I have discovered that I don’t do well with small talk.
While I can carry on these obligatory pleasantries with the best of them, I can’t help but feel that it all seems very forced and formulaic. And if you know anything about me past my love of baseball and green vegetables, you know that I abhor doing things “just to do them” or because I feel I have to.
Superficiality is my karmic kryptonite.
If there isn’t a genuine motivation behind an action, my bullshit detector goes off and I lose interest. Warning signs may include me looking past your head, pretending to look busy at my computer, deep breathing (not in a creepy panting “What are you wearing?” phone call way though) and occasionally busting out in Trikonasana in an attempt to avoid my urge to shake you and scream, “What in the world do you want?”
This is Triangle pose, for those unable to pronounce Trikonasana in their head.
Don’t get me wrong.
If you are not a close friend of mine (this is not a small club) and are really interested in how my weekend was or how work is going, I would be delighted to briefly tell you about it with the understanding that you probably won’t remember anything I tell you by the next time that we talk.
Once this basic exchange is complete, please feel free to move on with your day. You are no longer obligated to engage in meaningless conversation with me about things you really have no interest in learning.
But if I’m feeling pressured politeness, I might then reciprocate with a brief inquiry myself, knowing full well that most of the time your motivation for asking a specific question is for the sole purpose of me asking you about that very topic.
“Hey Abby! Did you happen to go to the bar this weekend and get wicked twisted, waking up in a vintage Michael Bolton concert T-shirt with a new tattoo you don’t remember getting?”
“No, actually I didn’t.” (Insert dramatic pause as they wait for it….sigh.) “Did you?”
And there go five minutes of my life I will never get back.
This is not meant to sound harsh, but rather to point out the fact that a majority of time spent with people is full of superficial chit chat, small talk—things to fill a silence that supposedly speaks volumes about our inability to constantly communicate as a species.
While interaction is obviously necessary and something that I personally enjoy—at a genuine level—repeatedly having the same meaningless conversations with people tends to push me into concocting ideas on how I can telepathically repel bullets of bullshit like a pinball machine.
But I will always engage in the obligatory pleasantries required of me, as once in awhile people can surprise you—in a good way (not in a creepy panting “What are you wearing?” phone call way)—and I thrive on those fleeting moments of genuine connection.
I actually crave relationships and care about (most) people at a level bordering on oversensitivity at times, even if I sometimes end up disappointed. That’s how I roll, and I make no apologies for that—at least not out loud.
It’s just that I pick and choose my emotional investments.
And if we both know that it’s filler, why fill it?
This is not to deter people from talking to me or ever commenting—quite the opposite, in fact. If you can be unapologetically honest and not feed me what you think I want to hear—whether it’s while blogging, working or talking to me on the street—you might have just been elevated from superficial small talker to a member of that very small club mentioned above.
We have good talks about life, food, sports, other people — I promise it’s worth it.
But life is short and sometimes, silence is golden (and much preferable to a blaring bullshit detector.)
I think small talk can definitely be awkward!
LOVE your drawing of triangle pose 🙂
This reminds me of how when people pass eachother and ask “how are you?” the answer is always, “Good, you?” No one is ever honest. And if they actually do say, “Horrible, actually”, you get really shocked. No one is ever real and honest during small talk. It’s just a superficial way to remind ourselves that we are not alone. Maybe.
I think our blog conversations are real and worth it. And sometimes small talk is worth it too. Depends on the person.
and sometimes, you should watch Elf.
I get this too Abby, sometimes the small talk just feels so FARKING FAKE. Especially when I feel like shit and depressed and all I want to do is say that or be left alone.
But when I feel good…OHHHH, smilings my favorite!! I could small talk with everyone on the street.
It is an odd, extreme, but aware shift that I feel toward small talk, depending on how, well, how well I feel.
Agreed. I actually don’t have an issue with small talk concerning strangers, as that’s basically all you have to go on. I love talking with people. I just tire of it with the same people over and over…;)
This is why I love my mom so much:
“What’s the news today?” “Nothing to report.” “Ok, bye!” “Bye!”
I have a similiar annoyance with concerning conversations with poeple. I HATE it when people are so obviously trying to get a reaction out of you by something they do or say. And if they are trying to get me to ask them something, or directing the conversation to something they want to boast about or get me to tell them something by indirectly asking me.
