Self-help writer Thomas Moore said, “We need people in our lives with whom we can be as open as possible. To have real conversations with people may seem like such a simple, obvious suggestion, but it involves courage and risk.”
A 2010 University of Arizona study went on to prove that those that strive to encounter deeper conversations over small talk have on overall higher sense of well-being and happiness.
Walking to and from classes, if I see someone I know one of these three standard interactions occur: 1) The “Hey what’s up?” head nod. 2) The “How are you?” exchange where both parties reply with “Good!” and 3) If it is cold, “Man, it’s so freezing!” (To the kid in my creative writing class, I still don’t understand how talking about the weather will create universal life bonds). Small talk has been intertwined into every day acceptance.
Nothing of value is gained when we tell our friends we are doing “good” or “great” when inside that might not be the case. Don’t get me started on the weather. Yes, it’s cold outside. That’s an obvious observation. Do you really need to comment on marginal occurrences in order to blend in?
From childhood, we are taught not to talk to strangers. However, we walk by hundreds of people daily on campus, so who is to say that connections can’t be made with at least one person on a deeper level? Granted, walking up to one of these strangers and starting a conversation would take great courage, for in most cases this is disrupting our societal norms.
Is the reason for small talk our increasingly fast-paced society? These days, we care more about what people are eating or wearing and posting to their Instagrams.
Deep conversations are not limited to topics such as religion, spirituality, tragic or wonderful life experiences.
They can be very simple and act as starting off points into a deeper, more valued, and meaningful conversation. How about instead of asking a friend, “How are you?” why not ask, “Hey, what class are you headed to/from?” “Did you learn anything cool today in that class?” “What is your favorite/least favorite thing about your week so far?”
Furthermore, when first meeting people in situations like Greek rush, joining a new club, or going to a party the trite questions of “What’s your major?” and “Where are you from?” are asked and do not do anything to help define who you are.
Again, they are good starting questions, but why not add, “What is your dream job?” or “What do you enjoy doing outside of work and school?”
Ask thought provoking questions and have deep conversations. We are all connected. We all have had tragedy slap us in the face. We all have had good fortune feed our soul. Listen to others; tell your stories. We all have something to say. Small talk is small. The weather may change, but if you want to change as a person summon your spirit and observe empathy.