Lots of us aren’t very good at the whole, small talk thing. I’m not as terrible as I used to be but I still have a lot of issues with it that stem from my complete and utter lack of caring. When I go somewhere like the grocery store or anywhere that’s public (and not where I would specifically expect to engage in small talk), I generally don’t want to talk to people. And because I don’t want to talk to people, I assume they don’t want to talk to me.
Well, sometimes I’m wrong.
Why do complete strangers want to talk to me anyway? Does my blank expression just scream that I would love to hear about the complete list of recipes you’ve learned from a book series? Like, I’m okay with people for the most part and I have my group of people who I really like but it takes me a while to get to that with anyone and I think my biggest hurdle in doing that is, as I said, my extreme lack of caring.
I look at people as investments of my time and energy. If I’m going to spend part of my limited time on earth with you then I need a good reason. Standing in line at the grocery store: not a good enough reason to use up my energy making conversation. I’m polite and usually respond to those who talk to me, but it’s a good bet I won’t continue the conversation. I’m open to relevant discussions but small talk, for the most part, isn’t really about very relevant topics. It’s about… I’m not even sure. Random snarky comments about the weather? Lame jokes about how if a product doesn’t have a price tag then it must be free? Talking about how you’re from such and such a place? I don’t know.
Basically, I don’t want to engage with strangers. I have friends and I’m not really looking for more right now. So in order to keep myself from getting too close to strangers, I don’t let myself care. This, in turn, makes me bad at small talk. Now I don’t have to worry about investing my time at all because I don’t care enough to do so.
I recently did a story for the local paper about a festival. I wasn’t given a lot of instruction besides to find out stuff. This was particularly difficult because what was I supposed to ask? Who was I supposed to talk to? How was I supposed to just find out ‘stuff’ with no more direction? But the biggest problem was that I would approach someone like a vendor or a person attending the festival and my mind would go blank because I didn’t care. I didn’t care about why they were there or how many years they’d been coming or what they thought of the festival overall. I just didn’t. It doesn’t matter to me what their thoughts on this event were.
But I had to ask questions because it was part of my job and eventually I found the right questions and altho I still don’t think I started caring much, I got my job done. I still didn’t ask all the questions I thought to ask later but, as explained in last week’s post, that’s because I have to consider information and I went to the festival blind.
I had to make myself care at least a little about this festival and the people in it. It was no easy task. I prefer to keep to myself and not deal with others.
Thing is, I’m not sure if I consider my apathy a strength or weakness. It’s good because I don’t waste time, I maintain my privacy, and I don’t have to be sociable. It’s bad because I don’t get to learn as much as I could, I treat people like an inconvenience, and as a Christian I should care about human beings. I can’t make connections with people if I don’t care a little bit about them.
It also hurts my writing career since a lot of this whole process involves self promotion and I won’t ever make it to share about my writing if I can’t start a decent conversation with some small talk.
This is a social skill that I’m working on. I’ve been meeting new people at work and have made an effort to get to know them through small talk and conversation. I still find myself zoning out during conversation but I’m catching myself a lot more.
Perhaps I’m overthinking this whole thing. Do you find small talk an insane challenge or can you connect with people pretty easily? If you can connect easily then tell me your secrets so I can practice the same!