Why 'Small Talk' Exists (And Why We Should Just Stop Forcing Conversation Altogether)

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how to small talk forcing conversation with strangers craving intimacy

You either master the art of small talk or constantly dread it; there’s no in-between.

By all means, small talk should not exist. Yet, we have kept it alive. There’s no reason why we should be discussing the weather awkwardly with strangers or lamenting the most recent news tragedy with an acquaintance on your way to work.

Instead, human nature tells us we should circumvent it with gifs, emojis and funny movie quotes (all of which are still awkward at times).

When you meet someone new, though, or just don’t feel like carrying on a full conversation with someone (be they a friend, family member or average stranger), small talk makes it way into your life again. This is because it fills the gaps between profound conversation and banal talk.

In fact, there is some power in engaging in small talk as it allows you to sustain relationships through boring times or times when you encounter the human equivalent of a wall. However, that doesn’t make it any easier to endure.

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Small talk is one of my least favorite things in the world. It feels fake, less intimate, like I am trying desperately to fill silences that don’t even need to be filled. I constantly think that I will be “found out” by my conversation partner, that they will realize I don’t know anything about the weather, sports or other stupid topic we’re discussing. This fills me with anxiety, so I tend to leave small talk situations quickly.

Even sites about small talk state that small talk can be exhausting. Though, there’s usually a social function that small talk fulfills, depending on your relationship to the person to whom you are talking.

With texting, small talk is even more annoying. Trying to continue texting someone whose only response is “OK” or “That’s cool” is nearly impossible, and it’s made worse when you’ve resorted to using small talk techniques over text. Though, receiving small talk texts is even worse than that. Those texts rarely seem to deserve a response. What the heck am I supposed to do with “It’s been nice out lately”?!

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For something that Wikipedia calls a “social lubricant,” small talk sure causes more friction that I’d like. But I guess that’s kind of the point: you have to go through some social hell to get to friend heaven, so to speak.

Especially at work, knowing how to small talk with people can make you feel less lonely and enable both participants in a conversation to participate. Perhaps this is why introverts like me dislike small talk; we primarily rely on the other person in the interaction to carry the conversation.

Once you’re closer with someone, you can brag about how little small talk you use on a daily basis, but, until then, you’re stuck with small talk like the rest of us. It really does suck to not be able to carry on intimate conversations with strangers and even your friends, but we all have to do it. If it’s been around this long and can still help you out in the long run, small talk is bound to stick around.

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Meaghan Summers is a writer who covers astrology, pop culture and relationship topics.