Small talk. I hate it. A few weeks back I went to a ladies event, and I could feel my heart rate increase as I approached the room where all the ladies sat in their neat little rows. I found a seat, second row, near the middle, like I always do. I tried to make conversation to my left, and to my right, but my brain melted, my throat went dry and the words just would not come out. I ran off to the bathrooms, splashed my face with water and rehearsed all the tips The Dude has given me for just this kind of situation. Get people talking about themselves. Find something you have in common. Talk about experiences that are common to all. (This sounds like simple advice, but cultural differences make it more difficult for me to determine what common experiences are suitable for small talk.)
Then I remembered. Christmas! I had seen Christmas puddings and mince pies in the shops and it seemed horrendously early for that to be happening. I positively bounded back into the room and sat down, ready with my conversation starter. But people to my left were talking to people to my left, and people to my right were talking to people to my right, and people behind me talked to people beside them, and there was no way to talk to any of them. So I pulled out my notebook and began writing. Like I always do.
The problem with this approach is that I will never learn small talk skills. The advantage though is that I will never do the Terrible Thing again. I’ve done it on countless occasions. And been told off many times. Nobody ever asks me why I do it. Nobody ever asks me how The Terrible Thing can come out my mouth. Nobody can ever answer me when I say, “Well, am I wrong?”
Here’s the thing. I have a heart that’s full, and passionate. I care about people. When you tell me good things, I want to help you treasure that moment so that the memory will carry you through the hard times. When you tell me about hard times, I want to help you carry that load, I want to make it easier, I want you to know that although the road you walk is your own, you do not need to walk it alone. And when you stand there with tears running down your cheeks, and dreams smashed at your feet, I want to help you gather up the pieces and put them in a box, and remind you of the power of hope.
But that’s not small talk. And so I write. Because there is no way for you to hear me if I speak.