small talks

“Hey, what’s up?”

“Not much, how are you?”

“Haha, I’m doing okay. Talk to you later”

“Sure. Bye!”

If there is one thing that I despise in the world and would want to see changed, it would be to get rid of small talk.


No more chattering small talk!

To generalize, small talk is that conversation you have with strangers when you feel like you should be saying something, but at the same time don’t really want to talk. While the most stereotypical example would be just talking about the weather, I believe that for our generation, talking about school is a lot more like it. Not because of the content of the conversation, but because of the mentality that we bring into the conversation.

Small talk is not defined by the content that you talk about, but the attitude that you bring in when you want to talk. It depends on how you view the conversation and whether or not if you feel that you will get something out of it. If you feel that the current meteorological patterns are consistent with a wide shift that has been occurring over the past two decades and is just bursting to share that tidbit with the world, be my guest! It isn’t what you say that is impactful; it is very often how you say it.

But one thing that I have noticed is that, almost universally, everybody seems to despise small talk. There isn’t anything of value that can be gained for it, while it also seems to bore everyone around. Often, people seem to strike up these conversations in the futile hope that the other person is going to say something funny, or interesting, or witty, and yet they can’t bring themselves to do that!

I can certainly sympathize with that viewpoint. As a self-identified introvert, in the sense that interacting with others drains my energy, I can feel how it is risky to ask spontaneous questions. Bringing out the “heavy topics” out of nowhere tends to get you labeled as a dreamer and a freak, and almost no one wants that label. We are caught up by how others perceive us. We want to feel connected.

One of the most key questions that I’ve found to help me battle small talk is to ask yourself: What do you really want to do when you’re talking to someone? What are you actually interested in? In other words, why do you like to talk anyways? After a bit of introspection, I realized that, generally speaking, people and things are pretty boring. I don’t like lots of gossip, and just talking about the day’s events is remarkably dull. Instead, it’s the ideas of others that fascinate me. Why do you believe what you believe? How did you come to *that* conclusion?

Every one of us is so much like everyone else. With 7 billion people in the world and the internet bringing us all so close together, it’s difficult to put on an act to seem truly unique online. But here’s the kicker: you don’t have to. Already, through our own experiences, we know more about ourselves than any other person in the world. We are fully self-empowered, and a complete master of our own thoughts.

Another message that helped me was realizing that, yes; we are all so similar, in our problems as well as in our struggles. I’m not just talking to you, the reader right now, but you, the entire web. Yes, it is scary and is taking a risk to start up possibly awkward conversations. But have you considered that the other person is just as uncomfortable? I contemplated my own reaction to others taking risks: do I really laugh at others, or do I just realize that they are human beings too and sometimes mess up, but still love them all the same?

All of this small talk deal has been exacerbated by the internet and instant messaging. Instead of physically see a friend ask you a tough question, you get some lights making up symbols show up on your screen. Which you can just choose and ignore! Virtual communication has certainly bred a group of people who are more apathetic and more willing to ignore others.

But personally, I prefer the internet. Being able to type out my opinions allows me to be more coherent about what I think. I’m able to use language more effectively and think about my own thinking too!

There’s a lot that we can do to make our generation grow and prosper. We live in an information society, a society where everyone can talk to anyone, all the time. It is perhaps one of the greatest powers a young person has in today’s life. So please, probe yourself a little bit deeper, get to be that awkward kid debating philosophy, or be more invested in talking. From small talks we can create a nation of BIG ideas.


Please leave some comments or tell me about what you would love to discuss on hours at end. I mean, this post *is* to get people to talk more… how about starting now!

6 thoughts on “small talks

  1. I do think small talk has its virtues, at least in theory. Although the world would indeed be much better served with more discussion of topics. The kicker, as you mentioned, is that feeling of being uncomfortable. How do we get past that, though? It’s physically difficult. I certainly can’t go up to a complete stranger and start talking about, say, life, the universe, and everything else under the sun. (Even more so if they’re an attractive girl. Don’t judge.) It’s a perfectly human reaction–how do we override it?

