Idioms for Business Small Talk

Small talk is vital for business people in all industries, roles and networks. In business, small talk has two main purposes:

  1. To learn about the other person and build trust.
  2. To find out the ways in which you could mutually benefit from the relationship.

Idioms are very useful in small talk because they help you to sound more natural and confident.

It is more difficult to build trust when you can’t meet in person — and we are all now ‘meeting’ via video calls. Being more confident and natural in speaking English can help you to more easily establish trust over video call.

Below are some idioms that you can use in a business situation.

break the ice: start a conversation to help the person you have just met be less nervous and more willing to talk

throw in at the deep end: give someone a difficult job to do without preparation

jump in at the deep end: choose to begin doing something complex and/or unfamiliar without  guidance, assistance, or preparation

Note: “the deep end” refers to the deepest part of a swimming pool

see eye to eye: to agree with someone, to share their position or opinion

get into hot water: get into trouble

put my foot in it: unintentionally do or say something foolish, tactless, or offensive

get on like a house on fire: quickly have a friendly relationship with someone you’ve just met

like a fish out of water: feeling uncomfortable in a new situation or environment

an eye-opener / a real eye-opener: an experience or new information that is startling, shocking or surprising to you; something you didn’t know before

bite the bullet: do or accept something unpleasant or difficult, usually after hesitating for a while

And now a game!

Find the idioms in this short story:

When we met at the convention, Lee broke the ice and after that we got on like a house on fire. It seemed that we saw eye to eye about everything. Unfortunately, though, a little while later I really put my foot in it with a cultural blunder. I’m afraid I’m going to get into hot water with my boss, because Lee represents an important new account for us. I feel like I’ve been thrown in the deep end with this new role. I’m a bit like a fish out of water at these multinational conventions, and this one has been a real eye-opener for me. I guess I’ll just have to bite the bullet and jump in at the deep end and learn from experience.

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