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How much small talk is enough?

  1. Oct 29, 2012 #1

    Dembadon

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    How much "small talk" is enough?

    I'm occasionally involved in awkward conversations because I don't like small talk. Most of the things I like to talk about are not appropriate conversation topics for first or second encounters with new people. This leads me to not engage at all, but then I'm accused of being aloof. I've been trying to smile more so as to become more approachable, but I've a hard time forming a believable smile when nothing has happened to make me want to smile. It feels forced and unauthentic.

    How many times must I hang out with someone before I can start talking about meaningful things?
     
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  3. Oct 29, 2012 #2

    Astronuc

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    Re: How much "small talk" is enough?

    What does one consider small talk, and what does one consider substantive or meaningful?

    I had a rather engaging conversation with my next seat neighbor during a 3.5 hr flight last Friday. I've had many substantive conversations with strangers during short and long flights, and on one or two occasions, I exchanged business cards.
     
  4. Oct 29, 2012 #3
    Re: How much "small talk" is enough?

    Oh dear, a very familiar thing. Most often the small talk is about the most favorite sport, tv series, boring news, fiction books. Why is there no small talk about history archeology, math.

    I noticed that the easiest small talk is about things like mammoths. People seem/act/are always interested. Obviously the flow of information is always one way.
     
  5. Oct 29, 2012 #4
    Re: How much "small talk" is enough?

    Does this help?
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8uozGujfdS0
     
  6. Oct 29, 2012 #5

    Evo

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    Re: How much "small talk" is enough?

    Are these social, like in a bar or at school or work? Subjects to discuss with people from school or work should be easy, so perhaps you are referring to a social setting with people you may have nothing in common with. I find that current events are always good subjects for meaningless small talk with strangers. They should be at least somewhat commonly known to some extent, and as long as it not politics or religion, it should be safe.

    As for avoiding having people try to talk to me where I am trapped, like on a plane, I find reading a book, doing paperwork, or sticking earphones in, even if it's not turned on, are good ways to avoid unwanted conversations.
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2012
  7. Oct 29, 2012 #6

    arildno

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    Re: How much "small talk" is enough?

    A safe bet is that people, as a rule, love to talk about themselves, and feel knowledgeable, relative to the other.
    thus, if you really don't have any topic YOU want to talk about (or those you have seem inappropriate), then try to find out what the other one likes, giving ample compliments and interested smiles to get his or her life history gushing out.
    You ought to wait with the puking session until you are alone in your own apartment. :smile:
     
  8. Oct 29, 2012 #7

    Dembadon

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    Re: How much "small talk" is enough?

    As I understand it, "small talk" is making comments about the obvious. For example, "Nice sunny day, isn't it?" Or, "This is a nice house, isn't it?"

    Wikipedia defines its typical purpose here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_talk#Purpose
    In a casual setting, I don't desire the approval of someone I'm meeting for the first time, nor do I need them to agree with me. If small talk is a method for finding common ground about general topics, then that is probably why I have a hard time with it. I'd rather discuss a specific topic and get the other person's perspectives on it, whether I agree with them or not. This is not usually possible or appropriate for short conversations with strangers.

    I don't watch TV anymore or listen to "popular" music, so I have little to offer when someone wants to discuss the latest movie or the status of a celebrity relationship. I don't consider those things to be meaningful.

    However, I would be interested in analyzing society's desire to watch such shows. Or, regarding a popular music video: what it communicates about our culture.

    It is my experience that most people aren't comfortable having conversations like that with someone they just met 30 seconds ago.

    I believe the long flight allowed the conversation to develop into something substantiative. When one is at a social gathering with lots of people, there often isn't time to delve deep into topics because a given encounter usually will only last a few minutes before the next "phase" of the evening begins.
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2012
  9. Oct 29, 2012 #8
    Re: How much "small talk" is enough?

    I guess we could small talk like that during a long plane ride :smile:
     
  10. Oct 29, 2012 #9

    Ryan_m_b

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    Unless you're English or in the grips of a freak phenomenon meeting someone and immediately talking about the weather is a non-starter. If this is the definition of small talk (not one I would use but w/e) then I don't see a need for it at all. When you meet someone the most common course of conversation is to ask them what they do, tell them what you do, ask them how they know whoever it is who introduced you and conversation will generally flow from some point of mutual interest that these initial exchanges will offer up.

    Popular things generally get talked about more because by definition the chances of a random set of people liking them are high. Really it depends on where you are and who you're with for what conversations may come up. I find it hard to talk about sport because I'm not interested (fyi considering something to be meaningful is a bit judgemental over something that really needs little judgement, don't you mean it's not meaningful for you?) but can generally join in with most conversations. I've had many experiences where more in depth/academic conversations with strangers have sprung from simple conversations about popular culture.
    It really depends on where you are and who is there but one of the things I tend to look forward to and like most about parties and the like where I don't know many people is talking about a huge range of topics both "in depth" and not.
     
  11. Oct 29, 2012 #10
    Re: How much "small talk" is enough?

    Because that isn't small talk...

    For instance:

    [small talk]
    "Hi there, I'm Joe"
    "Hi Joe, I'm Mike. What do you do for fun, Joe?"
    "Well I'm an avid recreational SCUBA diver"
    "Oh that's terrific, I SCUBA dive as well, in fact..."
    [/small talk]

    And from there a conversation is born.
     
