How Small is Small Talk?

Have you ever been in a situation, like being in an elevator with someone you don’t know, of feeling the awkwardness as you both are looking forward at the door as if the other person isn’t there: you suddenly break the silence with the profound observation of… “Nice weather we’re having lately, huh?” to which they reply “Yeah, it sure has been.”

I’m pretty sure most people can relate to the previous example if not a hundred others we have experienced at the grocery store, in school or at work where we have relied on ‘small talk’ as our go-to form of communication, saying things like “Hi, how are you?” to replies like “Fine, and you?” only to end it there and carry on your merry way when in fact you are feeling like hell that day and it would have been really supportive for you to actually express that with honesty and perhaps have a conversation with someone about what choices have led up to that current state of being.

Even though I am not saying we always have to get into some huge philosophical conversation with everyone we meet on the street, I know for myself that after I have resorted to this type of ‘small talk’ by holding back what was really there to say and feeling the other did the same, it has left me feeling flat and as if I had let us both down, like we could have gotten to a greater understanding and awareness, but chose to not do so for some reason.

So why do we continue to play this game when we all feel to some extent that it is not truly serving us to do so and we can feel there is so much more for us to share with the world, learn from, and grow by?

Are we afraid that someone will judge us for what we have to say or that by exposing how we truly feel we will be too exposed in that vulnerable state and be either rejected or hurt by how the other responds? It feels to me that there are so many things that happen to us as we grow up where we are not really honoured for what we have to say (especially when adults consider their views and knowledge to be more important or worthy based on their age or experience in life).

But if we consider for a moment the possibility of reincarnation, as is a prevalent belief throughout the world, then even as a small child we come into our current life with literally thousands of lives worth of teachings, skills, wisdom, revelations, and experiences of life that are held within our bodies and ready to be tapped into and shared with the world.

In fact, I feel it is our duty to not hold this wisdom back as we all bring such a unique aspect to the world based on all these lived experiences, whether in this life or past ones. It would be a shame to hold back sharing this with the world, would it not? And even though we may not have conscious memories of all these experiences, we can move our bodies with self-care and love in a way that allows that innate wisdom to come through us, knowing that even the smallest gesture of concern or expression of how you truly feel from your body with another can change someone’s day and allow them to not only know that other people care, but that through sharing honestly how we feel it allows others to feel safe about doing the same, thus bringing more awareness and truth to their lives.

There have been countless times where something inside me gave me an impulse to spark up a conversation with, for instance, the check-out clerk at the grocery store, and what unfolded was a beautiful sharing that resulted in our both feeling very connected to, understood, and expanded in a way that carried that lovely feeling into the rest of our day. You can feel someone’s eyes light up when someone takes the time to appreciate something about them and show them that you care. It truly is a catalyst that can trigger a transformation in us when we drop our protection or guard  – that is based on a previous difficult relationship or past hurt – and give people a chance to be themselves without any feeling that they will not live up to our expectations.

Relying on ‘small talk’ as our typical mode of communication really does keep us ‘small,’ but allowing ourselves to be open by going a bit deeper each time we interact with people can lead to an evolving form of relationship that may surprise with just how much we all have to offer each other.

Taking these small steps towards a more connected community can go a long way in helping curb a growing culture of people that seem to have given up on love and life and have ‘checked-out’ via the use of drugs, alcohol, and the myriad of electronic games/devices out there, isolating themselves from the world in an attempt to protect themselves from getting hurt again.

So, by making the effort to not settle for ‘small talk’ but instead be willing to take the conversation to the next level, we can all move towards a form of relationship with each other that brings us closer together and makes life more about evolving as a humanity and less about merely existing and getting through another day, week and year without that connection and expansion that we all can feel in our hearts is our true way.

By Michael Goodhart, Aircraft Technician, B.A. Psychology, Lover of Nature and being playful with life, North Carolina, USA

Further Reading:
Crying out for connection: technology and us
Connecting with people: a vital part of self-care
Connecting to People: No Such Thing as ‘Strangers’

111 thoughts on “How Small is Small Talk?

  1. Is small talk used to connect with people, especially strangers, because we don’t know how to communicate on a deeper level, but small talk does show a desire to connect – or people would just stay silent.

  2. “Are we afraid that someone will judge us for what we have to say or that by exposing how we truly feel we will be too exposed in that vulnerable state and be either rejected or hurt by how the other responds?” I feel this is true for so many people. Clocking it – and deepening the conversation is often appreciated by people, especially if there is time for a longer conversation – eg on a plane or a train.

  3. I remember once talking with a group of students about how much we lie on a day to day to people about how we are. But what was interesting is that the reasons why people did this were because they didn’t want to burden people, or they felt that people couldn’t truly hold them or that it would be weird and imposing. It’s strange that we’ve created a world whereas humanity we are not living in such a way that whenever we are needed, whenever the call presents, we are not there to support. We live lives where we’re all busy ‘dealing with things’, caught up in ourselves, instead of living lives where we are able to genuinely support people. Imagine if we burned for people to ask us questions because we knew the wisdom that would come through us, instead we burn for coffee, tv, music, books, movies, the next party or big weekend. What would happen if we took this responsibility and accessed the wisdom available to all of us, allowing that to be at the fore? As you say, Michael, every moment and every interaction would be a thing of beauty, with every moment building to equate a magnificent but normal life.

  4. Quite regularly I feel like I don’t want to talk because I don’t want to admit when things haven’t changed. But staying stagnant hasn’t exactly felt great either. I reckon I don’t hate small talk enough currently because when I do stop and feel something that my body doesn’t like, it’s easier to stop it.

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