Personal development

Small talk is actually a very big deal

Often these days I hear people say ‘Oh, I don’t do small talk’. Small talk has a big bad reputation!

It can bring us out in a cold sweat as we remember awkward networking events where we struggled to find common cause with someone, or tense meetings with clients that could have been less strained if it were only for some light-hearted small talk.

Well, I have a confession. I LOVE small talk and, in fact, I don’t believe it is so very small at all. What others consider small talk, I think of as sharing the details of our very BIG lives. My sense of this only grows as increasingly social media becomes the default channel for communicating with one another.

It was brought home to me recently when my phone rang, and an old friend’s name came up. The fact that she was calling instead of texting made me think that something must be wrong! That’s indicative to me of how removed we are from trading the small talk of the old days, which enduring relationships used to be built on. 

We fool ourselves that we don’t have time to connect with people in old-fashioned ways; things like picking up the phone for a chat, putting the kettle on in the office and getting away from our desks for 15 minutes, or even just switching off our phones when we go for lunch with an old friend, in an effort to avoid distractions.

But I don’t think we actually are that much busier than we used to be. I think it’s more likely that we have become so used to connecting in the fast, functional and efficient virtual world that we’re out of practice at being gloriously ourselves, out in the real world, connecting and interacting in person with others. 

Just like any other skill, relationship skills need to be worked at and practised. You can’t expect to communicate with friends solely by text and still maintain the close, rich relationship that you once had. You need to put in regular, sustained effort if you want to keep the momentum that good, solid, lasting friendships require. 

So I’m going to make a pledge right now:

  • I’ll keep my phone out of sight when I’m talking to you.
  • I’ll remember to ask about your mum, your holiday, or your triathlon training.
  • Hey, I might even drop you a wee card or note

And no matter how busy we are, or how distracted by modern life we become, I’ll always, always be happy to small talk with you.

Because it’s actually a Very Big Deal.