Why Small Talk Is a Big Deal
The Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus defines small talk as a "social conversation about unimportant things, often between people who do not know each other well."1 Almost every time you leave your house, you probably find yourself engaging in this type of interaction. Many people dislike it because it might seem forced and insincere. While some people might simply feel obligated to talk to you, others genuinely want to have a conversation. Read this article to learn about how to benefit from small talk.
The Positive Side of Small Talk
- One conversation can lead to another. Do you avoid conversations with strangers out of fear that they will not want to talk to you again? This is completely understandable, as rejection hurts ("Social Anxiety, Dread of Meeting New People"). But what if your effort at conversation leads to the opposite result? Just by starting a conversation, you open the door to a possibility of another one. Even an exchange of just a few sentences could intrigue the other person enough for them to ask you to talk to them again.
- A good friendship might develop. After you meet someone for the second or third time, you might start to see the other person's true self. If there is a connection, you may start to consider the possibility of a friendship ("What Does it Take to Make New Friends?"). According to a study from the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, the transition for adults to go from an acquaintance to a casual friendship is more than 50 percent likely to develop after 94 hours of time spent together.2 While that may sound like a long time, it will be worth it.
- Your friendship network might expand. On my way home from school during my freshman year of high school, I started talking to another girl on the bus. We found that we had a lot in common. Eventually, we became good friends. She introduced me to her friends and they welcomed me into their circle. Although it is not as easy for adults, this friendship cycle can happen. It just takes more time and commitment ("Connecting with Others, Friendship Enhance Mental Health").
What to Remember When Small Talk Seems Insincere
- External factors could require the other person's attention. While it is nice to have conversations, it is not always possible for someone to give his or her undivided attention to the other person. For instance, a parent can watch his or her child at a park and still converse with another parent. Even though the parent's attention cannot be focused solely on the conversation, both people can still enjoy it.
- Small talk could mean more than friendly service. Sometimes when I take Uber, the driver has a lot to say and genuinely wants to get to know me. There would occasionally be a really long conversation about topics such as the latest movies or celebrity gossip. Most of the time, however, the conversations would be brief talks about weekend plans or comments about the weather. Although people in customer service positions might be talking to you because it is part of friendly service, they might genuinely want to have a long and meaningful conversation. Because they are at work, however, they have to set boundaries with clients and accomplish tasks on time.
- The other person could be really nervous. Some people are friendly but they are also very nervous. I was like this at the beginning of my freshman year of college. I wanted to make friends, but I was afraid that some of the people I talked to would not want to be friends with me. So at first, the conversations did not last long. They lasted just long enough for me to get an idea of whether the other person would like to be my friend.
Have you made any good friends after initiating small talk? Comment with your own stories, tips, or insights about making small talk.
- Cambridge University Press, "Small talk. American Meaning." Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus. 2007.
- Hall, Jeffrey A. "How Many Hours Does it Take to Make a New Friend?" Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. March 15, 2018.
Lueck, M. (2019, January 20). Why Small Talk Is a Big Deal, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, April 15 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/toughtimes/2019/1/why-small-talk-is-a-big-deal