Maybe small talk is okay sometimes
I was never one for small talk – not so much discussion about weather and sports (because I’m genuinely interested in those things) – more conversation for the sake of filling the air. In elevators, around the coffee machine, while walking in the same direction as someone who likes chatter, stuff like that. I’ve been told not liking this kind of banter is an introvert’s quirk.
But in recent years, the usefulness of small talk becomes apparent. I saw an episode of Lie To Me (the American pop science & crime series, not the Korean romantic comedy drama), which highlighted the necessity of establishing a ‘base’ in order to get to know someone: if you can understand a person’s normal body language when they’re in low-stress, low-consequence situations, you become able to recognise them in their different emotional states.
This is super important if you’re naturally sensitive to another person’s emotional state. You’ll get an extra split second to activate your mental buffers and analytical departments if you can recognise and read early warning signs that a person might be anxious, aroused, excited, over-excited, etc. For example, you’ll be able to tell when someone is genuinely happy versus feeling normalised chipper-ness, or just wearing their socially acceptable ‘happy’ façade, so you can celebrate appropriately with them. Conversely, sometimes people are downright offensive when they get excited – it’s not that they mean to be, their brain short-circuits and it’s hard for them to gauge how intense or un-intense they are. And deep down, underneath whatever harm they do to you, you know it. Well, you would know it if you know what their base is like.
As I write this, I realise how bloody obvious it is to anyone with reasonable social skills. Just that some folk (ahem, me) need or want to be conceptually and consciously aware in order to appreciate how this kind of thing applies in everyday life. And it’s nice to get to know people – sometimes it has to happen in these tiny low-consequence doses.
Of course, this doesn’t mean small talk is great all the time – it’s just not some huge all-encompassing terribad.
I was exhausted at the end of the day. The last elevator ride consisted of me and three other introverts. It was nice. :)