I’m an extrovert… but I loathe small talk. I naturally prefer to get to know someone beyond who they are. Plus, it only gets to wherever the social script of the topic goes, making it mentally draining to engage in. Conversations like these usually become one-sided whereby one person ends up asking all the questions. Don’t get me wrong, I love socialising and meeting new people! I just sometimes wish such meaningless conversations aren’t necessary in social settings. Whilst I may not particularly enjoy small talk, it exists for a reason. So let’s engage in small talk about small talk.
Exhibit A – I’m An Extrovert But I Dislike Small Talk
Hello world, it is I, your averagely overachieving 21-year-old who’s an extrovert BUT really dislikes small talk. It’s ironic that I thrive off other people’s energy as an extrovert, yet I am completely terrible at small talk. I’m actually a pretty confident person… outside of small talk. Whenever I engage in these conversations, I have tendencies to freeze and say something embarrassing. I end up overcompensating by sharing way too much. This has happened so many times, especially during social events. With time, I’ve come to accept that small talk is essential towards forming relationships. Read on to know why.
Why Small Talk Is A BIG Deal
Yeap, unfortunately for me since I’m not a fan of it, small talk is no small thing. Anthropologist Dr Bronisław Malinowski was the genius who concluded small talk had a social value. In an essay written in 1923, he described small talk as purposeless expressions and perfectly obvious accounts of happenings. He wasn’t wrong. I’m sure we can all agree that such conversations usually revolve around shallow exchanges of “How are you?” and “The weather’s nice today!”. But, with small talk it’s different. Whilst it can be meaningless and almost superficial, those little conversations serve as an opening act. An ice breaker to warm up the other party for the more juicy stuff to follow.
Malinowski described small talk as the case of a language used in free, aimless, social interactions. He also pointed out that small talk existed to fill up those awkward silences. But on the other hand, it can also be seen as an intentional act to seek connection. So essentially, small talk is meant for social settings and social interactions. Because the whole point is to engage in it rather than convey information or exchange ideas.
But Why Do Some People (Like Me) Suck At Small Talk?
I suck at small talk and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I suck at it, hence why my distaste towards small talk. Some of us might be more comfortable in the communicative role of language than the social role. It’s slightly challenging to see the purpose of small talk when our primary focus in communication is to exchange information. Rather than to merely participate in a social event. There are plenty of other factors that make me feel uncomfortable such as social anxiety. And no, social anxiety is not what you think: it’s definitely not the same as being shy. I get so nervous I end up regretting half the things I say.
In all honesty, I’m envious of those who can easily engage in conversation. Because it’s actually a rather underrated and undervalued skill. I always thought small talk and deep talk were separate categories. Turns out, they both work simultaneously to create meaningful relationships.
That’s all small talk is – a quick way to connect on a human level. This is why it is by no means as irrelevant as the people who are bad at it insist. In short, it’s worth making the effort.Lynn coady, Canadian novelist and journalist
How To Master The Skill Of Meaningless Conversations
The thing is, the topics of conversation in small talk don’t matter very much. Think of these conversations as a spoken smile or a verbal handshake. So here are three ways you can try to get better at engaging in these not-so-meaningless conversations:
- Engage in empathetic listening. One way to do this is by actively engaging in the conversation and recapitulating what you understand from it. This helps ensure the conversation stays on the same page. If someone expresses an opinion, bring up your own point from what they expressed. By doing so, it shows you made some effort in digesting the information.
- Ask open-ended questions. Typically, asking questions shows interest. So, if you want the conversation to go deeper, ask questions about the topic of their interest. It’s all about navigating between topics and interconnecting the conversation.
- Create a safe space. Conversations should allow both parties to express themselves and their experiences freely without being judged. If someone told you in confidence a personal experience, listen and validate their experience. Remember, they trusted you enough to open up.
Appreciating The Art Of Conversations
Those of you who easily engage in conversations should pause for a moment and count your lucky stars. Conversing in itself is an important skill, not to mention an art. Plus, it’s a skill that many people lack and are never taught. If you need some tips on improving your chit-chat game, watch this super useful video here!
Also If we ever meet, just go ahead and ask me anything from philosophy to conspiracy theories. ANYTHING except what I’m up to or the weather. Because honestly, do we really know how to answer them? No. Stick to the former and trust me, we’ll have plenty of interesting conversations. *wink*