Small Talk Equals Big Changes

Imagine you’re in an elevator with a person you don’t know. You’re both going to the eleventh floor. At this point, you have a few choices.

  1. Pull out your phone and look at it
  2. Keep your eyes straight, careful not to look their way, or
  3. Say, “Hi.” and maybe chat with another human

Most people do number one. I’ve done it. Pull out or mobile device, punch in our passcode, and swipe a few apps that were open from before. This give us just enough time to not have to interact with the other living organism beside us.

These days however, I make an effort to say “Hi” to anyone joining me on the ride up. I live in an apartment with mostly elderly and older adults. And if you’ve noticed anything about that population, they are MASTERS at SMALL TALK.

Silly, funny jokes and openers. Quips about the whether. Or fawning over your cute dog. Just about anything to strike up a convo. Now, I don’t believe older adults do this simply because they are lonely. Some may, sure. But I think it’s mostly because they reach a certain age, they’ve talked so many times, said so many words, met so many people – talking to strangers becomes easy and natural.

We don’t need to get into a lengthy essay about Homo Sapiens being a social creature. You know all about that already. Thank goodness for the web.

Google Searching Social Skills

Years ago, on one of my many autodidact adventures through the internet, I came across a tip for how to use small talk on anyone you meet. Even for people who find it hard to open up.

It’s called, F.O.R.D. This acronym stands for: Family Occupation Recreation Dreams

  • Family
    ”Hey, how’s your _____ doing?”
    -a bit more personal, but if you’ve seen them a bunch of times, it’s a good way to build deeper rapport
  • Occupation
    ”How was work?”
    -this may seem boring, but we humans have a need to share in the hatred of a bad work week, connect with each other by crapping on your jobs
  • Recreation
    ”Do anything fun lately?”
    -people think their hobbies are silly and no one would like them if the found out they were into, oh I don’t know – UFOs, niche books, or picking wild berries.
  • Dreams
    “Any big plans this year?”
    -statistically, humans on average have about one or two important life events that happen in a year. Also, on average, writers make up 80% of the stats they cite.

Here’s another example. Imagine you just met someone and you have to spend the next five minutes in the same room together, waiting for something. Instead of pulling out your phones, one of you has to make the first move, might as well be you. Life provides us constant opportunities to break our self-inflected limits. This is one of them.

You could:

  1. Pull out your phone and look at it
  2. Keep your eyes straight, careful not to look their way, or
  3. Say, “Hi.” and maybe chat with another human

Instead of doing number one, avoiding all attempts to make contact, use our new F.O.R.D. acronym.

“Do anything fun lately?” (DREAMS)

This one is my favourite. People hate it, at first. They’ll tell me something like, “Oh I just stayed in and watched _____. Nothing too crazy.”

The person doesn’t think anyone else could possibly like what they like. They’re wrong. Because you are a beacon of light and hope for others to emulate, you inquire. “Cool! I’ve never seen _____, what’s it like?” Inquiring minds lead to an insightful psyche.

Here Comes the Corollary

You don’t have to talk to someone if you don’t want to. And other people don’t have to respond the way you expect them to when trying to chat. In the last almost two years, we’ve been given a masterclass in personal sovereignty and security for others. People want to stay in and away from their fellow citizens. Others are embracing lifted restrictions and coming back to life in full force. Navigating this transition will be a delightful sight to behold. 

Some people don’t want to chat on the elevator. Some people want to keep to themselves. That’s cool. Respect that. There is an air of intriguing mystery to people who don’t talk too much. By all means keep to yourself.

Sorry, We’re Open

But now more than ever, as we creep back into our outside lives, we should be opening up some of ourselves, a bit at a time. Small talk with people can lead to big changes in our community. Changes that bring us back to how it used to be. Or at least, back to talking to each other. What we need now more than ever, are people who take it upon themselves to facilitate that. People that help remind us of our connection to our fellow mortals. Will you be one of the few that says, “Hi”?

Until next time, bye for now.

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