Engaging in Small Talk Is Not Small At All

There's really no harm in talking about the weather

By Zhen Yin

October 6 2018

In relation with International Happiness Day, STYLEGUIDE presents a series of articles that concentrates on the ten keys of happiness presented by ‘Action For Happiness’. Today we touch on the point of 'Relating'- the key to connect with others

Regardless of the social settings that you’ve been in, you would’ve always heard of this line from self-confessed individuals with strong beliefs utter this line:

“God I hate small talk.”

Personally I am guilty of this – surely there’s something more to talk about other than where one studied at or the MRT line you usually take, if the MRT even works in the first place. 

The slew of pop culture and indie-hip movies continues to place added emphasis as well, when all of them keep touching on that magical moment where someone that you meet at a random bar just gets you, and instantly relates to your said interest in perhaps, Wes Anderson films or alternative rock music like the Arctic Monkeys. 

But let’s be real here – this is reality and yes, more often than not, life does not work out like the picturesque cinematography presented with the likes of a Wong Kar Wai film. 

We can’t deny that small talk is the undeniable social fabric that binds you to the endless possibilities of meeting new people, with newer backgrounds that might just add value to your current life. It has been discussed that small talk plays a role that exceeds more than just the context of the words spoken alone.

Using simple words like, "How you're doing?" or "What are you up to?" as a social tool helps us to understand and know more about one another, judging from our vague but possibly insightful answers.

There is a difference between saying "Doing great!" or "Doing pretty well- it's alright I guess."

Depending on which reply you decide to give, it allows the other person to ask how things are going well in school or your job, or if something bad has happened recently.

Little word cues like that are what allows you and the other party, regardless of the situation, to connect. Sure it might come across as a little superficial at first, but it's what most of us can manage to work with (for the majority at least). Trust that you are not wasting your energy, you're aren't wasting your breath to these sessions of light banter.

Of course at times we do have to consider the social context that we are having these conversations as well. Whether it's from having a stranger strike up a conversation with you at the bar, as compared to a networking session occuring in light of International Women's Day.

But again, rather than waiting for that opportunity to come to you, present yourself up to these opportunities instead by changing your mindset. We should abort the idea that small talk is lame, that it is something only the supposed ‘mainstream victims of capitalism’ resort to get to where they want to end up in life. These random encounters can lead you to interesting individuals that will add more color to your life, if you allow it. 

Having a closeted mindset that the perfect chatting buddy will just fall into your lap without you having to try are just individuals being overly idealistic because you are thinking, "My time is definitely more worthwhile with someone who wants to discuss a controversial topic like religion or rights, as compared to someone who just wants to banter about how bad the public transport crowd was today." 

No one has the right to judge the other from that high horse. Sitting on it for a long time will not do you any good as well - you might find yourself forgetting what the ground feels like in the first place. So don't say 'no', don't just straight up reject someone who wants to strike a normal (albeit mundane) conversation at the start. You'd never know what they might have to offer. 

Because too often we rely on our initial judgment on others as an excuse to open new doors. Perhaps that's why some of us find our social circles staying stagnant. 

I'm drawing from personal experience here. Multiple times on the days when I do feel like engaging in solo drinking alone at a bar, I end up having pretty great conversations with other people who approach just out of pure curiousity or concern. I'm sure many people can relate to the amount of impromptu friendships made at the dance floor or at the bar just because both parties managed to find common ground as they waded throught the murky waters of small talk. 

So go out there and be open. I'm definitely not trying to sell the idea that you must go up to any and every stranger and start a conversation as soon as possible. I'm saying that when the time comes, when someone takes the initiative to say 'Hi' at an event. Give it a chance and have a go, and take a shot at establishing a new relationship or some sorts with another individual, granted it might just be a fleeting one.