I have a confession to make.
I dislike small talk; in fact I find it almost intolerable sometimes.
I recognise why it exists and I can play the game if absolutely necessary - but make no mistake about it, if I find myself in a dialogue where the other person breaks the ice with "How cold is it outside?" there is a strong chance that underneath my polite grin will lie a deep pool of cringe.
I recognise that most people feel the need to get comfortable with one another before they jump into the deep end of a conversation, but I often wonder if the ice breaker is actually essential?
There is hardly anything genuine about solicitous inquiries with no real desire for an answer. Does the person asking about my views on the weather really care about my thoughts on precipitation?
I wouldn't have thought so.
Furthermore, mindless revelations on a permanent cycle of rinse and repeat can be just as frustrating.
When a person starts a conversation with something like: "I really can't stand Mondays", I am left with three options:
I can either:
a) Smile and nod
b) Agree and respond with something like "Yeah me too", or
c) Disagree and give a reason why I enjoy the beginning of the work week.
These kinds of encounters often leave me pondering the following questions: Is this person uncomfortable with silences? Are they seeking a common ground before we get to the main course of the conversation? Or are they actually desperate to get this piece of information off their chest?
Exchanging small talk with people we've just met may be an unfortunate necessity, but if it occurs with people we already know, it probably indicates that we really have nothing important to say to one another.
Many extroverts find the silences of others alarming rather than reassuring. For these people, breaking the quiet with an empty pleasantry may feel like the best way of establishing a bond with the man or woman standing opposite them. Either that or it's a crafty method of avoiding the tension they feel due to the lack of noise.
By now you've probably worked out that I'm on the introvert side of the spectrum and we generally avoid small talk if it's possible.
Believe it or not most introverts don't hate talking, in fact many enjoy it! We just prefer our conversations to have depth, meaning and purpose. We are a misunderstood bunch due to our lack of noise, but there are more of us on this planet than you may realise!
In a study conducted earlier this year, over a third of British workers acknowledged that they would rather not engage in small talk with their colleagues. One in eight of those surveyed actually admitted to hiding in order to avoid a conversation!
I've never hid before.
I may or may not have thought about hiding from someone, but I haven't done it...yet.
In all seriousness though, I recognise that chit chat can be a necessary evil. Some psychologists believe that it can have a positive impact on a person's emotional well-being and even reduce their stress. Perhaps this is true.
Maybe it's the lack of diversity that frustrates me?
You see...I know how the weather conversation plays out off by heart. I too find traffic frustrating (who actually likes traffic besides some taxi drivers?!)...and surprise surprise but Monday is also not my favourite day of the week.
If engaging in this form of dialogue is absolutely essential, then let's get a bit more creative!
Some say that 'small talk is simply speech when there's nothing to say' but what it does reveal is our need to be heard.
So with that in mind, perhaps what we need are some new things to talk about.
After all, variety is the spice of life.