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English small talk: social and political issues

English small talk is a part of business life. But the news isn't always very good. How do you talk about social and political issues you've heard or read about?

In general, it's best to make a short, neutral comment.

For example, over the past few weeks there has been a lot of news about mass shootings in the US. If you have a business partner in the US, you could say something such as:

"I heard about the shootings over there. It sounds like a difficult time."

"It seems like shootings are in the news every day. I hope everyone can stay safe."

The statements above: 1) say that you saw something in the news connected to your business partner's country, and 2) give a neutral statement without giving any kind of personal opinion or judgement about the situation.

Social and political issues are always complex, and we never know who holds what opinion or belief. For that reason, it's best not to give any other comment during any English small talk. If your partner gives an answer, you will probably get a sense of their opinion based on what they say. However, rather than talk about their opinion, it's probably best if you turn to the matter at hand or the reason you are speaking together that day.

For more information about gun ownership in the US, see the Pew Research Center's many studies and articles (advanced B2/C1 English learners).

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