Book: "The Fine Art of Small Talk" by Debra Fine - my review

Written by Christopher Lewis. Posted in Blog

People know what small talk is, however, they are, sometimes, unable to participate in it because of shyness. This can be problematic in any number of situations. Business networking, first dates, family gatherings and social occasions are built on small talk.

A book, written by Debra Fine, called "The Fine Art of Small Talk" tries to help those who cannot seem to get into the swing of this type of talking. Most of the time it is because of shyness and her book works with you on this issue. It opens with her discussing a scene in a bar, together with her girlfriend and the man who has caught her eye. Through a brief discussion with her girlfriend, she realizes she just has to go over to this man who has made eye contact with her, repeatedly, over a few hours. We then find out he is almost as shy as she is because he has been trying to get up the nerve to go over to her.

This book goes with her, through her journey from shy and incommunicative to a fairly outgoing young woman and even into a position where she is teaching communications to a college class. It is not for those who are already comfortable with social situations.

 The book's full title is "The Fine Art of Small Talk: How To Start a Conversation, Keep It Going, Build Networking Skills -- and Leave a Positive Impression!". It has 16 chapters:

  • Chapter 1 talks about the importance of small talk in everyone's lives.
  • Chapter 2 indicates that, in most situations, Silence is not golden. In safe situations, you need to talk to learn about that other person.
  • Chapter 3 illustrates how to start a conversation!
  • Chapter 4 continues chapter 3 by giving more hints and tips about starting and keeping it rolling.
  • Chapter 5: People like to talk about themselves, so ask them some questions and go from there!
  • Chapter 6: Discover how to listen actively and show the other person you are listenin.
  • Chapter 7 and 8 helps you prevent those pregnant pauses and be more assertive in your conversation without being overbearing.
  • Learn how to uncover 'The Monopolizer' or the 'FBI Agent' and how to thwart their mission in chapter 9.
  • Chapter 10 deals with ending a conversation in a friendly way.
  • Chapters 11 through 15 provide ways, hints and tips, as well as some checklists for: 
    • fueling the conversation to keep it going,
    • sealing with Networking events and similar functions,
    • surviving the Singles Scene and
    • making others feel good about talking with you.
  • Chapter 16 sums it all up with the title of: Carpe Diem! (Seize the day!)

What I did not like

Worth mentioning is that there is the unmistakable impression that the vast majority of the situations depicted in this book are based on business situations.

Several examples of ice breakers appear to be a little bizarre and not something that could comfortably be brought up. Maybe that is part of the point? The ideas expressed in this book are not as developed as I believe they should be, possibly because of the shortness of this work.

What I liked

Since there is information and cheat sheets on how to start and maintain a conversation, even if you do not overcome your shyness, it is a valuable resource. I appreciated the fact that all concepts are presented in a simple straight forward way. There is nothing complex about any of it and the stories, quips and comments bring it all down to where the reader is, right now.


All in all, I have found it to be an easy to read and easy to understand. I think that "The Fine Art of Small Talk" can help a lot of shy people if they allow it to.

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