Dating small talk topics

Posted by / 14-Mar-2016 15:17

The German philosopher Heidegger (patron saint of That Guy) devotes a long section in his 1927 masterwork to dismissing inauthentic “idle talk,” which he connects to the “dictatorship of the ‘they’ ”: “We take pleasure and enjoy ourselves as they take pleasure; we read, see, and judge about literature and art as they see and judge ...we find ‘shocking’ what they find shocking.” Anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski, who formulated the first academic theory of small talk, belittled what he termed “phatic communion”—conversation whose purpose is social, not informational—as “purposeless expressions of preference or aversions, accounts of irrelevant happenings, comments on what is perfectly obvious.” The latest anxieties over small talk are even smaller in scope. A small psychology study a few years ago found that people who spent more time in “substantive” conversations were happier than those who wasted their time on lighter fare.Not that I would insist we talk only about heartfelt subjects; ideally, there would also be plenty of flirtatious joking and witty banter.I simply wanted to eliminate the dull droning on about facts and figures—whether it’s snowing or raining, how cold it is, what we do for work, how long it takes to get to work, where we went to school—all those things that we think we have to talk about with someone new but that tell us little about who the person really is.If you’re gonna have a fun conversation, you might as well start it in a funny way.Not funny conversation starter; this does require calibration.I’ll share my deepests and darkests when I’m good and ready. But not only does Boomer’s approach sound exhausting—like something dreamed up by That Guy in your freshman philosophy class—it’s just plain wrong. It’s a social lubricant as essential as wine and laughter that allows strangers to make crucial first connections across demographic lines. People are rebelling against it today in a misguided dismissal of social graces that seem old-fashioned, boring, or wasteful. Dismissiveness toward light conversation is nothing new.

But there’s other evidence that small talk is salubrious, since social interaction seems to decrease stress.

Ironically, it’s on the Internet—that bottomless maw of unnecessary but entertaining chatter—that haters of small talk express their complaints.

Take, for example, the inexhaustible well of introvert-targeted content all over the Web. They loathe it because they “crave meaning,” because of the “barrier it creates between people,” and because they “don’t see a reason for beating around the bush with social pleasantries.” The underlying message of most introvert porn is that introverts are deeper than you are, and their aversion to small talk is yet more proof.

Medieval penitential manuals often warned that gossips would have to account for their every thoughtless word on Judgement Day. Post-industrialization, people became less concerned about the moral dimensions of chit-chat.

Instead, they began to fear it was conformist and shallow, a poor reflection of one’s personal depth.

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