Friday, November 2, 2012

The Big Deal About Small Talk

If you've been anywhere near anything with a speaker or screen during the past year, you've probably been subject to a lot of Big Talk – speechifying, bloviation, and politicking.

Exhausting though it may be, it's also not inappropriate. A presidential election is about big issues and big ideas and it has a big effect on all of us. It's a big deal and it's right to treat it as such.

In the midst of all of this Big Talk, though, let's not lose sight of the value of small talk.

From Merriam Webster: small talk: n. light or casual conversation, chitchat

Like a troop of baboons grooming each other on an outcropping of rocks, the idle chatter of small talk is important to our survival. We learn about dangers (The cookies from the bakery on the corner tend to be dry), food supplies (The ones from two blocks over are better. They use real butter.), new developments in the group (Barbara found a great recipe for peanut butter cookies.), and sexual availability (Hey baby, what's cookin'?). It brings us together, helps foster understanding, and gives us an excuse to have cocktail parties.

After being bombarded for so many months with so much Big Talk, you may have fallen out of the habit of making small talk.

You begin by asking another person about themselves – what they do, think, or feel – then actually listening to the response. The advantages are: 1) you might learn something interesting, funny, or important, 2) while the other person is busy talking, you have more time to enjoy your beverage or hors d'oeuvre.

In the end, a meandering twenty minute diatribe about German potato salad, Game of Thrones, and Gary Bettman's suspect IQ is more about the conversation itself than the specific topics discussed. It's not about convincing the other that the Red Wings are genius and that capers are not acceptable as food. It's about the laugh shared, the connection made. It's not about creating a conclusion or consensus, but a communion. 

Today's lesson: I'm fine. How are you?

Next: More picayune trivialities

No comments:

Post a Comment