Isaac Kaplan

"Is it any wonder I've got too much time on my hands?"

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Thoughts on Small Talk

- Small talk fascinates me. No, not the actual small talk itself. Please, I'm not THAT creepy. It's the concept that I find very interesting, especially the way many people deal with it.

- Generally, there are three types of people. People who are always up for small talk, and are very creative in bringing up topics. You know the types, the ones that just walk out of the pages of Dale Carnegie's books. Then you have those who just don't do small talk. They have no interest. They'd love to talk in-depth about a halakhic or hashkafic issue, or about what the Mets need to do this offseason, or what makes a certain person tick. But the small stuff? When you give them small talk, you get a bunch of one-word responses: "yeah," "uh-huh," "right." For them, it's a waste of time.

I find that I, and many others, fit into a third category. For me, it depends on the place, time, and person I'm talking to. So if I'm tired and not in the mood, I don't want to hear about the newest restaurant in town. But on a good day, I can talk about my weekend plans for hours. And it depends on the person, too.

- Problem with small talk: whatever category you fall into, it's a necessity. If you want to get a job, you've gotta be able to chat about crap. And if you're walking home from shul with the neighbor you're not that friendly with, time to talk about the kids. The worst is when you have someone over for a Shabbos meal that you don't know too well. It's either small talk or a meal full of dishes clanging and cole slaw chomping.

- And when you see someone on a semi-constant basis (like classmates and neighbors), when do you take the next step and talk about deeper issues, stuff you actually care about? If you move too fast, the other person will feel too uncomfortable. You gotta ease your way into it.

Take my dad, for example. He has a neighbor named Bernard, a nice guy that he's not that close with. My Dad complains that every time they end up walking home from the local shteeble, Bernie only talks about his grandkids. "Shloimie just started walking, Rivky's in first grade this year," same stuff every time. Problem is, between my dad and Bernie, nobody wants to take the next step, and risk actually talking about a topic with substance. So every time they meet, it's all about the grandkids.

- That's the problem with small talk. You've gotta be a little creative. And certain topics are taboo.

If you haven't seen someone in a while, you can't bring up family or work, in case G-d forbid there was a divorce or someone got fired. The worst is when you ask a no-longer-engaged person "when's the wedding?", only to find out there is none.

So what can YOU talk about? That's for another time.


Blogger Lost said...

I can't stand small talk. It's completely arbitrary and pointless. If I barely know someone I refuse to discuss the weather or school.

But it happens to very useful on dates. ::sigh::

2:24 AM  

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