  12. Oct 29, 2012 #11
    Re: How much "small talk" is enough?

    I had an excellent lesson in small talk at a neigbors birthday party, yesterday. If I'm permitted to elaborate. To the left the talk was about sports, soccer, no idea, I'm terrible at that. To the right it was about holidays. I know something about that, when you visit your family in France, you always end up with tools in your hand, helping with the work. Good for some small talk.

    Interestingly enough some Barby type girl, mid twenties, probably a finalist in the Miss Holland contest, moved closer and closer and started a small talk about photography with the dad of the neighbor who sat next to me.

    Since the holiday subject was exhausted, I was happy to mingle. Who can resist not talking about ones primary hobby. Macro, landscape, panorama's, action photos, etc. Tricks and techniques.

    So soon enough she told she would be getting married next year, but the profesional photographers were so expensive. Guess what I suggested to her, having just finished a well recieved photo coverage of a niece's wedding?

    I think we have a deal, but I also think that the neighbor, who had seen the pix of that marriage, had set up the whole thing for her friend :smile:

    Just a little smalltalk.
     
  13. Oct 29, 2012 #12

    Dembadon

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    Re: How much "small talk" is enough?

    Correct. My use of "meaningful" was not ideal. I meant it in the sense that "small talk" is not good way of getting to know the other person; I should have probably said "useful."

    I believe the awkwardness is created when I try to develop a "small talk" idea into something more useful for getting to know the other person and they don't follow, but respond with another incredibly broad statement.
     
  14. Oct 29, 2012 #13

    Dembadon

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    Re: How much "small talk" is enough?

    I'm referring mostly to family gatherings or other similar social events. Also, I would consider current events meaningful, since they usually have large implications on society and also serve to help me get to know what makes the other person unique.

    Or I might just have a hard time knowing what small talk is and what it isn't. :frown:

    I don't have a problem doing that in those situations, but when I'm at a family function with in-laws and their friends, I've been told it is rude to refrain from "mingling". But, I would rather have a "deeper" conversation with one person than shallow conversations with a bunch of different people.
     
  15. Oct 29, 2012 #14

    Drakkith

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    Re: How much "small talk" is enough?

    I have a speech issue on top of the fact that I don't even care about most of the common things people like to talk about. And then top it with the belief, perhaps mistaken, that most people around me know practically nothing about anything they are talking about and you could say I have some serious problems getting to know people. Small talk is...challenging.
     
  16. Oct 29, 2012 #15

    Ryan_m_b

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    Re: How much "small talk" is enough?

    What do you do on Sundays? It occurs to me you might benefit from PF Chat. It would be easier to give advice on conversations, small talk etc in a more natural conversation setting.
     
  17. Oct 29, 2012 #16

    Astronuc

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    Re: How much "small talk" is enough?

    Brilliant! and one can chat about math. :biggrin:


    My colleague and I engage in small-talk or light banter with folks at the local diner. It could be about sports, or weather, or local events/business, depending on what's significant at the moment. Sometimes we'll talk about what my colleague and I do at work, but in general terms. Our work is generally beyond the experience of non-technical/non-scientific folk.
     
  18. Oct 29, 2012 #17

    AlephZero

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    Re: How much "small talk" is enough?

    Small talk is easy. You just ask the other person "tell me everything about your life history to date", then stop listening for the next few hours and just nod when the other person pauses for breath.

    The other person will probably go away thinking you were the most interesting person they have ever talked to in their life.

    The only trick is to find the right words to ask the question....

    (Yes, that's a cynical answer, but there's a lot of truth in it).
     
  19. Oct 29, 2012 #18

    I like Serena

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    Re: How much "small talk" is enough?

    I usually try to brush lightly on a series of topics that interest me.
    People don't like it if you just select the topic and keep going on about it, regardless of whether it interests them or not.
    If they do the same, you can try to find a couple of topics that feel sort of right.

    Then you can slowly and carefully get into a bit more depth, always careful not to force the conversation.
    It should be always easy for both parties to move away from a specific topic, or indeed break off the conversation.
    Then the space is created to come back to an interesting topic and delve more deeply into it.
     
  20. Oct 29, 2012 #19

    Astronuc

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    Re: How much "small talk" is enough?

    I also don't watch much TV or listen to pop music, and I generally ignore popular culture. But I find there are plenty of interesting subjects in which to engage someone.

    During the recent flight, the woman next to me initiated the conversation. She started with asking me if I was traveling to a meeting or on my way home. It evolved into a myriad of subjects including travel, the airline industry, the recent death of her mother, some of her religious beliefs, the state of the US and the world, the current national election, . . . . The woman was a flight attendant who works on the routes from the US to China or India. It was quite an enjoyable and pleasant interaction. If we were both single, I'm sure I would have gotten a date from that encounter. :smile:

    With family members, I have different interactions, since there is already some familiarity with my work from previous interactions, and I'm familiar with what various family members are up to.
     
  21. Oct 29, 2012 #20

    lisab

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    Re: How much "small talk" is enough?

    I have similar issues as others here - I don't watch TV or follow celebrities, and that seems to be the breadth of what constitutes small talk for most of the people I meet. For example, *all* of the hair stylists I've seen in the last couple years want to gossip about celebrities. Sigh. And I have to pay them.
     
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