This morning I find myself having a particularly good hair day. If you know me and my hairstyle, it literally styles itself most days.
What some may refer to as “bed head” I call “fashion.”
This difference of opinion isn’t the first time I notice a deviation from popular opinion.
What some may refer to as “first thing in the morning” I refer to as “my second feeding of the day.”
What some may refer to as “too much food” I refer to as “appetizer.”
What some may refer to as “feelings” I refer to as “indigestion.”
I pause to chuckle at my wit.
If you know me, you know all of this to be true.
You might know another truth.
I absolutely loathe small talk conversations.
Back in elementary school, I thought “small talk” was an activity where short people congregated to discuss their communal hardships.
“I hate it when I can’t reach the top shelf at the grocery store!”
“I hate it when I don’t make an effort to be seen in group photos and then don’t appear in pictures!”
“I hate it when Lidia uses my shoulder as an armrest!”
That’s exactly how I suspect these small talk conversations would occur; inside lockers, broom closests and a Geo Metro.
With a little more time and life experience, I realized I was being completely ignorant.
I realized small talk might not be exclusively for short people discussing short people things.
It’s more for small minded individuals discussing stupidity.
Shallow, trivial conversation is probably my kryptonite. It wastes time and wounds me.
I’m stunned at how so many people can be ok with having insubstantial conversations about nothing.
This cultural practice takes place where people need gather, including grocery stores, public transit and staff meetings.
I don’t enjoy small talk but realize I’m quite good at it.
If I were a Superhero, pretending to care would be my super power.
Maybe it’s because of my combined journalism and career development background.
It’s a means to an end. You need to engage in small talk to get the story.
To get to the the real issue.
To determine if the other person is of value.
You see, I consider myself the Barbara Walters of small talk conversation.
Because small talk isn’t everyone’s strength, I thought I’d share my strategy.
This is how I operate.
When someone initiates “small-talkese,” you will recognize this with any statement that sounds like “hot enough for you?”
I create the pretense of care, asking how you are.
I smile (they’re free).
You continue with shallow, one word answers.
I add a couple of agreeable comments and “hmm” and “ah”
I ask more stupid questions; i.e. “How’s work?”
You keep flapping away.
I nod my head a lot.
That’s when I make my move.
When I feel you’re not ready, I ask why you are getting divorced or are pregnant.
You become stunned by my question.
I look concerned.
I silently wonder if you’re getting divorced because it’s not your spouse’s child.
You tear up a bit.
I ask if I overstepped with my question.
I don’t wonder for too long, because you’ve allowed me to build a trusting relationship.
In four minutes.
You assure me its ok and then proceed to tell me all the interesting things.
The drama, the controversy, all the nitty gritty.
Just as you’re about to tell me more, I jump up and leave for my next train.
I leave the audience wanting more, but need to be mindful of work time and commercial breaks.
Besides, no one ever made the history books discussing the weather, being tired or a sports game.
So there you have it, the art of small talk.
Instead of an art, it’s more like political science.