  2. Maybe it’s not just their ideas, but their stories. There’s a lot of routine and mundane, but sometimes things don’t go as expected and boom! An interesting story to tell in place of small talk.

    Also, an attitude shift may be in order. If you change your mindset to thinking that everyone, no matter what age, has something valuable to say, and ask things that you genuinely want to know, you can cut out a lot of meaningless conversation.

  3. Chunny, i think there’s an difference in the focus of our definitions of small talk. The point of small talk, is not that it has no goal. The point of small talk is that it is a medium of communication that can be used to ease through conversation. The point of small talk is to reduce awkwardness, not increase awkwardness. The point of small talk is to prevent the extreme end of awkwardness–sitting together in silence.

    In your blog post, you mentioned speaking small talk with strangers, and OF COURSE you want to say something! Your solution to the meaninglessness of small talk is to talk about more significant things, but unfortunately small talk is necessary to transition from a relationship of strangers to a person you would trust with the more “significant” topics. You argue that the problem originates with the will of those involved in conversation to say something of value. It would perhaps be more accurate to say that the problem of awkwardness in small talk is how genuine one is about the nuances of the conversation. The meaningfulness of small talk is dependent upon the value put on the conversation by the person, as much as the content of the conversation.

    Small talk can be meaningful. When I ask a friend, “Hey, what’s up?” It means more than the words in their denotation. It also includes all the implications of the words. When I ask a friend, “Hey, what’s up?” I’m also telling them I’d like to hear the event’s of his or her unremarkably boring day. So when this person replies “Not much, how are you?” he or she could be saying a multiplicity of things: “I don’t really want to talk about it,” “Nothing noteworthy, I’d rather hear about your remarkably boring day.” There is a lot more to small talk than what is simply on the surface of denotations. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

    Oh, but what about strangers? Small talk with strangers is when you don’t really want to talk to strangers, but you feel like you should? Alright, okay, I can buy that, but isn’t that in itself a message, a function? Small talk is a function of conversation to be able to get away from someone without having to be rude. By saying “Haha, I’m doing okay. Talk to you later,” it’s a euphemized version of “I’d rather be talking to someone else,” or “I’d rather not be talking right now.” Not everyone is friendly enough to think hard and true about what would be meaningful to say, and sometimes our mood pushes us to be more or less willing to push ourselves beyond the simplicity of small-talk.

    There’s a reason small talk exists. Small talk is a medium for people to communicate without having to go big. It’s the intermediate so that people don’t have to go big or go home in conversation. You don’t need to despise small talk, Chunny, you just need to give it value, and there isn’t just one way to do that. :)

    • I agree completely; I suppose I exaggerated my hatred of small talk to make the point. It’s not that I despise small talk, I despise the feeling you get when you *know* that you are chattering about nothing whatsoever. To some extent, that’s more of a personal item than a societal one.

      But the denotation/connotation piece? I totally agree with that. Talking about the same thing with different people can be completely different even if they say the same things. Its all in how you interact with people!

      The motivation behind this post was just as much because I was tired of myself holing myself up in my own world instead of letting other people in. I’ve seen small talk as a barrier, but maybe its just in how we talk.

  4. I agree that sometimes small talk becomes too much, however, it would be rather uncomfortable to most people to talk about something to a stranger and small talk helps bridge the gap. If you really want to eliminate small talk, you should just bring up a topic and dive deeply into it. If people see that you are willing to talk about something, they are more likely to talk about it. However, some people do not like diving into a topic (sometimes it’s me) and small talk helps them establish their boundaries on how deep they can move into a conversation. If you increase the boundaries, then the next time you talk to them, there will be less “small” talk and you can come directly to the point if you want to. (I personally don’t use much small talk with my friends because I don’t know what to talk about. I usually follow a random topic relating to something in my environment or follow one from my friends’ instead.)

  5. Pingback: 2014 Resolutions | afanofideas

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