Wednesday, November 25, 2009


In the current age of IM and texting on phones, it's becoming harder and harder to have real conversations with people who might mostly be described as acquaintances. The holiday season in particular brings us in contact with new people and folks that we maybe only see once or twice a year. I am finding it harder and harder to hold polite conversations and make what used to be known as "small talk".

Last weekend I went to a great party where I knew almost no one well, but several people were acquaintances. I had the same situation at a work luncheon this week where we spent a painful hour or so with our accountants over a pizza where none of us really knew each other well. I found the best conversation starter was "are you ready for Thanksgiving?". Something like this generally evokes some sort of follow up chatter about visiting family, cooking turkeys, etc. After the opening line about Thanksgiving the chat sort of petered out. After they responded to my query regarding the holiday, no return question was ever lobbed back in order to keep converstation flowing.

After going through those group gatherings, it occurred to me that I had spent about 4 hours asking people questions about holiday plans, families, cooking, etc and finding out all sorts of things about them and almost to a person, none of them had responded by asking ME any of those things. I don't think it's because I was being nosey - generally asking about ones holiday plans seems innocuous enough - it's not like I'm stalking out their homes to see if they're going to be home or not - it just seems that small talk requires some sort of common ground and holiday plans are common across most peoples these days. But these "safe" conversations were almost entirely one-sided with me asking questions and getting long rambling responses at best and monosyllabic grunts at worst but no reciprocation asking about my plans in return in order to maintain conversation. I find myself asking whatever happened to the phrase... 'and yourself?'

Shouldn't the conversations go something along the lines of : Me "Are you ready for Thanksgiving yet?" Them "Why yes, thank you for asking...I have my turkey in the fridge, blah, blah, blah... AND YOURSELF?"

Could it be that what I'm feeling is lack of ability to make small talk is a genuine lack of interest on their part? Even if it just means making polite conversation?

Of course, I could just be boring and no one wanted to chat with me in the first place. Oh well...

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