Whenever it happens, I do my best to say or do the exact opposite of what they want. I don’t know why. But it just feels so predictable and scripted to me I can’t stand it!! Please tell me you understand! I have a feeling you do though 🙂
I feel the exact same way. I detest chit chat. It can be so self-serving and I’m almost always having better conversations with myself (either out loud or silently) that is only interrupted by the drivel. I agree though that the times when a genuine connection is made does make the rest of the bullshit worth it. Almost.
I think one of the reasons a lot of people see me as “cold” is because I really think talking serves a purpose — as does any form of communication. It’s purpose is not to talk for the sake of talking. And, while I appreciate a good, meaningful conversation as much — if not more than — the next person, meaningless chatter doesn’t make sense to me.
What’s even more frustrating? People who judge you on your willingness (or ability) to have such superficial conversations. It’s not because I think I’m better than you that I don’t sit around for 20 minutes in the morning and gab about who did what to whom over the weekend. It’s simply because I honestly have something more pressing that needs attention. And, if I’m being completely honest, most of the time I couldn’t care less. There’s a time and a place for everything. And, really, I don’t have much time for talking just to hear what my own voice sounds like. (I hear it enough when I talk to myself.)
I will add that I think communication, talking in particular, helps form the foundation for most human relationships. But, speaking from my own experiences, small talk and chitter chatter have hardly ever added anything meaningful to any of my relationships. It’s the good conversationalists and friends who have truly improved my life by making me think, helping me reason and opening my eyes.
literally laughing out loud
One of my fellows was an extreme example of what you wrote: She used to ask, “How are you?”, and then I said (politely, although eye-rolling in my mind), “Fine, and you?” The she could go on for hours. She did’t even realize, I believe, but after observing this interactional pattern for several times, I concluded that she somehow – aware or not – put these questions to mae the other one ask back and then be socially justified to set off with her stories (that weren’t so interesting to me – so this was my part in the game, along with asking for her current condition).
I think a lot of interaction between people goes like this: Most people are so settled within their expectations and mental schemes and scripts how to behave that it builds a wall between them and prevents a real encounter. A thing that makes it worse is that many of them aren’t really interested in others and the world around them (anymore) beyond their personal scope. This leads to exchanging of hollow phrases, freezing in predictability, and boredom. I also think that this phenomenon plays a major role in why I feel that I have to withdraw from people so often and much. I really love good conversation, but there aren’t many people with whom it’s actually possible. Those who are make up my small and elected circle of friends. I’m very happy to have met a handful of gemstones via blogging now!
girl, this blog is for you to use however you want to. don’t ever feel pressured to share or not share a-n-y-thing!!
i hope this holiday did bring some comfort and joy to you. you desreve it
ah.. refreshing. I believe it can be deduced to a single word: Authenticity.
I read this right after the workplace crazy lady had a conversation about how her christmas was “bad” and I kept looking at the computer like, “lets get on with it?”
I don’t want to spend my time “talking” to people with whom I have no actual connection to. It just makes me feel anxious and anxiety leads to negativity and no one needs that.
Great post 🙂
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I think this is why I am so afraid of making friends in university. Small talk, even though I ma ‘good’ at it, feels so awkward to me and I actually hate doing it. Sadly, it’s been so long since I’ve had a genuine friend that I don’t really remember how it feels to get past that stage.
Sometimes when I’m doing yoga, and it’s a bit too quiet, I keep repeating the sanskrit words in my head. I think I like them because I don’t know how to spell them so it’s like they evolve (I’m sure I pronounce about 2 of them right)
As far as meaningless drivel idle chitchat, I also make no apologies. I tend to just look away and not respond. If people don’t take this hint as the gentle message that it is, they can just talk to themselves.
Harsh, but it keeps me sane! This is especially good to get people to stop gossiping if you don’t want to participate. No one wants to keep saying gossipy things if no one else “joins in” I’ve noticed… they get too guilty…
Sorry for the uber long comment. I just feel personally attached to this subject!
Ugh. I detest small talk. Although I agree with yogiclarebear that sometimes when I’m bursting with happiness I’ll strike up a meaningless conversation with the cashier at the grocery store. Mostly though, small talk seems to be a result of people feeling the need to fill up the silence, as if quiet = empty. I’m not sure why or where I learned that it’s ok to not engage in chit chat. Many people feel awkward if the conversation has a lull or maybe they just have a need to hear themselves speak. And of course, there are others who cannot seem to come up for a breath while talking about their kids. Yeesh. That is brutal!
I do love when I have a great connection with someone and really enjoy a solid conversation but it seems so hard to find most of the time.