As you continue to read, imagine we are talking. I will be me and you be you. It is perfectly fine as you digest what you have taken in and begin to give it meaning that you change roles. Maybe you are me, maybe you are still you thinking about a time that you have talked to a me in your life. Maybe this makes no sense to you and you are still reading because dammit, you are intrigued.
“How about that weather?”
-“Weather” never ceases to exist, and at some point in the past, whether it be recent or not, you and I both have experienced it before. What about the jet stream? Or climate change? What about clear skies and starry nights?
“Whew, long day huh?”
-Each and every day is a measurement of time, which is finite. This day is the same in length as other days. Are you tired? Overworked? Underwhelmed? It’s not a long day. Maybe you need a hug, or a nap.
“Well, it IS Monday!”
– Yes, every week. Monday continuously happens. I believe Garfield also hated Mondays. Whatever stuggle is being tied to “Monday” is likely unconnected. Commiting a robery? Well, it’s Monday! Thursday and you would’ve been in a real pickle. Stub your toe? Wreck your car? No, you did not succumb to an interruption of situational awareness. It’s Monday!
“The rain! The heat! The wind! The ultraviolet rays! It’s cold! I’m melting! Are my elbows sweating?”
I simply cannot. No, I can. Because like some social psychopath I have studied the ways of the people in an attempt to appear normal when I’m approached with small talk. If you’re at all familiar with my background and think I should have a better, more professional, and possibly concise way of describing that feeling, I do not.
I crave connection. Meaningful connection. A long conversation about the weather, or current projects, or about what joys and troubles the time reminds us of, I can do that. Too often, “How are you?” is uttered in such a rush that it becomes something to say instead of an invitation to empathy. I feel the same way about “I’m sorry.” You can read about that too: I Stopped Saying I’m Sorry
I like “Hello’s”. If the purpose of sharing a phrase is to acknowledge another person, that does just the trick. If you ask me (or someone like me) a follow up question, then a stream of thoughts, feelings, memories, and connections start that I am unable to stop. A little obsessive? Maybe. I would love to share with you a funny anecdote or a great article I read. I could be tired, and maybe in that moment what I need is for someone to simply let me know that whatever struggle is present will pass. There could be no negative, it could be a really great day and what I would love to share is hope. I can have a really great conversation about any number of things.
The interaction is so mechanical. Let’s talk about research and your interests. Ten or one thousand small, meaningless interactions make me tired. Repeated stimulation with no resolve, makes me tired. So that I can avoid being a bother, I shut off.
In my limited time, I have learned a few ways to combat the way small talk makes me feel.
- Make eye contact. Acknowledge that someone exists. If you’re shy (and I mean that in a way that someone is shy and experiences a real fear when interacting with people) maybe try it once. Let it happen and see how it works.
- If you’re going to engage in small talk, see it through. Don’t say something for the sake of making noise.
- (THIS ONE IS ME!) If silence makes you uncomfortable, practice. I’ve worried myself countless times wondering if the silence wasn’t filled would somebody spot that I am a person that lives with depression or anxiety or due dates or I haven’t folded the laundry that I washed 3 whole days ago. I engage in public speaking more than I would have told you I was willing to 10 years ago. It has taken a long time to learn how to just hush instead of using fillers like “like” and “ummmmmm”. Pause is ok.
- You love small talk. Don’t get irritated when you say something and the recipient wants to engage. Otherwise, pause.
- I am inspired by people that make other people feel important. The key ingredient is time. Giving someone your time is a gift that cannot be replaced.
How do you feel about small talk? Any additional tips or thoughts?
Eve is a mom, student, daughter, sister, blogger, doer, thinker, and more. Any and all blog content should be viewed as opinion and any sources should be verified prior to using any of these words in that particular order to form your own (opinions). For more, visit: Happy Kotter: Disclaimer. Have a great day!