Sunday, October 9, 2011

Can We Talk About Something But The Weather?

Few things annoy me more than small talk.  I can imagine no greater waste of time.  When interacting with others, I am eternally interested in the following:

What people think about
Why they made the decisions they have made
What motivates people's actions
How they feel about those actions

I am eternally bored by the following:

The weather
A travelogue of their last vacation
Their current acquisitions (home, car, etc.)
Their children's accomplishments

You can imagine how cocktail parties challenge me.

I ask a lot of questions when talking with others.  After all, people are genuinely intriguing and, who knows?  We might connect through a common area of interest.  

Here's an example of questions I might ask at some point in our conversation:

What was that like for you?
What helped you form that opinion?
How did you make that decision?

Listen, I'm simply looking for an interesting conversation.  I won't ask about the status of one's mental health, details of childhood or the relationship with one's mother.  And I won't be submitting the answers to People Magazine. 

Jeez, relax. 

Still, this must be incredibly uncomfortable, because it has been noted that others might feel interrogated by my questions.  Frankly, I would enjoy it if someone were to ask me any one of these questions rather than blather on about the grandchildren.  And I'd be happy to answer.

I mean, don't people ask themselves these questions??

Here's the thing:  Instead of talking at each other, could we please talk with each other about something of meaning that engages both parties?  Don't you think we could better understand other people through exploring our own feelings, responses and motivations?   

Now there's an interesting conversation.

image from


  1. Hmm. I hate the idea of someone I don't know well - and a cocktail party is usually comprised of people I don't know well - asking me personal questions.

    Make no mistake, they're personal. Honestly, I'd rather talk politics.

    And I'd rather slide naked down a cheese grater than talk politics.

    I don't trust people I don't know well with my personal thoughts and feelings. If we've had coffee six times, say, and we've talked about jobs and recent vacations and family backgrounds and kids, and I already know what kind of person you are, from the things that we've said about all the surface stuff, THEN I might want to answer the personal questions, and ask them of you too.

    But not until.

  2. Hi Muse - thanks for your comment. I suspect many people feel the same way and appreciate your perspective.

    The art of small talk is lost on me. Truly, I've never been interested enough in the activity to get very good at it. Six chit chats over coffee before addressing anything remotely personal sounds excruciating.

    Once in awhile, I encounter someone who feels the same way I do, and we have fascinating, brief encounters that leave an impact on us both. No baggage attached, no trust issues, just a genuine sharing of thoughts, ideas and yes, even feelings. It does happen, but it's rare.

    Thanks for being willing to share your personal thoughts on this topic.

  3. I agree completely.

    I'm in a journalism Master's program with a pretty good name right now, and I don't feel like I fit in with most of my classmates. They're inclusive, but when we get together they seem to talk about a.) school; b.) each other c.) dirty jokes. Now it's usually out on drinking excursions, so maybe I'm missing out on the deeper conversations.

    When I get together with my friends we usually talk about motives, what-if scenarios, and share confidences. Sometimes it gets repetitive, but I feel like it's more real.

    I'm not particularly good at small talk anyway. Maybe if I were better at it I'd have fewer complaints.



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