Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Meaty and Minimal Conversation

All words are pegs to hang ideas on.
~Henry Ward Beecher-1813-1887 – American politician

A writer friend and I had dinner together Sunday evening—a mellow, slow, relaxing dinner, albeit in a busy, bustling restaurant. In the process of easy and light conversation, my friend said one of her old and dear acquaintances didn’t care to engage in small talk, refusing to participate in such. As a result, long, uncomfortable silences ensue once the deemed “important stuff” receives its coverage.

That comment sent us on a round of discussion about just what constituted “small talk,” and whether it had a place in otherwise intelligent conversations. Our conclusion: yes, small talk is an imperative part of civilized communication.

A casual nod of acknowledgment to those we meet as we move through the day; a “Hi, how are you doing?” or a few minutes of light conversation with a neighbor; inquiring as to how a friend's day is going, all connect us to our world. "Small talk” does not have to be small-minded talk.

Good friends certainly have every reason to engage in a smattering of small talk -- catching up on the latest news in their lives and even a bit of that old “talk about the weather.” In congenial conversations, this talk can be interspersed with other, deeper communication. Of course, these same good friends acknowledge and appreciate some contemplative silence; there's no need for continual chatter. 

As with the comfortable satiation my friend and I received from our dinner, a minimal helping of small talk often serves to enhance meatier conversation.