The Dose Guide To Small Talk: Avoiding It, Acing It And Exiting Gracefully
Because pretending to text is a rookie move.
Let’s be real?—?small talk sucks. Unless you’re an insatiable extrovert or a part-time meteorologist, do you really care about this weather we’re having?
For me, and for many other people, building a new interpersonal relationship can be emotionally draining. So if the person in question is not likely to become an important part of my life, what’s the point in making awkward chitchat? Ninety-nine percent of the time I honestly couldn’t give two farts about the traffic you hit on the way to work or how our city’s sports teams are performing. Feigning interest for the sake of being polite just makes me feel like a big fat phony.
So if you, too, loathe meaningless chatter and false sincerity, we’ve got some handy tips for navigating small talk with everyone from the guy on the bus to the bride’s great-aunt who shuffled up behind you at the open bar.
The best advice for avoiding small talk would be to stay in your house forever, away from all strangers who want to pelt you with boring questions. But alas, this is not always possible. If you absolutely must venture out into the world, here’s how to minimize your exposure to chit-chatters:
1. Steer clear of verbose folks.
The key here is some light judgy recon. Whether you’re riding public transit or attending a party full of strangers, your best defense against small talk is to avoid these likely initiators:
- Cheery old ladies. They have 26 grandkids and they want you to hear all about them.
- Grumpy old men. The more they look like Doc Brown, the more likely they are to want to engage with you about religion, politics and conspiracy theories.
- People who are already talking to themselves. Because duh.
2. Wear headphones.
Despite what some tone-deaf internet dummies say, headphones are still the international “don’t talk to me” signal.
3. Read a book.
For best results, keep the cover hidden so it can’t act as a conversation starter.
4. Busy your hands.
Apply makeup. Knit a scarf. Tinker with a Rubik’s Cube. Whatever you do, avoid eye contact with other humans at all costs.
5. Pretend to answer a phone call.
Okay, this one’s a last resort. Use it only if the unpleasantness of speaking words to another person outweighs the insanity of talking to yourself in public.
If you absolutely must engage, remember that small talk serves some important functions in society. So don’t be a dick. At least do small talk right.
1. Listen. Genuinely listen.
Unless you’re trapped in a windowless room with this person, you’re not going to have to talk to them forever. Use the time you do have to engage earnestly with the other human talking at your face. You might learn something or gain an ounce of empathy.
2. Pay a compliment.
If you hate talking about yourself, turn it around with a compliment. You can’t lose.
3. Ask questions.
People love talking about themselves. Let your conversation partner burn out from babbling about their office politics while you listen attentively and inquisitively.
4. Elevate it.
Just because you barely know anyone at your second-cousin’s bar mitzvah doesn’t mean you have to talk about the weather all night. Elevate small talk to medium talk by asking someone’s opinion about anything you care about —politics, pop culture, pop tarts, etc.
5. Ask for advice.
Sure, you don’t have to take it, but aren’t you always wishing for an unbiased, third-party opinion? Say, from someone who doesn’t know you or your life? Beat the small-talkers at their own game by using this awkward conversational opportunity to iron out your personal problems.
Sure, you could make a quick getaway by excusing yourself to use the restroom or get a drink. But those are rookie movies. Here are a couple one-liners that will get you outta there in no time, while making you look like the grown-ass adult you are.
1. “I won’t keep you any longer.”
Subtext: You’re a busy person and I respect that, so please respect the fact that I don’t want to talk to anyone.
2. “I’ll let you get back to [whatever you were doing before].”
Subtext: I think we’d both rather be checking Instagram right now.
3. “It was nice meeting you.”
Subtext: It may or may not have been nice meeting you, but regardless, I would like to go meet other people or stand quietly in a corner by myself, thank you.