Wikipedia defines small talk as conversation for the sake of conversation and calls it a key social skill. Another definition says small talk is ‘polite conversation about unimportant or uncontroversial matters, especially as engaged in on social occasions.’ I don’t particularly enjoy small talk, possibly because I’m not very good at it. My go-to topic is the weather, which I suppose is pretty lame.
I like to talk about things that matter to people, things they have real feelings about. Of course such topics tend to be controversial and dig beneath people’s social masks, which I suppose is why people like small talk so much. It lets you maintain the face you choose to show the world.
And I suppose it’s only polite to respect that, to let people show you what they want you to see. A friend told me that once. He said, ‘If people want you to see them a certain way, pretend not to notice when a different side of them slips out. That’s how you keep friends.’ It’s also how you get ahead.
I was reading a cracked article about harsh truths that can make you a better person. It talks about being the kind of person people like, being useful and meeting their needs. Popular people are like that. They’re good at knowing what different people need and providing it. Such people are intelligent, versatile, and just a little scary – at least to me. Maybe because they’re brilliant mind readers.
I’ve always been suspicious (and resentful) of people that can please everybody. It seemed to me that they were hiding their true personality beneath a million different masks. But lately I think maybe that is their personality, that maybe they’re simply the kind of person that can be in sync with everyone. It’s a pretty handy talent, and the ones that are good at it make it look effortless.
I’m not very good at that kind of thing. I’m even worse at small talk. For me, conversation for its own sake is empty fluff. I like talks that tell me more about a person, event or thing. Conversation – for me – communicates. It doesn’t fill up social space. But then again, I’m not a very social person.
I enjoy being around people I can talk to about life, love, politics, religion, sex, and not just passing words, but exchanging them in meaningful ways. I like a conversation to feel like I’m actually connecting with a person rather than idly flipping cable channels.
I suppose it’s because I spend so much time inside my head that when I get out of it, I’m eager to dive into someone else’s. Small talk is designed specifically to prevent that, to keep things comfy and superficial, to surf the safe outer levels of social interactions, which is where most people prefer to hang out.
I guess that’s why I appreciate the people in my life that let me into their deep internal spaces, the ones that feel safe enough in my presence to let me read their minds and hearts. But it’s even more amazing when you meet a new person that can talk – really talk – without it seeming like a big deal. You might mistake them for a soul mate, even when they’re really not. That kind of person can be fun. Dangerous, but also lots of fun.
♫ Here’s to us ♫ Tori Vega ♫