The awkwardness of small talk

I unexpectedly bumped into someone I’ve not seen for a long time. With it came that nervous silence of not knowing what to say:

– How are you?

– I’m good. You?

– Yeah. Good. Things going well?

– They’re all right. Can’t complain.

– Cool.

Imagine how it felt to be one half of that conversation. It cycled on that way for several minutes, with no end in sight.

When people ask how you are, you have nanoseconds to choose from so many possible responses:

a) “I’m good”

b) Update them on everything since you last saw each other, without regard to whether they’re interested or not

c) Go into some of the struggles you’re having at the moment

d) Focus only on the good and positive news in your life

d) Ask them how they are instead

This is why I hate small talk. It’s necessary to get things going, yet such an artificial construct when you’re with friends and acquaintances. I’d love to get right into how things are, without worrying about whether they’re really interested in how I am. But sadly, I lack the courage at times to just dive in. That’s what yawning and glazed eyes have done to my confidence over the years.

So what’s your approach to small talk? What option do you go for and why?


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2 thoughts on “The awkwardness of small talk

  1. rmwk100 March 24, 2014 at 5:52 pm Reply

    I loathe small-talk to, but it often turns into something deeper, with help. I find that giving attention and asking someone how they are, or complimenting them on something they are wearing etc is usually enough to get them talking about themself. Then it’s easy to listen, ask questions, reflect back etc. I always stay in touch with how I feel, quickly noticing when I’ve had enough if it all stays one-way. Then I make the usual social signals of breaking eye contact, stepping a bit further away from them, maybe doing up my coat etc, and say that I must be getting on. Then, with a warm farewell, I say goodbye and go. The most draining people get 30 seconds. Those able to have a bit of a two-way conversation get five minutes. Those with a severe problem that needs my full attention get approx. 15 minutes. This is just my own system, but it works well for me, and I can cope with it. What do you reckon? Love from Ruth XXXXXXXX

    • vulnerablechristian March 24, 2014 at 6:10 pm Reply

      Hi Ruth,

      That’s a really interesting system you have there! You obviously try to keep clear boundaries so that you give what you feel is appropriate to the individual.

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