Quite often I hear people lament that they don’t like small talk. There is a kernel of reasonableness in that; quite a lot of small talk is pointless, boring, tedious and relies upon a good degree of pre-prepared responses to questions that you know, based on the law of averages, you will be asked:
“See the game on Saturday?”
“Yeah…” *makes derisive snorting noise and then chuckles a bit*
Actually, quite a lot of small talk isn’t talk at all; it is guttural or nasal noises, and awkward laughing.
However, in my humble opinion small talk is actually usually better than the alternative. Rolling your eyes and saying “Man, this weather eh…” is actually preferable to launching into a conversation with a stranger in an elevator about how the reason you find enclosed spaces unnerving is because your cousin tried to drown you as a toddler, and you also think that this contributed to your failing law school.
What a lot of people call ‘small talk’ is actually just ‘conversation’. What a lot of people call ‘really talking’ is ‘really talking about their feelings and you listening actively.’
The thing is though, conversation is hard.
However, readers of this weblog are fortunate that I, your weblog bulletin comptroller, am an expert conversationalist. In fact, I can engage in conversations with most people, and at least one of the genders, without clamming up or falling over.
The key is to know what to talk about.
You can have a conversation entirely using pre-prepared clichés that are largely meaningless. If you don’t believe me, watch the news. Politicians and professional sportspeople do it all the time.
You see a reporter ask a footballer about their team’s victory they will invariably respond with “It was a team effort and we all pulled together”. Without even thinking, the sportsperson is engaging in a conversation. A newshound will ask a politician “Why is your party performing so poorly in the polls?” they will oft respond with a smile and say “The only poll that matters is on election day.” See, conversation.
Being a sportsperson and a politician is hard and involves mental agility. They have to always be thinking about other things. Using clichés they can have a conversation while devoting all their brain-energy to thinking about how much cocaine they are going to do in about fifteen minutes time, or whether that cute staffer will spill the beans to their wife. Since your life is no where near as hard or as important, there’s no reason you can’t come up with a few ‘zero-level’ clichés to make conversation easy.
Personally, I go with:
“Kicking arse and taking names” – which means nothing but if I say it with a knowing smile it confuses people, and “TGIF, brother/sister, TGIF”. Actually, the latter works well if it isn’t in fact Friday: the surreal nature of your not realising it isn’t actually Friday will create a sense of intrigue around you.
Everyone likes to talk about their work, and everyone likes hearing about other people’s jobs. You can talk about work while you are at work, for a sense of camaraderie, or you can talk about your work when you are outside of work to impress people with how busy, and thus important you are.
The key is, of course, to always be ‘busy at work’. No one has ever successfully conversed about work with someone where they didn’t at some point mention how busy they are.
It just doesn’t work.
Even if you spend your days masturbating in the toilets or writing Post-it Notes to stick on things in the fridge that you think are, or should be, yours, you are always ‘busy.’
Another popular topic of conversation is how much, or how little, money you earn. Everyone likes to boastfully hear that you make a lot of money, almost as much as they like to hear you complain about how you make a lot less than everyone else at your work despite the fact they are all stupid/lazy/not as attractive as you.
Stuff you’ve spent money on
An extension of boasting about how much money you make is talking about things you’ve spent money on. While cars and emus are interesting topics of conversation, the best one is places you’ve travelled to. The reason for this is that going some place instantly makes you an expert on everything to do with that place.
If you have been to Thailand, even if you spent most of your trip at a full-moon party stumbling around covered in sick, should the subject of the Thai Government’s debt restructuring come up, you are entitled to an informed opinion.
Since the subject of the Thai government’s debt restructuring quite often comes up in conversation amongst my friends, I have booked a holiday to Thailand specifically for this purpose.
Most adults have had sexual intercourse; some of them, like myself, upwards of six times. This makes the topic relatable. Everyone loves a loud, ribald tale of how you took a chap home and he shat himself on your duvet, or to hear you loudly list the names of all the women you have slept with. The risqué nature of sexual subject matter makes the conversation fun and conspiratorial.
Another reason it is good to discuss sexual adventurism is that future sexual liaisons will be more attracted to you. People are more attracted to people who loudly go on and on about the other people they have had relations with; it makes them seem more desirable because they can illustrate that other people have, for a few hazy minutes at least, found them desirable. The same goes for drunkenly ranting about your ex.
So now you know how to have a conversation. Throw in a few guttural noises, laughs, funny snorting sounds, and the odd “Tell me about it” or “Ain’t that the truth!” and you are set to becoming one of those people who are ‘good at talking to people’.