Making small talk in a negotiation

Making “small talk” before starting a negotiation helps create a positive and friendly atmosphere. But what can we talk about? Depends on the country.

General topics of conversation.

  • The weather
  • Travel
  • History
  • People you both know
  • Sport

United Arab Emirates

Your host will set the conversation and expect you to contribute intelligently with interesting ideas and opinions.  The key is to contribute to enlightenment so both learn.

You don´t need to always agree but be polite and respectful. Don´t interrupt.


Before you go read a little about Chinese culture, history, and geography. Your hosts will appreciate your initiative.

Negative replies are considered impolite. Instead of saying ‘no’, answer ‘maybe’, ‘I’ll think about it’, or ‘we’ll see’. Your hosts will expect this and you can talk details later.


Indians enjoy to talk about politics, cricket, films, economics, history and family.

However be careful Indian politics can be very complex and often very regional in nature. Avoid talking about Pakistan.

India is a rich and ancient civilization and most Indians are proud of this.

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Contrasting; a modern and ancient communication technique

Contrasting is what the ancient Greeks called antithesis or saying ‘not this, but that’.

How? The speaker creates a contrast between the first and second phrase. Use clear, simple and strong contrasts.

Why? It causes the brain to think about and evaluate the contrast. Once the brain starts thinking about the contrast, you can guarantee your message has reached the audience. 


Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something.


My budget does not attempt to solve every problem or address every issue. It reflects the stark reality of what we’ve inherited – a trillion dollar deficit, a financial crisis, and a costly recession.

John F. Kennedy:

Ask not what your country can do for you; Ask what you can do for your country.