You know that piece of advice regarding small talk: when you don’t know what to say, talk about the weather? It sounds cliche, but it can work pretty well. It’s shallow, non controversial, always existent. And it can be just enough to keep away that awkward silence when you are stuck in a position with someone you don’t really know (and sometimes really don’t care about). But what a lot of people don’t realize is that good friends talk about the weather too.
When I people watch, I get such a kick out of hearing the random things friends talk about as they walk past. Much of these conversations consist of stupid, shallow, insignificant topics. The other day I called my little brother and asked him what he was eating for lunch. That topic actually constituted the majority of our conversation. But you know what? I didn’t really care what he was eating, it certainly wasn’t important, and that was so shallow I could’ve discussed it with a stranger. Similarly, a few nights ago, I texted my friends to let them know the vacuum on the third floor of my dorm was missing. Real relevant, right?
But, to those of you who have an aversion to small talk, I have a claim to make. First of all, I want to admit that I understand your viewpoint. At one point, I, too, thought small talk was an irrelevant, painful mistake that society demanded. Why carry on a conversation if the topic isn’t worth conversing about? Why waste my energy talking about or listening to someone’s story about their grandma’s favorite color? What is the value in having to act interested in the mundane story of how someone couldn’t decide which clothes to wear that morning? I get your point.
And yet, the problem with this argument is that it’s only taking into consideration half of the equation–and the less important half at that. Small talk isn’t just about what’s being said; it’s about what is being communicated. It’s about the relationship behind the words. When I called my little brother, it wasn’t to talk about food. It was to hear his voice, to let him know I was thinking about him, to remind him that I love him even though I don’t really see him anymore. It didn’t matter what we were talking about–it just mattered that we were talking.
When I sit at the table long after dinner is done talking about how I detest clothes shopping, it’s not because that matters inherently, but because I am spending time with my friends and laughing together. When I text my friends to let them know the vacuum is missing, it’s not because this information does them any good, but because they know I am thinking about them and I know they will be thinking of me. And we think about each other because we care about each other.
So what do you think? What are some of the amusing small-talk conversations that you’ve heard (or been involved in) when people-watching? What do you talk about with your friends/family most of the time?
Additionally, I know I only addressed one angle of small-talk importance. If you are still averse to the idea of small talk, what are your reasons? I’d love to hear them!