The Evolution of Small Talk

Lately, I have been tuned in to conversation starters.  I am not good with small talk.  In fact, my awkwardness in making small talk is palpable.  I alerted a close friend of mine that she wasn’t the adept in this skill.  This being said after it took both of us six months to have a real conversation.  A couple of days after my comment, she texted me that she was indeed an epic fail at the small talk.(Notice it was in the form of a text.)  She told me her cringe-worthy story.

Eliza is still charming in this clip as she talks about her “real world’.

I believe my years of working with children (who need no small talk) has made me small-talk challenged.   After teaching all day, every drop of small talk is sucked out of me.

I watch and listen to my students.  They fascinate me.  There is no pretense, they say what they mean to say.  John Mayer is my hero.

“Will you be my partner?”

“Did you steal my pencil?”

“Can I have a bite of your snack?”

“Is there an ‘a’ in civil?”

They are the same way with me, and I appreciate this more and more the older I get:

“You did that problem yesterday.”

“Why are you teaching how to take a test if you keep saying you aren’t worried about us taking the test?”

“Do those shoes hurt?”

“What did you do to your hair? I like it better the other way.”

It seems that somewhere between elementary school and the delightful teenage years, the real talk becomes “Jive Talkin”

Soon, we realize that brutal honesty and blatant lies upset people.  So, we find “small-talk” somewhere on the spectrum between the real talk and jive talk.

This blog was inspired by some dinner party conversation that I was sucked into a few days ago.  I wished that I had responded with intelligent, forty-something repartee.  It was one of those, “Ask Kim, she is a teacher.” comments that dragged me in like the Godfather.  “Just when I thought I was out, they pulled me back in.”

Another reason I’m horrible at small talk is that once people find out I’m a teacher, I feel the need to be the spokesperson for teachers EVERYWHERE. There is no appropriate way to gloss over a hot education topic with a weather-related comment.

“We wish the weather were better so that we can have recess outside more.”  I’ve tried this-it doesn’t work.  It results in a discussion about the legality of maintaining recess in the elementary school.

I go from zero to debate in less than five seconds. This has been a weakness of mine for years.  But as soon my high horse gets on the soap box, I regret the words flowing out of my mouth.  My speech bubble rams into everyone else’s.  What would my students do?  They would probably say something clever and run for the chips.

Before teaching, I owned a fitness business. Preparing for shows backstage with bodybuilders and fitness contestants is a strange experience.  The conversation starters are unlike any others I’ve heard.  Basically, I had no small talk for them either.

Watching talented small talkers is amazing.  I am very impressed when I watch my father’s brilliance with making instant connections to everyone he meets.  He is the most charming person I have ever known.  He can relate to everyone, talk about anything, and contribute to just about any conversation.  He gets better at this the older he gets.  He is almost 81, and people always tell me how easy he is to talk to.

So, I guess I’ll get better, since it seems I have forty more years to be an inept small talker.  In the mean time, I’ll continue to observe how everyone around me communicates.  If you know me, our first few meetings were probably awkward.  I take full responsibility.  Most likely, I was attempting small talk.


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