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Death to Small Talk

For those people that know me its not a surprise that I will say I hate small talk. I find it pointless and boring and it barely results in me either feeling anything or learning anything.

Undeniably, it’s a ruthless attitude to have towards a casual chat but I’m pretty sure Bukowski didn’t stick around for stray, misdirected words either. In fact, I feel that I can avoid a lot of awkward situations and weird encounters just by side stepping small talk. E.g. I usually manage to avoid being hit on by the office creep; the guy that’s ‘married’ but so talkative that he borders on sleazy. If you just don’t entertain it, you don’t risk falling asleep during conversations as a pathway to an awkward pat on the bum.

For the most part small talk exists for the purpose of courtesy. It bridges the gap between silence and substance and is the introduction to being comfortable to having a deeper conversation.  You can’t really come out and say to someone, “What’s your view of polygamy?”, “Have you got a psychologist?”, or “What is one of the biggest mistakes of your life?”

These are the interesting types of questions that we shy away from, but ironically are what we really enjoy. I can guarantee most people don’t get much pleasure from talking about the weather, unless they’re an avid BOM subscriber.

Imagine going to a dinner party where small talk was banned. Does this sound like your idea of pleasure? Or, the epitome of discomfort? After a British social anthropologist discovered that 9 out of 10 people had discussed the weather in conversations over the last 6 hours due to the reliance on dull, small talk they instigated a dinner party with zero small talk policy. It brought together 27 guests (of mixed gender) that could only engage with one another on levels deeper than the superficialities of small talk.

The 2 rules;

  1. All guests had to arrive strictly by 8pm (to prevent to common disruption of comings and goings)

  2. Small talk was banned – a mixed deck of cards were used to prompt subjects for discussion

And the results? The rules applied (at first externally) were happily adopted by the guests who found themselves being more open about an intensely diverse array of matters; religion, abortion, psychology, sexuality, fears and dreams.

Perhaps when we remove the confines of social expectation we’re all more likely, and pleased to explore the depths of our own realities, which are ironically more interesting than the small talk we slap over it to hide the cracks.

Info and studies referenced in this article are from here.

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