I Hate Small Talk!

I hate small talk

Why do I hate small talk? I’ll get straight to the point and illustrate  by way of an example. It goes something like this

‘Hello, Ma’am. How are you today?” asks the caller, whose name appears on my call display as “unavailable”.  The hairs at the back of my neck point north as I kick myself for answering, thus defeating the purpose of having call display. How am I? she asks – as if she cares two hoots. Whose bright idea was it to instruct telemarketers to inquire after our well-being? “I’m Fine” I say dismissively, leaving an uncomfortable silence where the  “ … and how are you?”  would normally go.  As she proceeds to recite her telemarketing lines I interrupt with an annoyed “No thank you” and move to replace the receiver … but not before I hear her disembodied voice politely telling me to ‘have a nice day’.

How am I?  Have a nice day? When did these phrases seep into our communication with absolute strangers?

I’m not good at making small talk. Maybe that’s why I hate it – or is it the other way around?  Either way, it can be a bit of a problem, since it follows us everywhere.  Being out and about in the world requires that we engage in chit-chat with sundry people we encounter along the way   … fleeting exchanges about nothing in particular.

 What is Small talk?

The definition of small talk says it all:  Small talk involves conversation about matters of unimportance. It is one of society’s ice-breaking techniques … talk starters …  fillers of empty pockets of time.

And oh! empty pockets of time abound!  We ride the elevator with strangers and comment on the beautiful (or terrible!) weather we are having.  Or we sit in a doctor’s  waiting room, flipping through outdated, tattered magazines, and  exchange ‘pleasantries’ (inaptly named, if you ask me).  The opportunities are endless!  Line-ups … restaurants … public washrooms …  water coolers … airplanes …,  and hair stylists,  to name a few.

Cocktail Party Small talk

But nowhere is small talk more painful for me than at cocktail parties, where it is  incumbent upon guests to “mingle”.  Oh how I hate that word – it reeks of ‘Oh Dahling!!  A lost soul, I will talk  to anybody who will give me the  time of day (figuratively speaking) …. someone I can momentarily imprison with my attempt at trivial chit-chat. These are people I  have probably never met before,  or will ever meet again.   I watch others moving about with apparent ease – even enjoyment –  while I am trying to figure out why my watch  has stopped!

What is wrong with me?’ I ask myself, for the umpteenth time. I am neither shy nor I  socially phobic. I simply find small talk empty and meaningless.

So here I am,   66 years of age, still scratching my head in bewilderment, with no relief in sight.


I Hate Small Talk

Why I Hate Small Talk Conversations

By some stroke of luck, I recently stumbled upon the answer in  a lecture I found online entitled “The Power of Introverts”. I have never regarded myself as an introvert, because when I’m with people I know, I am talkative and outgoing.  But as I watched and listened, I was mesmerized  by the speaker’s description of the characteristics of the introvert.  It was an accurate description of me!

There it was – the answer that had eluded me for so long – a simple explanation that made absolute sense, effectively obliterating my lifelong conviction that there is something wrong with me.

What does it mean, exactly, to be an introvert?  It means that being alone energizes me, while spending too much time around people drains my energy.  It means that I focus on  my inner world, rather than the outer world, and that I thrive on solitude, where I can recharge my batteries and pursue my creative interests – which, no surprise – are solitary ones.  It means that I am introspective, and love deep conversations,  skipping the superficial and engaging in discussions about matters of  substance.

And – wouldn’t you know it – introverts dislike small talk!!

And there is more.  Introverts are often creative, observant and insightful, have good leadership skills and are good listeners  (ahem!)

So!  Much to my intense relief – not only is there nothing wrong with me – there is actually something right with me!

Next time a telemarketer calls and starts the conversation asks how I am,  I might answer “Well – let me tell you about my day …”   and when she finds a way to escape this lunacy I will be sure to tell her to have a nice day!

(see About Adele Gould)

I hate small talk


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