Love it or hate it: Small talk

by Patty Templeton

Love it Connecting to others is central to well-being. It ain’t always easy. I know that my first instinct when I walk into a crowded space, like an art opening or rock show, is to back against a wall and blend. Though solitary moments are a joy, a solitary life – for me – isn’t. This means that I have to battle shyness and the way I do that is with small talk.

I love small talk. It doesn’t have to be “So. Um. We have weather.” But even if you say, “Wow. What a blue sky,” you never know where that statement will lead. Maybe they’ll respond, “Yeah. Almost as pretty as the sky I saw my first day outta prison.” Which, yes, I want to hear the rest of that story. Or you say, “Hey! Nice Tom Waits shirt,” to a lady and, holy crap, she tells you about seeing him on the Rain Dogs tour.

I’m not saying every situation of small talk will be fulla razzmatazz. I’m saying the benefits of trying outweigh not. Not only can you kill time and possibly meet someone interesting, researchers have proved that friendly social interaction can bolster problem-solving skills and better your mood.

So, “How about them Bears?”

Patty TempletonHate itThis happens too often: I see a person I know mildly and they say something like, “So … how are … things?”

And all I can think is, “Are we really doing this?” and try to gauge if either of us actually cares what comes out of either mouth.

And the question could be, “So, how’s work?” or “So, crazy weather lately, eh?” or “How ’bout that (sports game/cable show/car commercial)?” Whatever these small-talk-inducing questions are, their intent is to idly pass time discussing things that mean very little in the moment.

Can we all agree that our time should be better spent? Shouldn’t we discard comfort, eliminate social niceties, and go after the stuff that actually matters, the stuff that makes us, the stuff that will actually allow us to connect with one another in a meaningful, lasting way: Our fears, our dreams, our regrets, our triumphs, our proudest moments, our ambitions? I would love to hear about and share those things. Coming from a real place to a listening ear will only bond us.

Next time, let’s jump straight in to something grand.

David Holub

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