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Why small talk is so excruciating

Not for everyone 

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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Why small talk is so excruciating

Why small talk is so excruciating

https://www.vox.com/2015/7/7/8903123/small-talk

vox.com

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Key Ideas

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.

Small talk has meaning

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 operates on two levels

  • 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 social function speech

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.

Two talking skills

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 for everyone 

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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SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Small talk

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.

How to get better at small talk
  • Have a genuine interest in getting to know a person you’re talking to and learn from them.
  • Ask open-ended questions. It encourages the other person you're speaking with to open up.“What do you do?” followed by “Why did you choose that type of work? How did you enter that profession?”
  • Never talk about something too personal.
  • Practice active listening. By paying attention to the speaker’s words, you’ll create much stronger connections.
Our brain while listening to words
Our brain while listening to words

Our brain uses two separate areas to identify the mood and the real meaning of the words. Words are passed to the left temporal lobe of the brain...

Words only count 7% Myth

The myth purports that we use 55% body language, 38% tone of voice and 7% actual words.

The research of Professor Mehrabian had nothing to do with speech, but to guess emotion based on the recordings of a single word. 

Actual words "must dominate by a wide margin", argues famous author Philip Yaffe.

Facial expression in speech

Smiling is one of the most powerful elements when thinking about speech.

The smiley face is rated with the highest positive emotional content. The painting of the Mona Lisa with her contented smiled is one such example.  

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Happy/sad music

Our brains respond differently to happy or sad music.

One study revealed that participants interpreted a neutral expression as happy or sad to match the tone of the music they heard. 

Ambient noise can improve creativity

A moderate noise level is ideal to improve our creativity. It increases the processing difficulty which stimulates abstract processing, leading to higher creativity. 
High noise levels impair our creative thinking because we feel overwhelmed and struggle to process information properly.

Music and personality

Different genres correspond to our personality. For instance:

  • Blues and Jazz fans have high self-esteem, are creative, outgoing, gentle and at ease
  • Classical music fans have high self-esteem, are creative, introvert and at ease
  • Opera fans have high self-esteem, are creative and gentle
  • Rock/heavy metal fans have low self-esteem, are creative, not hard-working, not outgoing, gentle, and at ease

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