The Small Talk Chronicles

One of the things I dread about making new friends are the politely inane conversations people tumble into when they first meet. So many topics are off-limits for these conversations because they can so quickly devolve into hard feelings or a clash of ideologies.

Most safe topics aren’t things I have ever fired up my neurons about in order to form an opinion . I don’t:

  • Watch sports or reality show competitions.
  • Have kids or pets.
  • Believe that weather reporters do anything other than pick numbers out of a hat when making their weekly forecasts.
  • Know anything about fashion, makeup, or shopping.
  • Want  juicy details on what so-and-so did or said last week.

With the exception of gossiping none of these topics are bad and I don’t think any less of those who find them scintillating. They just aren’t intriguing to me.

Normally I don’t post about topics that I haven’t at least begun to unravel. I think I will turn this into a series posts as I figure out what does (and does not) work for those of us who hate small talk.

What I love to discuss – the life weirdnesses and triumphs that come with being a bi, agnostic, pacifist, childfree feminist – also tend to be stuff that isn’t always a good idea to bring up with someone the first time you meet.

Some people seriously do not respond well to any or all of these labels for reasons that don’t have a damn thing to do with me as a fellow human being. More often than I like to think about I’ve been on the receiving end of a lecture on why I am not (or should not be) one or more of these items so until we’ve either hung out a few times or the topics come up naturally in conversation I’m stuck with silly banter about the weather and fluffy’s latest adventure at the dog park.

What I’ve learned so far:

As much as I love to rely on asking other people questions about their lives I really dislike it when this technique is used on me. After a few minutes it begins to feel like an interrogation instead of a conversation.

Sometimes humour can be introduced early in a conversation but I express it most often through wordplay or dry, ironic understatements. Once someone gets to know me it’s entertaining but it can be jarring for people who aren’t accustomed to this style.

Respond

Fellow introverts and other despisers of this social convention, what tricks do you use to keep the conversation flowing more smoothly while playing the small talk game?

People who love small talk, why do you enjoy it so much? Is there any advice you can give to those of us who don’t enjoy it?

Everyone, do you prefer small fish or big ones? 😉

Penguins meet and talk small fish, big fish

(Photo credit.)

0 Responses to The Small Talk Chronicles

  1. When we were visiting new churches every week we would get interrogated by someone most every week. Small talk but I found that it angered me. I wanted to say ” sorry I don’t have sex on the first date.” 🙂

    Now I am a sports loving man but I love talking to people like you Lydia. I love, and miss very much, having substantive discussions with friends over lunch, coffee, etc. When a person desires a bit of substance in their discussions it is irritating to listen to the vapid, small talk that makes up so much of our day-to-day life.

    Bruce

  2. I have never been able to manage small talk and I hate being asked “what do you do?” since I mostly haven’t held any “real jobs,” being “just” a mother or a volunteer.  And when I own up to being a tutor, then people get even rudder with can you make a living at that (and yes, I can, but so what).  And what I do isn’t who I am.  I also don’t fit into most of your categories, sports, fashion, gossip, etc.–I do have kids, grown and very distant so not a happy topic of conversation, and I do have pets, which I could wax rhapsodic about, but people just seem to want bare superficial facts there also.  Like you, the things I’d really like to discuss (such as gay rights, animal rights, being vegan, being a pacifist) tend to be less than ideal for first conversations.  I don’t know.  I just don’t get it and I don’t do superficiality well, and like you I’m an introvert, so I don’t end up making many new friends.  Yesterday a nice lady from Island Girl Transport took me into Seattle for my second post-op appointment and she is obviously an extrovert.  She started by asking me, if I didn’t mind answering, what brought me to the island, which was at least a better then usual opening gambit, and it did make for a better conversation and we ended up with each other’s life stories, but my first thought when I got home was what would I ever have to talk with her about if I need a ride again.  And of course, for an introvert, that was a difficult situation anyway, since I was in the car with her for over an hour each way.  By the time I got home I was utterly exhausted, but she was very, very nice and I did appreciate the ride and given how horrible the traffic was already since it is a holiday weekend, I was very, very glad I wasn’t driving.  Still it was hard for me.

    • It’s so odd that people are rude about that question. I’ve worked part time as a tutor in the past and would love to earn a living at it one day!

      🙂

      • yep, people can truly be rude about things outside the norm.  And when I did the tutoring, I did work a lot of hours to make it pay back in those days, but tutoring is really rewarding work for me.  Have found that most people want math tutors.  Not much call for writing, which is a real shame, but that’s how society is geared I guess.