The Fine Art of Small Talk

I don’t drink coffee. I love the aroma, but I’ve always been disappointed that something that looks so much like rich, dark chocolate tastes so much like a taxi driver’s breath. So rather than a jolt of caffeine to perk me up in the morning, I have to go old school – peace and quiet and absolutely no small talk for at least sixty minutes.

Inevitably, my small talk free zone lasts about four minutes. Soon I’m being asked what laundry detergent I prefer (Tide with lavender) and what I thought about last night’s episode of the Bachelor (He better pick Emily!). It doesn’t take me long to realize I’m being held captive – not by boring chatter but by a conversational wizard. The flair with which we have all learned to make small talk isn’t inherent; it’s a skill acquired at the bus stops, office parties and elevators that make up the classrooms of our lives.

I’ve discerned there must be several courses one must pass before being certified in small talk:

Eavesdropping (Prerequisite): Appearing to be engrossed in a copy of Catcher in the Rye while carefully memorizing the credit card number of the nice lady nearby ordering her subscription to Vogue is a base talent. If you haven’t learned this by now there is nothing more to teach you.

Hovering:  Those who have mastered eavesdropping are perfect students for earning their hover degree. The craft requires subtlety and simplicity. Skills learned include throat clearing, casual weight shifting, and impatient pacing.

Chiming-In: This is an advanced course and can only be taken with a recommendation letter from an expert. By the end of this course you will be able to anticipate mid-sentence pauses from your peers, deftly interject your opinions, turn any conversation into one about you, and assert yourself by repeating exactly what was just said but in a much louder voice.

Small Talk (Elective Series): In order to secure your degree you must select two of the following elective courses: Small Talk in Enclosed Spaces, Weather Around the World, Inappropriate Medical Storytelling, or Feline Antics.

So while I can eavesdrop in four languages and will hover like a mad woman upon seeing a plate of cookies, it clearly takes a true master to ensnare me in a web of small talk before I know what Regis and Kelly topic hit me. Bravo to you all.


About WhiteElephantInTheRoom

I'm an 80s music lover, traveling junkie, mac & cheese connoisseur, amateur wine snob, party-planning priestess and Chicago transplant living in Southern California. I find adventure in the everyday and have a unending compulsion to write about it. Hope you enjoy reading my mind!
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3 Responses to The Fine Art of Small Talk

  1. joedawkins says:

    I LOVE this post! Great as always, Beth 🙂

    ps. he BETTER pick Emily (if that’s the blonde with the kid) love her!

  2. karen mathews says:

    LET ME JUST CHIME IN HERE – I know several individuals who have taken the Chiming-In course and ACED IT. sigh

  3. ehildmann says:

    Well put, but I think you left out a tactic.

    The Out of your Way approach:
    Working in a large office, I’ve found a lot of these chronic small-talkers. You can identify them by their distant glares, looking for their next pray. They resemble a hungry tiger searching for that next gazelle. This small-talker hunts you down and has a relentless grasp on your free time. To become a TOOYW Small Talker, you must dedicate a serious amount of time and have a keen eye for the passive.

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