be a Digital Technology reporter for the

Related Topics

Digital skills

Leave a comment