Small talk

people-2559723_1920One of my biggest pet peeves is small talk. Since I encounter it every day at work, I’ve gotten quite good at it. But I still don’t enjoy it. To me it seems fake and insincere. It usually goes something like this:

Them: Hello, how are you?
Me: Good, you?
Them: I’m doing well. How’s your day going so far?
Me: Alright, I’m happy it’s almost the weekend.
Them: Me too, do you have any plans?

And so it goes.

Now I understand small talk is great for breaking the ice between two people who’ve just met. It can warm up conversation between acquaintances. Or it can be the exchange of pleasantries with your barista or cashier. It makes the transaction a lot less awkward than staring someone down silently as you pay for your purchase.

But I’ve been stuck in so many conversations that have never gone beyond the small talk stage. The conversation jumps from weather, to work, to so-and-so’s new baby, to vacation plans, to gossip, then back to their favorite Netflix show. So I’ll smile and nod while I’m inwardly planning what I’m going to make for supper.

As an introvert, any social interaction drains my energy. But small talk is the worst. Not only do I lose energy but there’s no personal connection gained. I crave mental stimulation. I want to talk about the how’s and why’s. I want to know what makes them tick, their dreams, hopes, and desires. I’m more than willing to open up and share my story too.

Sometimes I’ll try to steer the conversation into deeper waters using open ended questions. It doesn’t always work, but when it does, it’s a beautiful thing.

Any tips for small talk?

17 thoughts on “Small talk

  1. Salvageable says:

    I’d rather deliver an hour-long lecture to a crowd of people than spend five seconds in small talk. Sadly, even lecture halls have aisles and hallways where small talk happens before and after the lecture. After is worse–I’ve just burned all my energy sharing information that matters to me, and now I have to engage a person one-on-one? But, like everyone else, I do the best I can. J.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Britta says:

    I’m currently a substitute teacher, and I’ve been spending a lot of time in a middle school. I’ve found I have a really hard time connecting with middle school girls–it’s the time of raging hormones and acute self-consciousness–and I find that a lot of middle school girls, particularly girls that I sense are intuitive, are so emotionally stifled (it comes with the territory–I was there once, too, so I get it) that they are not in a position to go beyond small talk, even if I sense that they are more than capable of it. They expect me to engage in small talk with them, and if I don’t they eye me warily…and when I call them out for bad behavior, they shut down/I can tell their feelings are hurt. It’s been a struggle to find out how to communicate with them, because I’m not good at forced small talk at all, and I also read them incredibly well. Being quiet is natural for me, but they think it’s weird that I’m so quiet. I’ve realized I’m overly stern with them if they’re acting out, because I’m not sure what else to do….when in reality, they probably need someone who is more supportive through friendly small talk.

    I find I enjoy working with elementary students more, because they haven’t developed those hormones yet and aren’t so self-conscious. It’s easier for me to talk to them without feeling pressured to force something because I’m the teacher/authority figure. The introverted elementary students don’t mind my quietness and the extroverted elementary students have no filter so they talk about whatever and I’ll listen.

    So yes, I hear you, Ally. Being in such a social job is hard as an introvert. I love being a teacher, but it’s also hard to articulate to people, especially students who look to teachers as authority figures, that I’m not being rude by not talking…I’m just an introvert who values quiet.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ally says:

      Thank you for such an insightful comment. I can definitely see how challenging it would be to work with middle-school students. But what an awesome opportunity to be able to impact their young lives in a positive way 🙂

      Like

      • Britta says:

        You’re welcome, Ally. Thank you. I also think it’s good for students to be exposed to quieter people. Even if the middle schoolers think it’s weird now, I hope they’ll realise someday that the quiet sub that came to their school often wasn’t so weird after all.

        Like

  3. VTNessa says:

    I’d say make up something ludicrous for the next time you’re asked something like, “What have you been up to?” “Me? Oh, I’ve been busy trying to herd my unicorns after they went on a wild goose chase hunting for some elves. Silly unicorns. They kept me pretty busy.”

    Or I’ll answer, ” How are you,” with, “I’ve been better, but God is faithful and I’m trying to see how he’s working in this situation.” If the person is a Christian, it opens up a chance at a real conversation. If they aren’t, it either makes them go quiet, or they ask a question or something. If nothing else, it breaks up the humdrum of just saying, “fine,” and the feeling of lying if I don’t truthfully feel fine.

    All this said, I’ve gotten used to really awkward situations considering my son’s Aspergers and his lack of filtering most of the thoughts that run through his head, haha, so maybe I’m not the best one to offer a solution. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  4. sensibledove says:

    I’m an introvert as well and don’t like small talk either. As a matter of common courtesy, I can say “Good morning and how are you?” Beyond that, it’s just awkward. I try to avoid getting stuck in an elevator with others.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. pearlgirl says:

    I struggle with this as well. Most of the time I just end up silent because I sometimes feel like going deeper always leads to a more negative and pessimistic conversation, and I’m afraid of being that dark cloud in people’s lives. It’s hard to know how to balance other’s expectations with an interesting or more authentic conversation.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ally says:

      I completely agree. I find it depends on the person as well. I’ve introduced deeper topics easily with certain people. But I’ve also had others completely shut down an interesting conversation in favor of more gossip and fluff 😛

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Wendylynn says:

    I try to ask them ‘deeper’ follow up questions about what they feel or think about the topic, how it affects them. People like to talk about themselves. Then I don’t have to say small-talk things. I just have to ask questions and hopefully make the small talk just a little less small.

    Liked by 1 person

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