Inadequate Communication

Small talk has always irked me, probably because of its ability to turn any conversation into an exchange of meaningless words and universal opinions.

As my mom’s only daughter, I believe I’ve experienced more than my fair share of mingling at parties. I’ve learned how small talk is essential to, yet kills, conversation. From predictable comments about ordinary weather patterns to compliments about ugly sweaters, small talk refuses to die.

“Oh Elizabeth, it is so nice to finally meet you! How are you doing?” I am asked by a motherly-looking lady who I have never seen before.
“I am doing well,” I say, actually feeling tired and crabby but unable to articulate my feelings in a socially acceptable manner.

The conversation continues as she points out how blue the sky is today, how nicely my mom’s tablecloth matches her place mats, and how tired watching television makes her. After ten minutes of conversation, nothing of importance has been said, and I still have no idea if she is someone I would like to get to know better.

It’s not like I disagree with her: in fact, the sky is blue today, my mom has an eye for color, and television can have a mind-numbing effect. But an equally intelligent conversation could have been held between that sophisticated lady and an ape, unchanged except for perhaps being held in a zoo as opposed to my mother’s meticulously cleaned living room. To me, a conversation like the one I experienced at my mom’s party isn’t worth the time. It is only held to be polite, and nothing is learned from it.

Ideally, a conversation would go something like this:
Lady I don’t know: Hello Elizabeth, I’ve never met you before, but you seem like a nice girl. How are you doing today?
Me: I’m having a tough day, but I am more interested in why I am meeting you. How do you know my mom?
Lady I don’t know: “We met at work when we had to work on that one project about zoo animals, blah, blah, blah. This makes me feel _____, and I really hope that in the future people could act more _____ to resolve this problem.
Me: I totally agree and have now formed new and more aware opinions that change the way I perceive the world.
Lady I now sort of know: It was nice talking to you, I hope I see you sometime soon.

This is an ideal scenario, but the problem with intelligent conversation is that it is not considered good manners. In conversation there is no context to talk about big ideas such as politics and religion, even though it leads to the understanding of contrasting points of view and the formation of original thoughts. This is largely why small talk developed. We live in a world today where everyone is so afraid of offending others that they are no longer able to speak their minds in conversation. This leads to the society’s general ignorance and lack of understanding of current events.

Small talk makes an acceptable conversation starter, but when it continues for an entire conversation, it is clear that something has gone wrong. People have become so accustomed to conversing in small talk that they are rendered unable to relate to others on a deeper level. The best way to fix this problem is for people to be less afraid of what others think and to speak their minds, even they only wish to voice an unorthodox opinion of the weather.





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