A Trick for Avoiding Small Talk

There’s a certain kind of small talk that I find insufferable. It’s the stuck-in-a-conversational-rut small talk, driven by one twitchy person deathly afraid of silence, and it goes round and round and round (this is not to be confused with the pleasant small talk that happens with a chatty taxi driver, or a charming employee, which can be enjoyable and light).

The worst kind of small talk is impossibly hard to pull away from. It somehow morphs into a sinking ship, and as you grip onto the sides and try to escape, you find yourself talking about how the grocery store ran out of 2% milk that morning. Maybe some of you aren’t as allergic to small talk as I am, but those of you who are, stay put. I’ve discovered a little trick recently…

The idea is to interject the small talk with something that’s slightly more intimate, without being intrusive, or awkward, or too personal. You don’t want to throw the person off by asking “what are you most afraid of?” or “when was the last time you cried?” and then expect them to seamlessly adjust to such a drastic conversation changer. It’s gotta be subtle. What you do is: ask for advice. 

It can be something small like, “what should I get my brother-in-law for his birthday?” or something bigger (“should I take this job in Oregon?”). The point isn’t so much to get sage advice (although that can, unexpectedly, happen), but to jolt some mindfulness into the conversation. Wait until there’s a tiny gap of silence, and then perk up and just go for it. You end up learning something about each other, and the conversation almost always takes a really great turn. I think it works so well because you’re putting the person on the spot, but in the best way, a way that most people actually enjoy. I’ve tried it several times now, with a 100% success rate.

Image via this tumblr

4 thoughts on “A Trick for Avoiding Small Talk

  1. meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep
    this is my favorite post in a while 🙂
    love the idea AND love the way you managed to describe small talk in a lovely way

  2. I really love this suggestion! Been getting stuck in “ummm…sooo….” territory in my small talk conversations of late, and in those, nobody wins.

  3. Great post! I like the distinction you make about the two different kinds of small talk. I enjoy asking colleagues at work how they are doing, and am genuinely interested in their reply. Those small daily details remind us that we share similarities in our day to day, and often wind up in a shared laugh as well. The other kind of small talk is kind of painful! Haha – great suggestions for changing the dynamic of those conversations. (Ps: I tried sending another comment and it didn’t seem to work. Sorry if this is a duplicate!)

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