I can make small talk when I need to.
But I’m not an extrovert (someone who’s very comfortable in social situations). It took me a long time to build my social skills and I’m still learning.
In my experience, not everyone can become an extrovert, but all of us—especially professionals—can and should learn how to socialize well.
In this post, I’ll show you exactly how to do that in business English.
At work, you’re probably expected to socialize and network a lot. You have to befriend your colleagues, impress industry experts and make important connections as you work your way up the professional ladder.
So if you’re naturally shy or introverted, or if you’re not comfortable in business English yet, you may be nervous to socialize.
I’ll give you five strategies to help you overcome those fears and start having enjoyable, impressive business English conversations in any social setting.
Where to Practice Socializing in Business English
In addition to the advice I’ll provide below, you can check out these educational resources to help you develop your social skills in business English.
- Udemy courses: Udemy is a popular online education platform where you can find classes for business, language and much more. To improve your business English socializing, check out this Udemy course that’ll guide you on how to make professional small talk both inside and outside your workplace.
- FluentU: To get the most out of any English or business English video, be sure to watch on FluentU. FluentU takes real-world videos—like business dialogues, inspiring speeches, news and more—and turns them into personalized English lessons.FluentU has a huge collection of English videos that people in the English-speaking world actually watch.More to the point, FluentU has an entire business category filled with authentic business-related videos covering six language levels.
To show the variety of videos even inside this single category, real-world business videos on FluentU include “Introducing Business Colleagues,” “Business Buzzwords,” “Control Your Inbox!” and “What Warren Buffet Thinks About Cash.”
An added bonus is that if you want to work on other topics later, simply use the same, familiar FluentU platform to learn with videos from other categories, such as “Science and Tech,” “Politics and Society” or mix it up with “Arts and Entertainment” or “Health and Lifestyle.”
Every spoken word is subtitled, complete with an in-context definition, image and multiple example sentences.
All you have to do is tap or click on one of the words in those subtitles to get more information. For example, if you tap on the word “brought,” you will see this:
Plus, these great videos are all accompanied by interactive features and active learning tools, like multimedia flashcards and fun games like “fill in the blank.”
If you are interested in watching fun, relevant videos and practicing language actively in the process, be sure to create a FluentU account and try it out on your computer, iOS or Android device!
1. Cultivate Your Workplace Personality
We’re all a bundle of personalities. We act differently around different people, be it family, friends or our significant other. Creating a specific “workplace personality” is crucial to socializing appropriately in English-language workplaces.
So, think about how you want to be seen by other professionals. Do you want to be the charismatic (charming, friendly) team leader everyone looks up to? Do you want to be the quiet thinker who everyone knows they can count on? Do you have a forward-facing position, where you’ll need to attract the attention and trust of clients?
Figure out the kind of person you want to be at work and make a list of qualities that you’d like to cultivate. You can even take a quiz to figure out your “workplace personality.”
Now that you know what your ideal “office” personality is, you can start by taking baby steps to achieve it. For example, let’s say you want to be seen as the friendly person with leadership potential. You can memorize some positive English phrases, and then make it a point to compliment one of your colleagues on their work every day.
Or, let’s say you want to improve your social interactions with clients. Try to visit one professional networking event per month and practice introducing yourself and your company in English.
2. Make Sure You Have Stuff to Talk About
Social butterflies (people who are great at social situations) always make meaningful conversations look effortless. But the truth is that it takes skill and practice to be a great conversationalist.
You want to get to a place where you can strike up conversations with anyone in English. You don’t want to be shy or embarrassed about interacting with your boss, an industry professional or a future client.
The easiest way to get over this fear is to prepare English conversation topics before your next social situation. That way, rather than waiting for someone else to keep the conversation interesting, you can do it yourself by already having a few anecdotes (brief stories) in mind as conversation starters. They can be funny things that happened at work, successes or failures with recent projects, background information about yourself, etc.
Don’t love chatting about yourself? Another great option is to keep up with the latest business news and current affairs and talk about them in an open-ended way. This will also make you come across as a well-informed, knowledgeable and approachable person.
3. Offer to Help Your Colleagues Whenever You Can
This is a great way to practice socializing in a productive way.
Simply try to be more alert and observant of opportunities to help your colleagues. If you see someone having trouble with a computer or the coffee machine, go up to them and see if you can sort it out. Volunteer for fundraising campaigns. When there’s a group discussion about something, be the person who comes up with solutions.
Show your enthusiasm and support for your colleagues as often as you can. If you’re someone who’s nice, kind and responsible, you’ll automatically be well-liked and sought-after by your colleagues.
You can simply say, “I noticed you were having trouble with [issue]. Can I help out somehow?” And go from there.
4. Ask Intelligent Questions
Good questions bring energy to social situations. They inspire everyone in the conversation to think and participate. Basically, they prevent boring conversations!
Remember to keep your questions clear and concise. Here’s a great list of targeted business English questions you can use as examples. Don’t interrupt anyone and when it’s your turn to speak, be straightforward and positive.
If you’ll be attending a social setting at a conference or industry event, do some background research beforehand. Think about what topics will be discussed and what questions will add value to your conversations.
For example, after a presentation is over, you can ask a question about an issue that you felt was relevant but wasn’t discussed, or suggest a way of improving a proposed business strategy.
5. Exchange Contact Details for Long-term Social Connections
Don’t think of every social interaction as a one-time event. One of the best ways to develop your social skills for work is to maintain contact with other professionals, even if you won’t necessarily be doing work together.
This will allow you to get ongoing business English conversation practice. Plus, since so much socializing happens online these days, you’ll practice your written English and email skills, too.
Don’t ask for someone’s number as soon as you meet them. Talk to them for a while before bringing up the issue of contact details, to make sure you actually enjoy socializing with this person! Also, it’s always safer to ask for an email address or a website rather than a phone number or Facebook page, which may seem too personal. Make sure you carry 10 to 20 business cards with you always, so you can easily give out your contact information.
You can tell them something along the lines of:
- “This has been a very interesting conversation. If it’s okay with you, I’d like to keep in touch.”
- “It was great meeting you. If you ever need help regarding [your business], feel free to contact me.”
Remember to follow up afterward! Wait a few days, typically a week, before shooting them an email.
Make sure your language is polite and formal in the email. If you wish to meet them over lunch or coffee, make sure you state the reason for meeting them in the “Subject” line itself. Start off the email by introducing yourself and reminding them where and when you met. Then outline your proposal for a meeting. You can add a tentative date or place for the meeting, but also add that they’re free to change it per their convenience.
If you want to be better at socializing, the only way forward is to just talk to people. Speak up more in the office and go to networking events. It may seem difficult at first, and you’re sure to make mistakes, but it’s important to learn from them and grow intellectually. Remember that not everyone you try to talk to will be eager to connect and you shouldn’t take that personally. Set small goals and reward yourself for achieving them and pretty soon, socializing in business English will be second nature to you.
Archita Mittra is a freelance writer, journalist, editor and educator. Feel free to check out her blog or contact her for freelancing/educational inquiries.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you’ll love FluentU, the best way to learn English with real-world videos.