Small(er) Talk

If by now you don’t know i detest small talk, thank you for stopping by my blog and having anything at all to do with  me for the very first time ever. The rest of you know what a thorn in my side it is. I highly prefer conversation of substance, even if I don’t know the person that well. Get right to it, and such.

I got to thinking the other day about another concept, though. Small(er) talk. This I could probably handle more often than small talk.

Based on my studies, (which I must rely upon on this issue, as I have almost no personal experience with it working this way) two things potentially occur with small talk:

  1. You have a temporary, pleasant conversation of several minutes with a stranger whom you will probably will  never befriend or even see again. The reward is human contact and conversation for its own sake. (One of the most foreign concepts to my psyche I have ever encountered.)
  2. The small talk leads, by some mystery, to a greater interest in the other person, thus sparking the sort of substantive conversation i prefer, and the two people go on to become friends. (Very rare.)

In both cases, it’s not how I work.

But if a chat like that could be expected to be less than even the first of these choices, I may be into it slightly more often. What if, say, I could see someone wearing a shirt that I liked. What if I could ask them where they got it, and they told me, and that was the end of it all? What if I didn’t expect more commentary, the other party didn’t feel the social need to elaborate, and everyone gets something they want out of the deal?

Behold, the concept of small(er) talk.

I know, I know. This sort of thing happens all the time to many of you. That’s great. But they way I see it, it just happens to turn out that way any given time. I still think the social expectation is for small talk to last at least for the duration of both of you being in line at the market. It’s at least expected in our extroverted culture to the point of my putting in the effort to avoid talking with anyone, lest it become a conversation I don’t feel like having, or otherwise making others feel that they need to extend what they are saying in order to make it small talk.

Small(er) talk. If only there were a way to indicate that is what we were after. Take lines again, for example. What if it became a cultural norm that when in lines, all that is expected, or even all that is appropriate is small(er) talk? Or in elevators? Or anywhere? That way small talk could be saved for the cocktail parties that I and other INFJs despise so much, and yet we could give conceivably express the slightest bit of interest in a stranger when otherwise we would be avoiding eye contact at all costs.

As the ancient saying goes, dum spiro spero.

 

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3 Comments

  1. Karen

    I am so intrigued by the introvert’s views on small talk… I just found your blog recently and find your comments to be really interesting and perceptive. You explain the introvert’s perspective very well.

    Personally, I tend to identify as either an ambivert or extravert (depending on the test). I tend to be about 70/30 extraverted on tests such as the MBTI. I’ve always loved talking to people (I actually got detention – one time only – in high school for talking). But I’m so interested to find out why most introverts say they like “deep talk” but not “small talk.”

    This is my confusion: To me, I would say that pretty much ALL conversations are equally interesting, because they involve people’s opinions and thoughts. I am honestly curious about your weekend plans, or your views on gun control, or problems you’re having with a plumber. It’s all grist for my human-relationship mill. The only time I really hate small-talk is when you’re forced to participate in an awkward networking or company type event, where NO ONE wants to be there and you’re supposed to chat. That’s so fake, it’s hard!

    But real conversations fascinate me…

    Anyway, I’m still reading and learning about the anti-small-talk movement and trying to understand. Any more insights would be very welcome! In the meantime, I’ll check out your book and read your blog 🙂

    Best,
    Karen

    • Thank you for your comment again.

      I understand your point about getting to know people by way of what is conventionally known as small talk. IN your examples, in fact, I could see myself discussing something such as gun control with someone I had not known for long, because that at least encourages thinking and discussion on a level beyond the mundane. I do better at such discussions in a relaxed atmosphere, (as opposed to trying to relate my views on an issue while making the rounds in a crowded lobby), but as for topics, that’s a decent example of “getting on” with substantial conversation. It comes down to how generally interested in hearing me out is the other party, and in my experience, when it comes to meeting new people, the answer is usually “little.”

      I do in fact have more difficulty with the other things you mentioned, despite being authentically interested in them when you ask people. The plumber, the weather and such are 9 out of ten so easy to use as time killers, that I, and many introverts feel empty because of the tedium.

      It is worse at networking events, which you yourself say you despise as well. But for an introvert like me, far more circumstances can feel that way than a literal networking venture.

      • Karen

        Ty: Thabk you for your reply. That’s so interesting how you differentiate a discussion about, say, gun control or politics, from a discussion about getting new blinds or a plumber. To me, they’re kind of all the same!

        I actually like “deeper” topics slightly more than more inane ones, BUT am a little wary of getting into them.

        The problem with deeper topics in my e oerimge is that they tend to generate controversy, lack of agreement and hurt feelings. Or else, they’re about a topic that one person doesn’t know anything about! It’s one thing if you’re a lawyer and can complain about trial problems with another lawyer. But you can’t complain about them to a non lawyer, because they wouldn’t understand (or they’d think that you are obnoxious!).

        It’s a fine line to walk between finding common ground, while not boring and/or alienating anyone!

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