Thursday, March 21, 2013

Let’s Fill the Silence

One of the most painfully long (or at least seemingly long) conversations to have with others is small talk. It could happen at any time or any place. It could be with acquaintances, or friends of friends, or relatives you hardly ever see or people you just happen to cross paths with, but somehow you’re in a situation where you’re forced to interact with that someone…and often it makes for some awkward conversation.

When two people don’t know each other very well, what is there to talk about? The weather is often one of the first conversation points brought up because everyone knows what’s happening with the weather. You’ve been experiencing it yourself so you know if it’s been hot or cold or sunny or rainy. (Of course if both parties already know what the weather’s been like, is it really necessary to talk about it—it probably wasn’t very exciting while you were actually experiencing it in the first place). [Sigh.]

Small talk tends to fall into the shallow end of the conversation spectrum. Topics that aren’t very personal and perhaps just based upon straightforward facts are often the focus because anything too personal may inadvertently offend the other person (and that would just make things even more awkward).

Yet while small talk isn’t the most riveting conversation, somehow it seems to be preferable to most people than silence (at least in the U.S.). Silence tends to make people uncomfortable; they’re not quite sure what to do if they’re not talking. It may be based upon being polite and not ignoring the other person, but sometimes it would be nice to skip any effort for small talk. Sometimes small talk just makes things even more abundantly clear that neither of us has anything in common nor is particularly interested in the other person. Sometimes silence is preferable.

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