In Praise of Small Talk
The Desert Fathers sought silence and avoided chatter, and the Buddhists wrote about our chattering “monkey minds.” It is often more helpful to listen than to speak, but “small talk” has its place.
Last week, we approached an acquaintance at a reception. He was a financial professional — all business, no chatter, alternatingly projecting “distraction” and “forced sincerity.” I empathized, having been a financial professional myself. (“I saw the movie, and I starred in it a few times,” as they say.)
Now that I am a blogger/driver/retiree/runner/volunteer, there is more small talk in my life — not mindless chatter, but mindful attempts to connect with people:
“Are you making any money in this market?”
“Do you have any plans for the holidays?”
“What did you think of the game last night?”
“What’s your favorite subject at school?”
Everyone in the room is a person, not a part of the scenery, and everyone in the van is a passenger, not a package.
I think of small talk as the lubrication for the conversation, helping to get things started and to keep things moving.
We never develop lasting friendships for the long run, without first establishing casual connections at the outset.
Sometimes, small talk helps strangers feel comfortable, and other times, small talk helps strangers become friends.
More about that in the next blog post. Stay tuned.