As part of small talk month, Charlotte Ellis shares her thoughts on the art of making small talk. Charlotte lives in Oxford, UK and works as Marketing Executive at Macmillan Education.
Small talk hasn’t got brilliant connotations, has it? You don’t have to make small talk with people you like or know – that’s just called ‘talk’. Small talk is the art of fast-tracking beyond the awkward situation in which you find yourself: whether it’s a slow moving drinks party, an earnest conference coffee break or the gynaecologist’s waiting room.
At parties it tends to act as the rocky preamble to a decent conversation. Some people, the conversation carriers, can just do it. They glide you through the normally stilted question and answer period and aquaplane you straight to the good part. They pick up on a pocket of mutual interest and you’re away.
Then there are the small talk anchors – the heavyweights who don’t get it’s a reciprocal process but answer your questions in plain black and white. There is no elaboration or anecdotal tangents that might hint at an underlying conversation seam – just a finite and factual answer to an open-ended question. And right there the conversation carriers’ attempt at something deeper is thwarted and they must try again.
My mother is a conversation carrier extraordinaire. She manages and manipulates serial small talks like spinning plates till everyone is bubbling away and they find themselves deeply ensconced in a fully-fledged and enjoyable conversation – unaware they have already passed the awkward ‘small talk’ stage. I think my dad’s liberal drinks policy helps things too.Email this Post