Wednesday, January 27, 2010

What Exactly Is The Point To Small Talk?

Recently, in the middle of typing out a blog post, I had an epiphany. It was about small talk. I’d always known that when people ask you “How’s it going?”, they usually have no interest in how “it’s going” for you. They just want a generic answer from you.

It hadn’t actually occurred to me that any questions beyond “How’s it going?” fell under the same conditions.

I’ve started to wonder if I have Asperger’s syndrome in at least a small degree. Penelope Trunk has been writing about it lately. I’m not “that bad”, but I do tend to have a poor grasp of some social customs. Like, if you ask me how it’s going, I want to actually tell you how it’s going, even if it’s going bad. In my mind, if you didn’t want to hear it, you wouldn’t have asked.

I also wonder if my mom had some form of Asperger’s. She was far worse than me. Either I learned social interaction from her the wrong way, or we both had some form of Asperger’s. Not much I can do about it now.

Back to the point of this post, I have to wonder, what is the point to small talk? If we ask each other how we’re doing but we’re not supposed to care how each other are doing because we’re not really friends, then what’s the point?

Think about it: this could revolutionize church, the workplace, children’s activities, just about anything. I hope I never pull this off, but consider this scenario:
Casual acquaintance: Hey, how’s it going?

Me (or you): Look, you don’t really care how I’m doing, and I don’t really care how you’re doing. You’re just asking me for pointless small talk, not to build a relationship. Let’s just save ourselves the trouble.

That’s kind of ugly. I guess we’re all better off enduring the pointless small talk. But I still wonder what the point is.

Here’s what I’ll do to improve myself: rather than use small talk to run the conversation like I usually do, I will attempt to use each small talk to learn something about the person subjecting me to the pointless small talk.

What about you? Are you willing to either cut out the pointless small talk, or try to redirect it into something productive, like forming real relationships with other people?
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