Three birds talking "small talk"

What Shall We Talk About? How Shall We Talk?

What is Small Talk and Why Bother?

In praise of small talk. Seems like a strange title for a blog about “Mindful Conversation.” Most people think of mindful conversation as being about “deep talk.” But don’t be too quick to discount small talk. Small talk can actually play a BIG role in mindful conversation.

What is “small talk”?

The phrase “small talk” is used to refer to any conversation that doesn’t matter to you. Words used to fill the vacuum. Words that don’t matter and weren’t really intended to matter. Words that are in response to this low-grade discomfort, “Oh, here we are. Now what shall we talk about?”

In praise of small talk

But despite such a pejorative description and despite being a subject that many people love to hate, small talk is not all bad. It can play a very positive role in helping you get comfortable. Breaking the ice. In searching for a topic of common interest. Small talk is like a ramp onto the freeway. The problem is not in engaging in small talk. The real problem occurs when all or most of your talk is small talk.

The “end” of Small Talk

The small talk ends when you start talking about something that matters to you. Anything. It just has to matter. It can be a topic you know nothing about and want to learn. It may be something you’ve been worried about. It can be something you’re excited about. There is emotion connected to it, because by definition if you care about something, you feel something about it. Sharing your feelings tends to take a conversation deeper, make it more personal. The small talk ends when you start to become vulnerable, to show who you are, to expose the inner you.

Do you engage in small talk? Why? or Why not?”

I’d love to hear your take on this small (but important) topic. When does small talk work for you? When does it work against you? Do you overuse it? Or underuse it? Is it a crutch, or is it an on-ramp? How do you feel about yourself when you engage in small talk? How do you feel about others who seem to thrive on small talk?

If you’d like to read more about small talk, try Debra Fine’s book on the fine art of … ,

If small talk were as useless practice as it is often made out to be, wouldn’t it have disappeared long ago? To read more about how to start a mindful conversation, try this recent blog post, How do you begin a conversation?