I don’t believe in small talk.
To begin with, it feels staged and obligatory and not at all like how humans desire to interact with each other. I’ve not actually met another person who genuinely enjoys small talk. It’s like we do it because we feel it’s etiquette – the right thing to do.
But all it does it create a wall of irrelevant information around the person we are talking to and provides nothing of substance, instead, giving us a reason to judge each other by our current status.
Single. Married. Divorced. Widowed. Parent. Sibling. Mother-in-Law.
Academic. Uneducated. Worker. Consultant. Handyman.
Renter. House owner. Investor.
We unwittingly judge each other (because this is what we are taught to do) by asking questions about what a person does, what their status is and not about the things that matter to them.
But how does this improve society?
Why do we insist on creating this false sense of interaction at gatherings when we have the opportunity to invest in the lives of others? When we get this precious time to know more about what each other thinks and feels; what they fear and care about. How they live in a society filled with fluff, anger and self indulgence?
I realise that small talk can help to break the ice, so please, don’t freak out that I’m going to shoot arrows of deep thought your way when we first meet. I’m not that mean.
But I will be honest. I have never enjoyed parties, or even ‘gatherings’, especially if I do not know many people at the function.
It’s because I feel lost for words.
I want to connect. I want to reach out and find someone to resonate with. I want to invest in the eternal: in the relationship. And these environments provide little way to create these connections.
Sometimes I will find another who feels as I do. We’ll joke about how much we hate small talk and then, if by some unspoken magic, we dive right in. Environment. Music Politics. Religion. Art. Race. Society. Hatred. Love. Slavery. Genocide. Humanity at its best and worst. We hold no bar on what to discuss.
These are the times when I remind myself why it’s worth this honest sentence: I hate small talk, do you?
As I’ve been pondering this particular subject I have decided on a new personal goal. If I attend a gathering, or any kind of meeting with others, I plan to ask open ended questions. I’ll probably need a list of them to get me going. I hate cracking the silence, always hoping the other person will enjoy being more chatty. But now I will ask. I may still start with small talk but it’ll be different. Intentional. Purposeful. Relational.
So while we’re at it, tell me, what are you most passionate about?
What three foods would you insist on having if there was a food crisis?
When was the first time you remember seeing a rainbow?
Do you remember your first pair of shoes? What were they like?
Let’s get to know each other.
Not just the hard stuff; not just the fluff. But the stuff that we fill our lives with; the things that make us who we are, that make us unique. Let’s crack open a bottle of memory and take a trip together.
We might just find lost pieces of humanity along the way.
Thanks for reading,
Miriam E. Miles