Small talk, or chit-chat, was a mode of verbal communication common among Humans. It was typically comprised of introductory statements, banal topics such as the weather, as well as subjects that were unrelated to or less significant than the matter at hand.
In 2366, Captain Jean-Luc Picard described having once briefly met Ambassador Sarek at Spock's wedding, being just a young lieutenant at the time. Regarding being tongue-tied in the presence of such a great man, he remarked to Commander William T. Riker, "How do you make small talk with someone who shaped the Federation?" (TNG: "Sarek")
In 2369, Data observed that a function of small talk is to fill silent moments with non-relevant conversation and that Humans often use small talk during awkward moments. Wishing to learn as much about Humanity as possible, Data wrote a subroutine for his own programming enabling him to small talk. Upon attempting small talk with Jean-Luc Picard, Data was advised by the captain to keep an eye on Commander Calvin Hutchinson, who was notoriously known to be quite a small-talker. Picard, who disliked Hutchinson's exaggerated use of small talk, went as far as to sarcastically refer to him as a "master of small talk." At the function with Hutchinson, Data took Picard's advice and engaged Hutchinson in small talk, which seemed to go on endlessly. Observing it, William T. Riker described it as having a strange fascination, asking "How long can two people talk about nothing?" (TNG: "Starship Mine")
In 2370, when Lieutenant Worf expressed apprehension about meeting with Iyaaran ambassadors, Commander Riker told him that he only had to spend about five minutes greeting them and maybe an hour of making small talk at a reception. (TNG: "Liaisons")
When Captain Kathryn Janeway first activated The Doctor in 2371, she commented that his personality could use some work and he replied that "I'm designed to practice medicine as efficiently as possible. Small talk only compromises my performance." (VOY: "Relativity")
Tuvok once remarked, "Vulcans do not make small talk." He preferred to read rather than engage in it. (VOY: "Ex Post Facto") Nevertheless, in 2374 he briefly did just that with the Leonardo da Vinci hologram after its program had been abducted. (VOY: "Concerning Flight")
Despite The Doctor's previous protestations, he eventually learned the art of small talk as part of his continued efforts to improve his program beyond simply the practice of medicine. In "Lesson 2: The Encounter in a Public Place" in his lesson entitled "Love Amid the Stars: A Romantic Bestiary", he introduced Seven of Nine to the holoprogram Paris 3, Chez Sandrine, to help her practice engaging in the art of small talk.
The lesson followed with scripted conversation:
- Male: "Hi, there."
- Female: "Hello."
- Male: "Come here often?"
- Female: "This is my first time."
- Male: "You must be new in town? How do you like the south of France?"
- Female: "It is very quaint – exactly as I've always pictured it."
- Male: "May I buy you a drink?"
Seven ultimately found the exercise pointless, but The Doctor pointed out to her that small talk is "a vital dating skill [that] helps to establish a rapport with your companion." (VOY: "Someone to Watch Over Me")