Recently I watched a TED Talk by Susan Cain about the power of introverts, and something she said really stuck with me. She spoke about small talk and how she, as an introvert, avoids it as much as possible.
This sat with me because I have always swayed away from engaging in small talk. Be it on a first date, in the grocery store, water cooler chats at the office, or god forbid, networking.
I took some time this week to really sit with this thought. Why do I dislike small talk so much? Why do I avoid it when it seems a necessary part of human contact in today’s world?
Although not obvious, I am an introvert. I often find being in the company of others taxing to my energy. It doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy being around others, I just need regular breathers in between.
There are two main reasons for my distaste towards small talk – meaning and energy.
To me, life has more meaning and people are more interesting. I want to know your passions, your dreams, your fears, your goals. I want to know the places you have been and the places you plan to go to. I want to know how you can enrich my life and how I can enrich yours. I want to teach and be taught. I am not interested in discussing the lovely summer we are having.
I have become very wary of my energy and how I choose to use it. This is primarily because of the space I am in right now, I don’t have much of it to give. I am more conscious about what drains it, and have come to realize that small talk is one of those things.
I am fascinated with the way people think, where they come from, their background, their beliefs, their stories, and what makes them tick. To me these are the conversations that bond people, that instigate change, that feed souls, that are worthwhile.
I am a very reflective person and at the same time very self critical. Anything I feel or believe that goes against the ebb and flow of society, I question and scold myself for. And so naturally, my distaste for small talk became a flaw of mine that I wished to change.
But listening to what Susan had to say on the topic gave some much needed context to my aversion to this social norm.
It’s been a test for me. A learning experience on the value in setting personal boundaries. It’s something I intend to work on from now, and so if you notice me reducing the amount of small talk I engage in, it’s nothing personal to you. It’s simply me protecting myself.