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Probation workers need to be able to speak with people from a wide range of backgrounds to gain their trust. Good communication skills are critical but the element of “small talk” as a conversational ice breaker is also important.

It’s not only good for gaining the confidence of clients but also for communication with fellow probation officer colleagues within the office environment.

Here’s a few tips to help improve your small talk skills as a probation officer.

Learning small talk

Small talk, whether you feel comfortable with it or not, is an important part of communication both in your personal and professional life.

Those who seem more at ease with it are often perceived as more confident and socially outgoing, but it is very much a skill that can be learned and honed. At work it can be a way of opening, or strengthening, professional connections and developing your career.

What to talk about

Of course, when it comes to small talk, you have to have something to discuss and by its nature, it will be a subject outside the professional sphere. Good knowledge of current affairs and popular culture is a sure-fire way in, along with an interest in sport, music and cinema. However, topics to avoid include politics and religion…the last thing you want small talk to create is an argument!

The small talk skill set

In terms of approach, you have to be genuine as fake small talk is quickly picked up. Make small talk meaningful, not just about where people are from or the weather but topics of potential interest to both parties such as pets or sport.

If you’ve met the person before try to remember facts about them that you can drop in to stimulate the conversation. Keep it upbeat, ask open ended questions and also use your surroundings – such as a restaurant or function – for conversational prompts.

Be a good listener

If you want to get to know your colleagues better, small talk is a great way in but also be prepared to listen to them and find out what they are interested in and then store it away as a subject for future conversations. An office where colleagues communicate informally is generally a happy working environment and one, which in turn, gets along professionally as well.

After all, you are more likely to seek help from someone you feel comfortable with and from that they may be more likely to seek you out for help and advice with caseloads or clients they find challenging.

If you think you’re right for a probation job role then why not take a look at our latest job vacancies? We have a range of opportunities throughout the UK, making us the first place to look for your next job role.
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