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Dave P

Small talk works as an icebreaker. Most of the time it is meant to be positive because the next thing you talk about may not be.


I'm quite bad at small talk, but I do think that social interaction is very complex. People send a variety of verbal and non-verbal signals to let one another know that they want to communicate in various ways.
Usually, the real event in small talk is voice tone and body language. Say someone wants to talk about some horrible event, they answer "fine" to "how are you?" but in a way that shows little enthusiasm or energy. The asker then follows up with something like "really" and then aligns body and facial expression more directly to the other person to show a willingness to "discuss" the matter further.

It can be pretty subtle and there are people who are really good at reading and responding to those preliminary signals.

fwiw, I don't think it's a bad system. It's more that no one teaches us how to negotiate it.



I forgot to use the word icebreaker. Great point about what the lead in might be to. I never thought of it that way.

All this stuff is subtle, but I would argue that small talk often masks our inability to provide positive signals in other ways. Maybe it's not a bad system, but it can be boring and annoying at times, more so when I am the observer. Speaking of negotiation, salespeople are probably best at it.

Elizabeth McQuern

"How about those Bears?"

"Pretty windy in the Windy City some days, eh?"

"How about those Cubs?"

How about you LEAVE ME ALONE?!?!



It's "How 'bout dem bairse?"

I like the leave me alone idea. I should try that and see how that sets somebody really off balance.


It is called Phatic Communication.

It serves the very useful purpose of opening the initial channels of communication.

From www.wordnet-online.com
phatic speech, phatic communication - conversational speech used to communicate sociability more than information

Have you wondered why you sometimes find it "annoying" or that you feel that it is used by "zombies"?

I have noticed that engineer types prefer the facts over how one feels about those facts.

Perhaps your background/training as an engineer is involved here ?



Thanks for the comment. That term "phatic" sounds vaguely familiar, and I agree it is important, but it can be more often original than repetitive and cliche. It doesn't have to be boring.

I now work in marketing and I was never a "typical engineer type", but I know what you mean. Some people like to get to the point. If that were the case with me, I would say that there should be no small talk at all.


This is hilarious! You are so right! It is just like that with my boss at work. We try to be comfortable with each other but sometimes there is nothing to say. We work in a busy veterinary practice so the silence only comes up in the surgery room. But when other employees are there, and she says something very cliche, the response is always the same! Laughter, even though we've all heard it before. And the more uncomfortable it is, the louder the laughter is! Another common one is "so how are the kids?"
Is that why they call it small talk?
You remind me of Andy Rooney from 60minutes. Keep up the intriguing subjects!

Mitch C

I love small talk because it is fun to interact with other people. When you are waiting in an elevator with someone you don't know
and want to break the silence I have a good joke. The elevator operator ask "how are you doing?" and I say "fine". And I say to him "how is the elevator business?". He says "it has its ups and downs". Get it!!! This is one way to break the silence.

Dave H

I think that small talk is important. Walking in the hall walls of school it is weird to look at someone and not say anything to them. In the work environment is another reason for small talk. I think that if you can small talk well you are that much ahead of your competition


Small talk really bothers me. I don't like the feeling of being uncomfortable and the only way people seem to ease it, is with conversation. I guess it is needed or friendships would never be started. So in a way, even though its annoying, it helps build character.


Smalltalk is not about the actual words used, the real purpose is to simply recognize the existence/importance/worth of the other person. A courtesy so to speak.

A courteous world is a better world?

If one would prefer blunt honesty perhaps the next time someone says "Hi, how are you"?

the proper response should be "Do you REALLY care"?


Sophie S

I feel like small talk is mainly used with people that you don't really well on a personal level. Because when I'm with my friends and I say "How are you" they don't usually just say "good," they tell me honestly how they are!

One of the things that bugs me the most is when I ask someone "How are you?" and the response is almost always "good...fine" my favorite answers are always by a guy that I work with who replies in ways like "Everyday gets better! FANTASTIC!" and other ways that you never hear people say.

What bugs me even more is when someone asks me how I'm doing and I automatically say good without even thinking about it; even if I'm having a really bad day. But the thing with that is that you can't go pouring out your heart to someone who merely asked how you were out of politeness and doesn't really care-they just don't want to be rude.

Rob L

Small talk is necessary. I would take awkward small talk over that horrible silence any day. I think that sticking to the basic, original small talk makes it easier to deal with. Isn't it easier and more comfortable to answer a question you've already answered thousands of times in your life? So while small talk can get old and may be boring, it is necessary to break that silence.

Julie P

I find small talk a necessity. Even in an interpersonal relationship I find myself using it to jumpstart a conversation. Usually the person I am talking to opens up a little. However, in my current relationship, he likes to get right to the point and gets annoyed with my attempts at using small talk to start a discussion. Because the small talk has nothing to do with what I want to discuss


I think small talk can be annoying but I hate when there is an awkward silence. Small talk can help you get to know someone new and lead to an interesting conversation. It is necessary at first.


