Reflections on the necessity of small talk

I am not good at making small talk.  In fact, recent reflection on the way I interact with people has revealed that I have two basic modes of conversation: personal stuff and playful banter.  That’s not to say I don’t want to know how my friend’s day went or where she got her new skirt; I put that sort of interaction in the first category because, if I ask about it, I care to know about it, which makes it personal (in my mind, at least).

But small talk…discussing the weather or the traffic or other such things that don’t really matter…I don’t know how to do that.  And, I’m starting to wonder if this has somehow affected the way I interact with others.

I’ll be quite frank: I don’t know how to make friends.  Most of my friends are either people I’ve lived with or close friends of people I’ve lived with.  As far as just slowly getting to know someone through mutual interest and reaching out…I have no idea how to do that.  I often fear that I come off as too overbearing if I’m excited about a friendship, and if I’m not excited then interest fades fairly quickly, particularly if the other person isn’t interested in pursuing interaction, either.

I am starting to wonder if my own bafflement at the friends-making process is somehow tied to my inability to make small talk.  Small talk seems a sort of middle ground between super-shallow relationships and ones that dig a bit deeper.  I tend to hop pretty abruptly from one to another, and I can see how that would be jarring.

I don’t mind answering a shallow question asked by someone else.  And I don’t mind discussing admittedly stupid things like my thoughts on Bruno Mars’ latest vapid single because that at least involves opinions and interaction with someone on a personal level with implied thoughts and emotions.  But, actual small talk…I don’t know how to start that.

And that’s where (I think) a lot of my problem lies.  I don’t know how to get to know someone.  If I know something about them, I can ask about that.  But, to just start fresh…it’s intimidating.  I either talk about myself way too much because it’s something I’m comfortable with…or I freeze and shuffle awkwardly off into the background.

I don’t know how to make my brain unfreeze.  I don’t know how to start conversations that don’t really mean much of anything.  I have a list of people that I’d like to get to know better, but I don’t exactly know how to start.  And, I do have to wonder if small talk is an important (but, in my case, ignored) stepping stone to future deep relationships.

Do you have this problem? Do you think the ability to make small talk is linked with the ability to make friends? Do you have any tips for starting such conversations? Or do you think small talk is overrated?


About Chelsea

"Hey, they say you're a natural. True or false?" "I just..." "Answer the question." "True, I guess." "Correct." -Ash and Kristofferson (Fantastic Mr. Fox) I allegedly have a way with words. I'm testing this theory. Right. Now. View all posts by Chelsea

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