My Big Problem with Small Talk

Chad White, Senior Editor, Known Cynic

Aug 14, 2013

Summer is ending and everyone is heading back to their respective schools.

You’ll go back to your campus where you’ll see old friends. Now, in most cases, the summer vacation made it difficult for you to keep up with everybody. You were working, they were traveling or vice versa. You forgot to text them and who calls anymore? Skype is kind of pointless unless the other person is hundreds of miles away. They may have commented on your Facebook post or replied to a tweet of yours but otherwise, there was little to no contact between you and some of your friends from school.

Inevitably, once you’re back on campus, you’ll end up seeing a couple if not all of these people that you had little to no contact with over the summer. Every conversation will start the same way:

                “Hey.”

                “Hey.”

                “How are you?”

                “I’m good. And you?”

That may not seem so bad, right? It gets worse.

                “I’m good. I missed you! How was your summer?”

                “I missed you too. It was fine. How was yours?”

You lie. You didn’t really miss them. Otherwise, you would’ve stayed in contact.

               “Same. What did you do?”

I don’t care who you’re talking to. I don’t care how friendly you are with that person. Every single conversation you have for a month will start this way.

                “All I did was work.”

                “Oh, where did you work?”

                “(Store name)”

                “That’s cool. Did you have fun?”

                “It was ok. What did you do?”

Now, the latter half of the talk could go one of two ways: you talk about what you did all summer or they talk about what they did. If you didn’t do much, they will switch the conversation over to them.

                 “I worked at Google for a while. Then my family and I went to Barbados. Then blah blah blah.”

This is especially true if they just want to talk. Then you’re humanly obligated to continue the conversation that has solely been turned one sided. You’re asking questions you don’t really want to know the answer to and they’re asking questions that you really don’t want to answer. But, since you’re giving such vague answers, they could either press on about what you did all summer or they will keep bringing up things they did. Then the conversation ends the exact same stale way it always does.

                “It was good seeing you.”

                “Yeah same.”

                “We should hang out some time.”

                “Sure.”

The middle may be different for most people but it’s always going to be the same ho-hum discussion.

 “Hi. How are you? That’s cool. Let’s do something sometime. Okay bye.”

You don’t really want to hang out with them but you committed when you said “sure.” And if you don’t hang out with them all semester, you’ll have to deal with the same awkward conversation if you happen to see them every week.

                Enter: Late October, early November

                “Hey.”

                “Hey.”

                “How are you?”

                 “I’m good. And you?”

It has begun. Again.

                “What have you been up to?”

                “Just studying and working. What about you?”

                “Same here. How come we never hung out?”

You’ve dug yourself into a hole. You could always lie but you run the risk of that person seeing you downtown somewhere, seeing you at a party, or pushing a hoop with a stick, if kids still do those types of things. You like to gamble, so you choose to lie. The other person says that you guys will hang out very soon. Maybe that weekend but it never comes into fruition because you forgot and they did too. It’s been three days, can you blame them? Then you start to see that person more often, sometimes two or even three times a week heading to class or getting something to eat. And you have the same exact chat.

                “Hey.”

                “Hey.”

                “How are you?”

                 “I’m good. And you?”

Every. Single. Time.

It’s monotonous, really. Now, this wouldn’t have to be so bad for one person but you know several dozen people. And if you’re in a frat or sorority, then that number triples. Imagine doing this with over 70 people. You only really hang out with about 20 total people, if that. So that leaves at least 50 others. Fifty. Just to have a small talk with. Every day of every week. (I’m not sure if I know 50 people in my entire life but bear with me.)

I don’t know about you but I find that highly annoying. Saying hello to 50 people does not sound fun to me. In fact, it’s more like work. I don’t like doing it. I try to avoid it at all costs. That short conversation is killing all of us on the inside. Even worse, it’s making us all liars. Now I’m not going to judge because I know there are some people out there that actually genuinely care about what you did or that they haven’t talked to you in a while. But those people are crazy.  I’m not saying I don’t care;  I’m just saying I don’t want to have to deal with that kind of tedium over and over again. Repetition is annoying. I’m sure you found it annoying when I reposted the “hey how are you?” bit three times.

But that’s how it is every day.

                    “Hey, how are you?”

And it goes on like that forever.

                    “Hey how are you?”

There’s no escaping it.

                     “Hey how are you?”

There’s no advice for me to give you so that you can avoid it. Really this entire article was for me to get something that I consider annoying off of my chest. It’s all inevitable. It’s always going to happen. The same people will say the same thing to you every time and you’ll just have to go along with it. The only thing I can suggest is to just do something like finally hang out with them. But then there are two possibilities that could develop from that:

                    A.)   You hang out once and it was okay but not great. Now every time you see that person, you guys have nothing to talk about and always end up on the topic of that one time you hung out:

                           “Remember when X happened?”

                          “Oh yeah. That was cool.”

                             Every time. Which then turns into another “hey, how are you?” situation leading you two to think “are we really friends or do I just put up with this person?”

                   Or B.) You two hit it off and become better friends and have more things to talk about. You actually start to enjoy seeing that person. Now you hang out with 21 people. That’s a huge commitment.

Everything ultimately boils down to this: whatever happens, happens. There are people we want to talk to and there are people we don’t want to talk to. But we have to talk to them. Because we made our bed and now we have to lie in it. If you enjoy small talk then by all means, keep doing what you’re doing. I, for one, want more out of a conversation.  If we’re taking time out of our day, every day, to stop and chat, why should we be doing the same dull thing?  I don’t want the same meaningless event to go on forever. But it’s important to remember that not every conversation has to be about big topics like war, abortion, or what Oprah was wearing to the Emmy’s. I just prefer to talk with someone who can keep the conversation going. I want to make conversations to appear more than just a chore. I want to talk with people that know what they want, people that don’t just go along with the motions. So, make an effort to become better friends. Or avoid people all together. But be careful. You could end up turning into a hermit, or, worse off, turning into a cynical, heartless buffoon like me.

Don’t be like me.