Small talk gets a bad rap. The very phrase brings to mind standing around at an event you didn’t really want to go to, talking about nothing much, to people you don’t know .
But I think small talk has a function. It helps us ease in, test the waters, determine whether there’s rapport and if we might want to go further.
I was thinking about this today when I stopped to get some coffee on my way to work. I ran into an acquaintance in line, someone I’ve known for 15 years or so. We’re not close, I don’t think about him often, but we definitely know each other enough to speak.
Did we dive into deep topics or share the latest in our philosophical musings as we waited for our coffees? Not at all. We bantered and made a few jokes, paid for the coffee and headed our separate ways.
The small talk allowed us to renew our connection. We don’t need to go deep; we have other people in our lives for that. Talking about the weather or the traffic or whatever for a few minutes isn’t about the traffic or the weather—it’s about taking care of the relationship.