Small Talk

"Many [introverts] have a horror of small talk, but enjoy deep discussions."
-Susan Cain
I believe that there are several layers of small talk, and several ways of looking at it. So it's difficult for me to address the topic as a whole. A lot of this will be looking at how I see small talk, which will tie into some future posts. But let me say up front that, while I believe there is a time and place for everything, including small talk, I also believe that small talk is detrimental to society as a whole.

Small talk is, as I describe it, a waste of breath. It has, in most situations, no value or purpose. The very name describes it. "Small talk." Not "meaningful talk," or "helpful talk," or the like. "Small talk." However, I have heard some attempt to defend small talk. They say that small talk is how you get to know somebody before you can engage in more meaningful conversations. But I beg to differ.

In my situation (though I accept that not everybody is this way) small talk makes a person more difficult for me to know, recognize, or speak to. Part of this is because I don't recognize people until I know them. I see strangers as male or female, but unless I get to know them in some way, that's all. Every male looks identical, and every female looks identical. As I get to know them, their faces become more distinct. I start to recognize them. Bear in mind, this is not based on how often I see somebody. My sister has some friends who are sisters, and for a while I saw them every week at a class that Hannah and I were taking. After several years, I couldn't tell them apart, despite my sister's instances that they looked nothing alike, and didn't even have the same color of hair. On the other hand, there have been people that I've talked to online for months before meeting them in real life, and I've recognized them, because I had gotten to know them.
As I talk to someone, their face becomes molded to their personality, and also hardens into place. Small talk, therefore, is damaging. When the first conversation I have with someone is small talk, it almost guarantees that I will not recognize them later, because it hardens their face, but doesn't shape their face. Thus, they are setting their face in stone as the "default" face, making it harder for me to remember them in the future. If someone asks my name, I can usually handle it. But if they follow that up by asking about work, school, family, church, where I live, and other questions like that, it becomes very difficult for me to tell them apart from anybody else. Thus, the idea that I ought to meet people through small talk falls apart.

Small talk is discussing trivial matters that have no real meaning- talking for the sake of talking. This is why I call it a waste of breath. Does every conversation have to be some deep philosophical discussion? Of course not! But each conversation should have meaning, even if it's a lighthearted talk with friends. If nothing of meaning is there to be said, I'll enjoy spending time with you anyway. We don't need meaningless words to fill a gap in the air.

I consider small talk to have its place in professional settings where a friendship is not required. If you approach me with small talk, I will return in kind. I will say what I am supposed to say, because that's what you do with small talk. You fit in with how the world expects you to behave. So I will be polite and say, for the most part, what you want me to say. But in thirty minutes, I'll have forgotten your name. In an hour, I'll have forgotten anything I may have learned of your face, and in a day I'll have forgotten your existence. All you gave me was the identifying information- the information that's only important for distinguishing between people that you know, but has no real meaning in and of itself. (Because of this, I believe that small talk should be eschewed in church more than anywhere else- sadly, however, it seems to me that church is where small talk is the most welcome.)

Like I said at the beginning of this post, much of this is simply my view on small talk. I would, of course, be pleased if small talk were obliterated from this world, which is why I have analyzed this topic today, but I do realize that part of this relies on my personality. Thus, I plan to have this post tie into further posts in the future. For now, let it be known that if you want to be my friend, a real conversation will go further than remembering my name.
"I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve."
-Bilbo Baggins (J.R.R. Tolkien)

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