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Small Talk with Coworkers

Alison is a new nurse assistant at Peterson Hospital. She works the day shift, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. She gets two short breaks per day plus a lunch break. Alison doesn’t know anyone at work and is nervous about meeting new people. On her first day, though, her coworkers welcome her and talk to her in the break room.

“Where are you from?” one of them asks. “Were you a nurse assistant before, or is this your first nurse assistant job?” another asks. “Do you have any kids?” a third one asks. Alison answers their questions. At first, she isn’t sure if she should talk about her children, but everyone else tells her how many children they have and their ages, so she feels at ease with it. Talking about where she is from and her previous job experience is easy too. Alison leaves the break room feeling good about meeting her coworkers.

At lunch, Alison sits by some coworkers that she hasn’t met before. One of them asks her, “How old are you?” Alison is surprised by this question. In American culture, that is not a good question to ask someone you don’t know very well. Alison explains that she prefers not to answer that question, and the coworker apologizes. They laugh and begin talking about other things.

Topics like the weather, the past weekend, and hobbies are safe topics for small talk. Topics to avoid are people’s ages, political views, financial topics, and religion. Avoiding these topics will help all of the coworkers feel comfortable when they chat during break time.

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© 2015 by Southwest Adult Basic Education

Project made financially possible through grants from:

Southwest Initiative Foundation, Marshall Community Foundation, Southwest Regional Transition Partners, Southwest Adult Basic Education, Marshall Healthcare Partners