“Small talk is one step down from no talk.”-Jason Love
I had a mid-life revelation this week. After a busy weekend standing around bonfires, barbecues and beaches talking about the weather (hot), sports (a good week at Appalachian State), and my child’s school’s spring break week, I realized something: I spend far too much of my time talking about things that don’t really matter-or even hold much interest-to me.
That’s it. I’m done. Terminado. Now that I’m in my “late” mid-forties, and I’m starting to think I don’t want to live to be 100, which makes me middle-aged like, uh, now, it’s high time for me to stop fooling around and take a stand. So here it is: From this day forward I am banishing the banter of small talk from my life.
It’s not that I’m not a talker, I LOVE to talk, especially late at night (just ask my grumpy husband). But time’s a wasting. I’m not getting any younger and I don’t have any more time to waste on idle chit chat when I could be talking about something, well, better.
From now on, no more small talk. Try asking me how I am. Last week I would have automatically answered “Fine. How’s it going?” or some other equally scintillating conversational nugget, but this week I’ll give you a real answer, like, “How did I get to be so old?”
See what I did there? That’s one of the secrets of great conversationalists. I answered a question with a question. OK, it was a rhetorical question, but give me a break. I’m new at this small talk banishment stuff.
But I think I’m onto something with this answering a question with a question thing. Everybody’s favorite thing to talk about is themselves. Plus, I’m a naturally nosy person (hence the journalism career), so this new anti-small talk strategy will work both ways. You get to talk about you-thus making you think I’m charming and witty and interesting to talk to-and I get to find out what I really want to know.
Here’s an example. You ask me about the weather, and I ignore your question and ask you about what you think would change if a woman were president.
Or you make an inane comment about sports, and I’ll ask you when the last time was that you had sex. “Do you really believe in God or do you just like going to church? Are you naturally skinny or anorexic? Has your husband always been a jerk, or is he just having a bad year?”
Isn’t this fun?
Admit it, with the rare exception of earth shattering headlines (“Pearl Harbor Bombed” and “Kennedy Shot” come to mind) these off limits topics are a thousand times more interesting than any current events.
“Did you catch the news today?” might be greeted with “Do you feed your kids healthier food in public than you do when they’re at home?”
“Thank God it’s Friday,” could garner a response from me like, “Have you ever Googled an ex-boyfriend?”
Hey, I didn’t say I was going to be speaking deep thoughts from here on in, I only promised that I’d stop talking about all the things I could care less about and start talking about the things I’m really interested in. So when was the last time you thought about that ex-girlfriend of yours? Were you having sex?
Asking better questions could actually change the world-or at least our social gatherings-if we all joined in and started asking people about the things that used to be considered rude.
Try one of these anti-small talk conversation starters at your next party:
* How do you feel when someone says you’re just like your mother?
* Have you ever been fired?
* If you had to choose to be stuck on a desert island with someone that you know-other than your spouse or significant other-who would you pick? (No, watching Angelina Jolie in a movie doesn’t count as knowing her.)
* If you could go back in time and change one thing about your childhood, what would it be?
* Have you ever gotten drunk and been told you did something you can’t remember doing?
* How much money do you make, and do you think you’re worth it?
* If I were to force you to sing karaoke right now, what song would you pick?
* What would you like to accomplish before you die?
* Is 48 really late-middle-aged? (Make sure you ask a senior citizen this one.)