Hi Atul

Well first I have to say I have learned a great deal from ya already, How to stand tall in front of a crowd, and not care about the hits, but to welcome the controversy for the love of debate. Youve changed my life already,

And then the blog to be able to write and write the only thing I do because I have way to much to say.

Im lets see 25 percent spiritual, 25 percent biblical, 25 analytical, 25 percent scientific....so does that mean I get to preach....or reach

Small talk, this is why I have fallen in love with blog it is fun to get another perspective thread it feed it digest it decode it process it and store it away for another day.

First I wanted to say it was the word Annoy that stroke me,,,and then the way you defined small talk, and the way you perceived, valued, or viewed it.

I was concerned because you were annoyed. Well I have to say I love small talk, so where you saw it as a duty to fill the empty space, I would have to say this is my day...

I spend all day talking to people on elevators, on halls, in stair cases, praying for the drug addicts on the streets as they find their way to DRH, talking to Korean Vets to tell them how Koreans apprectiate the willingness, and preservations of giving their lives so they might have freedom, apologizing for the lack of recognition we give to them as Americans, Americans that can't even understand the meaning of freedom. After I spoke the man's limp became a leprochaun leap,,,and as we parted he saluted my name with thanksgiving about 3 blocks later I saw him again running in my direction telling me to have a great day. I knew then the man had been freed from spiritual oppression and set free in his spirit in the truth of how he served and gave his life, I went to Korean last year and told him all about the country and said it wouldn't be if it werent for him taking a chance for another country to have what we have. He was amazed because he hadn't seen or heard of the country since the war, and he said they anniliated it. Yeah anniliated it to the most awesome expression of creativity, art hopitallity, free spirited and giving people a nation overflowing with love and joy and thanksgiving in their hearts for every American, they literally worshipped the ground I walked on and I didn't deserve that walk, but I walked because of soldiers like you.

My co-workers ask me all the time how I know so many people, and get hugs from people Ive only known for 5 minutes. When I tell them I don't know them, they say how do you talk to them like there your best friend. I said I don't I listen and respond. So to bet one of my co-workers I told her I would not talk when we get on the elevator. The next thing I knew someone was talking to me and then 3 others followed. I said see it isn't me it is them. She said you gave them a look, oh so know I am casting spells to make people talk this is nuts., but in it all I enjoy it because I have made so many great networks through the years, and Ive come to realize there is nothing better than using your gifts and living out you destinies in the fullness of who you can be. And in doing this it means I don't have to do anything but I can appreciate someone's gifts doing for me, as I give mine back to them it makes life less like work and more like a river to float downstream in, and a spring to have fun in, and an Ocean to be overcome by knowing there are others out there to rescue help and save in your time of need. I realize now I can not do it all nor do I want to.

so in you annoyance, enjoy the silence, ponder, reflect, politicize, socialize, or blogg it all out. Or accomodate assimilate, reorganize and adapt to the new processes of transforming your small talk to meaningful opportunities of getting to know new people and discussing relevant momentous verbage, to delight in one another the days and the times that a far and too few to be valued honored, and lived out to the fullest.

It is not an obligation or duty that must be met, but an opportunity of expression, creativity, and pondering over the best things in life, one another, and the breathe that you have in that moment.

If it annoys then and it isn't out of duty then there is something with in you that is annoyed that is projecting unto the very image that is represented in or around small talk, and that very annoyance of small talk is a small reflection of the greater sea of annoyance in you, discover it transform it and change it to a tool an eye that does not burn with noyances, but with a clean eye to correct, disengage, challenge, and to uplift your spirit, because it is like a new drug to soar the wings of your spirit in truth and in love. You will be using your gifts not laborious, nor in vain, but in lavoyannces.

Some how I am expecting a great blog back. I think I gave a new meaning to the word blog.



I find myself in the same spot sometimes when iam at a party or an event and you're in a group with people and you dont know what to say,then the "small talk" comes in place.While reading this blog I could totally see myself doing the same thing.I think that small talk in important in any kind of a relationship.

A Facebook User

Excellent outlook from someone who obviously takes a moment to listen to the chatter of the world. Recently I was having a bad morning and it was because I was having trouble relating to someone, I guess there are often times relating can become cumbersome. I took a moment this morning to research what the world thinks of small talk as a way of finding some normalcy in my observations and I think I found what I was looking for in this post. Nancy is much like the person I love (not to be creepy Nancy) in that you see the beauty in human interaction. Your comment made me see that person again. I am not sure what my problem is or why I need to explain this to people I have never met over a thread 4 years old but it seemed theraputic to expose some true feelings on the subject.

We as people get caught up and often feel rejected, underestimated, or put out by everyday occurances that have everything to do with personal freedom and nothing to do with selfishness, but self preservation prevails and competition is a part of human nature. We loose ourselves inside and fail to see what we really are, perhaps even become something we hoped to never be. So is small talk annoying? I guess it depends on your creativity, situation, or just how your morning is going. Whatever the case is... someone out there either cares or has a tougher story to tell.

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