I don’t really get this whole ‘Small Talk’ thing. I know people do it all the time. I know it is expected that everyone can do it, and that everyone does do it. Supposedly, it improves your social skills, and that you have to be great at small talk in order to have ‘good’ social skills.
For me, I just don’t get it. I am a writer, so words are important to me and always hold some meaning. With words, you can make someone laugh or smile, you can make them cry, you can hurt them in a way no physical pain ever could. Words are the greatest tool we have, and they are also our greatest weapon. Words, when used properly, can express a new opinion, educate, excite and, when others share your words, they can eventually change the world.
I’ve never been much of a talker. I prefer to speak my mind on paper (Or in this case on a laptop which is then uploaded to a website). Despite my preference, I have tried to learn this ‘small talk’ because friends and family insist that I need it in order to fit in with society and to grow as an adult. Well, at forty-four and 4’9″ I am already an adult and no amount of small talk is going to make me taller, so the growing part is over and done. But, I see where they are coming from.
Now, I have tried to use small talk with friends, co-workers, the odd vagrant or cute guy on the bus, until my eyes roll up in my head and my tongue turns blue, but in all honesty it just makes me even more socially awkward. I can never think of anything interesting to say; did I mention that I like my words to mean something, or at least instil some sort of reaction in the other person?
Sure, there are the generic comments/questions. “Nice Weather We’re Having” or “How Is Your Day Going?” which is usually followed by the standard, unimaginative replies of “Yes, Fine Weather.” And “Fine, Youuuuuzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
Snark! Huh, what? Oh, sorry, I fell asleep while typing the MOST BORING RESPONSES IN THE ENTIRE UNIVERSAL TIME SPACE CONTINUIUM!!! pant, pant. Breathe* Okay where was I? Oh yes, social monotony. When you look at the words above…no, above that, the paragraph above…don’t get technical! Sheesh. Anyway, the common responses and comments have no meanings. Someone asks how you are and you automatically reply fine or good. There is no thought put into it at all.
Let me e’splain….no, there is too much, let me sum up… INIGO! Get away from my computer!! Go find that six fingered guy. Now, anyone and everyone can use the oh so common phrases during small talk and receive the prerequisite response, sure no prob. However, what if you said something that is not in the Universal Small Talk Handbook? Say… for example, if you were to ask the woman waiting with you at the bus stop if she ever noticed how hard it was to move a body after it was dead?
As there is no standard response, the woman freezes, stares, and then slowly starts to move away. Sometimes she might reach for her phone, perhaps to Google what the proper response would be, or perhaps to contact the police on a possible serial killer- who knows? Now really…How is that kind of response supposed to help me improve my social skills? I suppose if I went to jail, I would certainly develop new skills, but I’m not sure how they would benefit me socially.
Now, everyone once and awhile you might meet that one non-drone, anti generic individual who might actually be able to attest to how heavy a corpse might be. If you are really lucky, they may even offer some good suggestions on disassembling and disbursement to make moving the dead body easier. Unfortunately, those unique and special people are few and far between (or serving life in a maximum security prison) and so after sharing your socially inept and slightly morbid joke, they walk out of your life forever.
So, I ask you, why must we all be judged by the same standard of social maturity when that standard pushes for everyone to be the same, and offers no respect for a person’s individuality? Talk the same, act the same, react the same…BORING! I am not the same as everyone else, I never have been, and while I did try it for many years, I found I don’t really care for it. I’ve always excelled in following the rules. Always tried to be what others people wanted me to be, or behave the way I was expected to behave. Not so much anymore.
I am socially awkward, and I don’t care who knows it. No amount of self- help books, twelve step programs or $500.00 sessions with a psychiatrist is going to change that. If you are shocked, dismayed or amused by the things I say or the way I act, I am totally fine with it, at least it is a reaction. Life is too short to be boring and far too long to be a sheep among sheep.
Please don’t insist that I have to be like everyone else, just because you chose to be. Don’t try and change me into follower when I am someone who likes to carve their own path, and leave it up to you to follow or go your own way. It really doesn’t matter to me what your choice is, because this is my life and my choice. You are responsible for your own.
I’ll tell you my idea of small talk, and I never expect a reply, though it is always nice to get one. I told a man with dreadlocks that his hair looked like snakes, and before he could respond, I said I like snakes. What might have angered him before, made him smile afterwards. I asked a woman in the elevator if she ever wondered if the goblins pulling the cables ever got a break for lunch. She paused, uncertain of course, and gave me a funny look, but as she stepped out, she looked up at the ceiling of the elevator- maybe looking for the little people behind the scenes?
Who knows? Maybe she went home and told a friend or family member about the crazy lady in the elevator. The point is, words mean something, whether you get a response or not, people remember your words when you have something interesting to say…and isn’t that simply amazing?