Don’t waste time on small talk, so much else is important

“How are you?” “Fine.” Not exactly a conversation starter, is it? Do they really want to know how you are? Do you really want to tell them? I know I don’t.

Small talk is a social interaction, which we, as a society, have deemed as polite according to our societal standards. It isn’t genuine. It isn’t important. It isn’t worth my time.

I, for one, actually feel the entire idea is impolite and contrived. I want my life to consist of only BIG talk. My life is not mundane and my conversations about it shouldn’t be either. If I want to tell people how I am or what my day has been like, I just tell them. I like for the people I interact with to do the same.

Asking “polite” questions, which you know will generate only a one-word answer, is an insult to others’ intelligence. People have good ideas and important and interesting things to talk about. Asking them generic questions doesn’t allow you to key into any of the awesome things they have to say.

Let’s just be serious — no one wants to talk about the weather or any other obligatory, safe small-talk topic. We are intelligent beings and we should be talking about controversial ideas, exchanging thoughts and collaborating on solutions to real world problems.

I do understand that sometimes small talk occurs when you just see someone in passing and neither party has time

to stop and chat about the big things in life, but I would argue that the appropriate and polite interaction is simply, “Hi!” or “Hey!” Fight the urge to tack on a “How are you?”

Perhaps in eliminating mindless pleasantries from our daily interactions we can establish more meaningful connections with people. We might actually make time to see them, spend significant amounts of time together and have real conversations, if we aren’t always engaging in useless small talk.

I just wonder, if two people standing in the line at their local coffee shop talked about the latest development in politics instead of the cold temperatures or their favorite holiday beverage what could they accomplish? At the very least, they could each learn a new perspective. They probably can’t solve all the world’s problems, but they can sure as hell take a stab at it.

You may say I’m a dreamer, but I dream of a world where every conversation is important. Where every word that passes our lips has meaning in the grand scheme of life. That is not to say that talk always has to be serious — politics, religion, social justice — even a kind word holds meaning and significance to the one receiving it.

I want people to always take something away from an interaction, not be left feeling as if nothing has been said or felt or heard, which is how I often feel after the typical run in with small-talk. Just make it worth it. Ask a question that gets to the character of your acquaintance, their passions, their life, not a question signifying nothing.

Jocelyn Gibson can be contacted at [email protected] marshall.edu.