Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: My Thoughts on Small Talk

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Two blue tits sitting on the edge of a birdbath that is sitting next to a large tree. The birdbath is filled with water and is nearly perfectly still. The bird on the right is looking at the bird on the left and opening its beak as if it’s about to chirp. Its right leg is lifted up as well. The bird on the left looks a little disgruntled but keeps both legs firmly clasping to the edge of the bird bath.

Is this what avian small talk looks like?

I have mixed feelings about small talk.

Typical small talk conversations are unlikely to offend anyone or to stir up difficult emotions for the majority of people.

Then again, you never know what someone might find hard to talk about. Asking someone about their job might be a painful conversational segue for someone who was recently laid off or who is in an awful work environment, for example. I used to think asking about family, food, and pets were fairly innocuous, too,  but that’s not necessarily the case for everyone.

Occasionally, people try to discuss sports, fashion, celebrity news, or makeup with me. I know so little about all of them that I won’t have much to add to those conversations which I think is a small risk of anything you might bring up with someone you’ve just met or who you’re trying to keep things light and fluffy with.  We don’t all share the same interests, after all, but plenty of other folks may leap at the chance to guess which sports-ball team will win this year or when celebrity X and celebrity Y are going to get married after they announced their engagement.

(I’m being a little silly there and mean no offence to anyone who loves sports or fluffy, harmless celebrity news. To each their own!)

Some of the safer topics I’ve discovered are the weather, music, books, that cool bird* I spotted while birdwatching a while back, tv shows, and weekend plans. They probably won’t step on anyone’s toes, and it’s easier for someone to steer the conversation into other directions if one of those things does touch on a sensitive issue for them for whatever reason.

*It was some sort of hawk, and it was glorious. I only wish it had flown close enough for me to better identify it!

The conversations they tend to generate can feel a little repetitive to me, but I also recognize the value of sticking to lighthearted and safe material with people you don’t know well yet or who you’d rather not discuss certain things with for whatever reason.

So I will happily participate in small talk for as long as is necessary. Sometimes that may be a permanent decision depending on who I’m interacting with and what our relationship is like, but I’m also secretly glad when I meet people who also share my interests and want to discuss anything from horror films to that great new dairy-free restaurant to much deeper and more personal stuff.


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14 Responses to Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: My Thoughts on Small Talk

  1. You’re right that small talk avoids anything that can lead to conflict.

  2. I’m all for avoiding conflict! However (and admittedly this is mostly on social media) sometimes it seems there are people who are just looking for something to be offended by. Anyway… how’s the weather where you are? 😉

    BTW, there’s a hawk that we see quite often sitting on an electric line near us (it’s quite close to a field, so a great vantage point for him). They are such neat birds!

    • Yes, I’ve noticed that, too.

      The weather here has been rainy and chilly lately. I’m hoping for warmer temperatures soon. 🙂

      It’s awesome that you have a neighbourhood hawk!

  3. I’ve never thought of it like that before, Lydia, but you’re right, you just never know what subjects others might find upsetting.

  4. Weather is generally safe, though in my area (hit hard by a tornado in January) there were a few weeks when half of people’s conversations were about where they were during the tornado and how much they’d lost. I don’t think anyone was traumatized by the tornado-talk, but I was tired of it after a few weeks.

  5. Whuf. Yeah, that’s thing: I can see the value. I just can’t do it, not very well, and not unless I’ve prepared.

  6. I had a conversation the other day about how years ago small talk was about jobs, family, friends, pets like you mention and how now those are even kind of taboo subjects. And I feel ya on the celebrity gossip – I am usually lost.

    And how long do you participate in small talk before it changes to a conversation? 5 minutes, 10? That’s the other problem, when does it cross from small talk, even if the topics are kept light.

    • Yeah, it’s interesting how things change.

      And, oh, that’s where I struggle with small talk. I’m never quite sure when it’s okay to cross over from talking about the weather to anything even slightly more personal. I generally give it at least a few conversations, but maybe that’s too long? It’s hard to tell.

  7. I hate small talk with a passion, I never know what to say so I might end up stealing some of the things you’ve mentioned for using next time I end up having to make small talk – although I never know what to say about the weather!

    • It’s hard to do for sure. I mostly just comment about how hold/cold/wet/dry/windy it’s been and try to think of interesting stories about things I’ve done during those periods in the past. 🙂

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