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The Utter Weirdness of Small Talk in a Pandemic

The bias towards optimism

Pleasantries are optimistic things; they insist on seeing the bright side of any situation.
A pandemic, however, is not a moment of “I’m fine, thanks.” It is not a moment for the superficially polite. It is a moment to be caring, by discarding some of the traditional politeness. Find linguistic hacks, to emphasize that you don’t want to know how someone is doing in a typical way, but instead in a way that is tailored to this dreadful moment: How are you … considering? How are you doing … with all this?

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The Utter Weirdness of Small Talk in a Pandemic

The Utter Weirdness of Small Talk in a Pandemic

https://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2020/03/evolution-small-talk-pandemic/608344/

theatlantic.com

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Key Ideas

"How are you?"

One of the small consequences of the pandemic is that it is turning “How are you?” into a question again.
In ordinary times, people don’t ask “How are you?” because they want a real answer; they ask it because asking is what you do. This question is usually a simple, polite greeting.

Unsuitable language

The pandemic has illustrated the deep interconnections among people, how profoundly interdependent we are, and how we need one another.
But our languages lag. The pleasantries we usually use are not well equipped to account for our tragedies.

The bias towards optimism

Pleasantries are optimistic things; they insist on seeing the bright side of any situation.
A pandemic, however, is not a moment of “I’m fine, thanks.” It is not a moment for the superficially polite. It is a moment to be caring, by discarding some of the traditional politeness. Find linguistic hacks, to emphasize that you don’t want to know how someone is doing in a typical way, but instead in a way that is tailored to this dreadful moment: How are you … considering? How are you doing … with all this?

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