The trouble with small talk

 Small talk can be a big deal when done correctly | PC: Zach Morrison

Small talk can be a big deal when done correctly | PC: Zach Morrison

Imagine all the people you come into contact with during the week—your family, friends and acquaintances. With each group comes different conversations, all lighthearted.

It’s incredibly easy to fall into the rut of small talk. It keeps things safe and simple, but doesn't allow for much growth or change. Ashley Bower, a freshman English language arts education major, describes it as a “necessary evil.”

“It has to happen, but no one wants it to happen,” she explained.

Senior international rescue and relief major, Alex Leonor, added, “It’s good to create camaraderie [with small talk].” He described small talk as having a place in all types of relationships, but the composition is what varies.

Like everything in life, small talk has its time and place. It eases the awkwardness lingering in the air when meeting new people and provides a preferred alternative to silence. By all means, small talk is wonderful in short doses, but turns rather dull in the long term.

It seems fairly certain few people actually enjoy discussing trivial topics for the sake of filling up silence. However, something needs to be said.

Thankfully, it’s not impossible to have meaningful conversation without having a close relationship with someone. Shana Lebowitz’s article, “9 Ways to Skip the Shallow Small Talk and Have Deep Conversations,” in Business Insider compiled the following nine steps to help others have more meaningful conversations:

1. Have some “deep” conversation starters on hand.
2. Ask questions about topics the other person is interested in.
3. Find out what makes the other person special.
4. Avoid discussing the weather.
5. Assume the other person has deep thoughts.
6. Don’t push people to see your perspective.
7. Reveal something slightly personal.
8. Talk about something specific you’re working on.
9. Ask for stories, not answers.

The advice appears relatively simple, but still allows more substance to a conversation than matters such as the weather or an opinion on a homework assignment.

It’s unreasonable to expect someone to open up right away or to have an immediate connection with them, but this can open the doorway to unexpected discussions and relationships.

Life is too short to have meaningless conversations that neither person truly cares about. Taking the same amount of time to better know the people you interact with can have surprisingly pleasant outcomes.

You never know how much of an impact two people can have in each other’s lives unless one first makes the effort, even by beginning with small talk.


Amanda McCarter is a sophomore studying biomedical science.