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The Book “Big Talk, Small Talk” by Shola Kaye Review


Interpersonal communication undoubtedly plays an essential role in everyone’s lives. People are social creatures, so it is essential to develop good interpersonal skills in all life spheres. If people cannot communicate effectively, they will not be able to reach their goals and can potentially harm other people’s feelings. The book Big Talk, Small Talk (and Everything in Between) by Shola Kaye becomes a step-by-step guide out of every uncomfortable communication situation to avoid this problem. It is crucial to learn and polish one’s interpersonal communication skills, especially listening, to improve the quality of one’s life and relationship with others.

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The book Big Talk, Small Talk (and Everything in Between): Effective Communication Skills for All Parts of Your Life is written by Shola Kaye. She is an author of two books on communication, a consultant specializing in communication, an award-winning speaker, and an international performer. Her insight into effective communication allows analyzing the theoretical foundations of big and small talks and applying them in real life with its practical basis. Kaye highlights topics such as inclusion and diversity in all fields of communication, especially those that focus on complex information and empathy.

The book allows readers to build effective communication skills through various skill-building strategies and tools. It allows them to learn and put them into practice in daily interactions with family, friends, colleagues, or even strangers in real life or social media. The book’s introduction focuses on the necessity of developing interpersonal communication mastery to avoid stressful or awkward interactions. Kaye applies her own life experience and tells her communication journey from an introverted, shy child to a speaking coach and a consultant. “Whether you are studying, working, or retired or are single or attached, you can benefit from learning to communicate effectively,” insists Kaye on the inclusivity of effective communication [Kaye, 2020].

The first chapter of the book includes essential information about communication means and strategies and provides a fundamental understanding of the communication process. Kaye underlines how credibility and integrity are essential to establish relationships and influence and authority to impact a situation. It needs to be evaluated in every particular situation according to the receiver, channel, message, and environment. Body language, gestures, and facial cues are also highlighted as essential aspects of delivering a message, besides verbal expressions. Thus, interpersonal communication presents itself as a multifaceted act that can influence our lives.

The following two chapters explain the difference between small and big talk. The author stresses the importance of both. A “small talk is a great way to build up a bit of empathy and find things you have in common,” while a big talk allows readers to deal with “more challenging conversations or subjects that might be difficult to broach” [Kaye, 2020]. The common scenarios for both types are included to understand the appropriateness of using each of them in a particular situation.

The fourth chapter emphasizes the face and body language aspect of communication. Kaye states that the “tone of voice and body language reveal a great deal about a speaker and their intentions” [Kaye, 2020]. Watching and identifying these signals in others allows improving communication quality while being aware of one’s gestures permits one to send proper signals to the receiver. The fifth chapter goes even further and explores written and visual skills one can use to send the message.


The book Big Talk, Small Talk (and Everything in Between) was a great source of various insights and useful tips for me. Small talk has always been confusing to me since it does not usually correspond with the typical communication strategies. The specific features, such as telling a story or compliments, were a great practical way to enhance day-to-day conversations with acquaintances. I noticed what to say and not to mention to avoid confusion, resulting in fruitful and light conversations. The book became an excellent guide for me as every chapter has a specific focus, a strategy, and an example with a tip at the end that helped me to get a grip of the suggested material.

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My ability to have big talk also flourished as well as small talk. The challenging conversations were always frustrating and even terrifying for me. I could not seem to realize how to start and handle it. Fortunately, the book gave practical answers to my concerns. The big talk chapter’s main focus was the people’s emotions that are important to take into consideration when approaching a difficult subject. Kaye suggests “avoiding the inquisition and preaching to others and yourself, and acknowledging other’s feelings.” I agree with this approach since supporting and improving relationships is my end goal in starting a big talk in the first place. The author’s clients support the strategy with their real-life examples of how different approaches towards tough conversations may turn out.

Besides emotions, Kaye also pays a considerable deal of attention to active listening that she considers an instrumental part of successful interpersonal communication. Active listening is a skill that involves focusing on the speaker’s words and their meaning by minimizing the thoughts about different subjects in our heads. One needs to listen and evaluate what is said first to form a coherent answer. According to Kaye, “If we fail to listen actively, we will lose much of the meaning of the words being spoken.” It is a challenging skill for me since I find it difficult to concentrate on the speech without contemplating other things. However, I agree that regular training makes it much more manageable.

The Listening: Receiving and Responding chapter of the coursebook Interplay deals with precisely the same matter. Listening as an activity closely tied to speaking is the chapter’s focus and is explained in great depth. Such a theoretical background complements the practical guidance of Kaye’s book. All the listening components such as hearing, attending, understanding, remembering, and responding are highlighted in Big Talk, Small Talk. Kaye emphasizes the need to listen to the message underneath the words to “decipher the true meaning.” It corresponds to the explanation of Interplay authors. They believe that “paying attention to a message does not guarantee that you will understand what is being said” [Adler et al., 2017].

Big Talk, Small Talk does not only emphasize the important aspects of listening but responding too. It covers the importance of connection and empathy to establish relationships with others. “Empathy is a key skill that makes life easier and relationships richer,” says Kaye to explain the foundations of quality communication and its ultimate goal [Kaye, 2020]. It largely correlates with the Interplay statement that “empathizing is a response style listeners use when they want to show they identify with a speaker” [Adler et al., 2017]. Such a style of response allows to express genuine concern and support the speaker.

Effective communication is an essential tool that requires careful development to be able to reach the highest paramount. It creates opportunities in life, fosters relationships, and allows people to avoid confusion or public embarrassment. The theory and practical strategies need to be intertwined in a learning method that helps build interpersonal communication skills the most. The strategies and the tips from personal practice in the book Big Talk, Small Talk allow one to harmonically develop one’s communication abilities and improve one’s life.


Adler, R. B., Rosenfeld, L. B., Towne, N., & Scott, M. (2017). Listening: Receiving and Responding. Interplay: The process of interpersonal communication (14th ed, pp. 195-225). Oxford University Press.

Kaye, S. (2020). Big Talk, Small Talk (and Everything in Between): Effective Communication Skills for All Parts of Your Life. Rockridge Press.

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