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Small talk

Small talk

Not everyone enjoys small talk. It is not that they are not comfortable talking, but one-on-one, small talk remains an issue.

Small talk precedes big talk in the normal course of human affairs. Most people feel the need to connect first before they delve into the serious conversation or ongoing friendships - which means those who avoid small talk are removing themselves from meaningful social interaction.

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Anthropologist Bronisław Malinowski noted in 1923 that a great deal of talk "does not serve any purpose of communicating ideas" but "to establish bonds of personal union." He also said that small talk was merely a way to fill the silence.

He was wrong. Small talk is not just for those seeking companionship. It enacts and reinforces social roles in a whole range of social, commercial, and professional settings. 

  • Speech communicates information or ideas. It is the semantic content of speech.
  • On another level, talking is a social behavior. Every speech does something. It reassures, acknowledges, nurtures, enjoins, rejects, dominates, encourages, or just fill an awkward silence.

The daily human interaction speech is a social, relational behavior. It reveals the social fabric.

Small talk is not void of semantic content. Even saying "I am doing well" has some information. But, the primary function of small talk is to do something. It is meant to serve the purpose of social bonding.

To "talk well" in the social sense is to send the correct social signals and is different from "talking well" in the communicative sense. 

Few people can master both. Most people are either extremely verbal and eloquent but socially inept or intuitively at ease in a social situation but inarticulate beyond that.

Not everyone needs small talk. For some small talk feels like their head is a haze of white noise and they desperately want to escape the interaction.

But, they feel comfortable if you dive straight in and ask about politics or religion or the meaning of life. 

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RELATED IDEAS

It’s a brief conversation between you and someone you don’t know very well. 

Small talk is an essential stage of a casual conversation, especially in English-speaking cultures.

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IDEAS

Hating Small Talk At Parties

Most of us are beyond weather, parking and traffic-related conversations at parties. We have deep, substantial topics to discuss, which are not hollow and unproductive like most party small talks are.

Small talk has its benefits, it is designed to prevent controversies and hurt, smartly avoids religion and politics, and is a way to test the waters before we decide to talk about other stuff with someone.

Using too many adverbs - words to describe actions and objects - can make the reader lose interest.

A person that “meanders” it is more accurate than “walking slowly.”

Using too many unnecessary words can even make a person lose trust. On a high level, using fewer words builds trust.