There you are at the supermarket check out and the assistant asks, 'Have you got much planned for the rest of the day?' She isn't being nosey and it actually doesn't make any difference to her if you have a crazy busy day ahead of you or whether you are going to spend the whole afternoon on the couch watching Netflix as you eat your way through the family size block of chocolate you just bought. It's just 'small talk' and is probably something she has been trained to say in an attempt to make a connection with the customer.
To some, small talk is annoying Some people find small talk annoying and may admit they are not good at it. They may prefer silence rather than desperately trying to find something to make small talk about.
Televison host, Ellen DeGeneres says, 'I hate having to do small talk. I'd rather talk about deep subjects. I'd rather talk about meditation, or the world, or the trees or animals, than small, inane, you know, banter.'
Small talk helps people connect However, small talk has an important part to play in building up a relationship with someone you have just met or someone you don't know well. It has been referred to as 'a bonding ritual.' Canadian journalist and novelist, Lynn Coady explains the point of small talk, 'That's all small talk is - a quick way to connect on a human level - which is why it is by no means as irrelevant as the people who are bad at it insist. In short, it's worth making the effort.'
When people are unfamiliar with each other, small talk is a way of showing they are friendly and smooths the path for getting to know each other better. Topics for small talk should be uncontroversial and of general knowledge. If two strangers are in a lift, making a comment about the beautiful weather can help fill an awkward silence.
At the first meeting of a group there may be quite a bit of small talk as those present attempt to build up relationships and suss each other out. Anyone who is impatient with this and pushes too hard to skip the small talk and get down to the nitty gritty may be seen as aloof or unfriendly so it's worth making an effort to participate. However, I have been in situations where the chit chat really has gone on far too long.
Most days I am quite happy to be involved in a bit of small talk with people waiting for the train, in a queue or serving behind the counter. It does help me feel more connected to the rest of humanity.
Thanks for your comment, Mina. You make an interesting point. For me, if I am uncomfortable I will limit the small talk to the minimum so I am not encouraging the other person to get into more in depth conversation. I will escape the situation as soon as possible.