Over the previous year I have met quite the amount of people. Ranging from young to old, poor to rich and everything along the line from very extrovert to very introverted. Regardless of personality type, I have had great conversations with all of them. Previously, having felt uncomfortable with “small talk”, I have become quite good at it now. The continuous exposure to conversation through being part of open cultures has helped me a lot. As a result, I come to the conclusion that small talk does not necessarily mean there is no purpose or content to what I am talking about. I know now, that the distinction between small talk, and otherwise meaningful conversation does not make sense to me anymore.
More Than Small Talk
From my point of view, to make this distinction, also means diminishing the fun and value of having a conversation. Just standing next to someone, there are so many more things happening than just the exchange of words. The biggest amount of our communication is non-verbal anyway. This is something I have become very aware of after meeting all these people. There are little words needed to figure out how comfortable I am going to be with somebody new.
I perceive that the expectations I have entering a conversation play a big role in this process. However, I have interacted so often now, that it has become easier to be at ease during a first encounter. Nevertheless, there are still situations I wish I would be able to be more open. On the other hand though, I have been in situations where I was purposefully antisocial. As things go, the truth is, that there are people I prefer not to talk to.
In the beginning, I was genuinely wondering if I was being impolite or closing down. Now I recognize though, that I have met so many people that I can say quite quickly if I want to invest energy in a connection. Being honest about what I like and do not like, together with my current outlook at life give me a compass in these situations. At the same time, ever since I stopped worrying about this, it has become easier to start a conversation with somebody new. Regardless if I am more, or less interested in that person. When I know beforehand that I am interested in nothing more than talking for a bit now, I will be more likely to engage in this conversation than when I am denying myself this truth. As things go, nothing is more uncomfortable and energy consuming than talking to somebody I do not want to talk to, at the same time worrying how to not talk to this person again.
On a deeper level I know, this all comes down to what is called self love. I cannot invest all my energy without having the time to recharge. Meeting people is awesome, but there are moments I do not have the energy for it. Just like with helping somebody else, either through my work or in my private life. If I do not take care of myself first, the situation I am creating will be unsustainable. Eventually, making me the person that would need help, even though I am trying to help somebody else.
The following I always conceive as a great metaphor to explain what I am getting at. Everybody that has been on an airplane, is familiar with the safety instructions before take-off. When the instruction gets to the point of the oxygen masks, they always tell you to put yours on first, before you help others. This practical form of “self love” is the same as being purposefully antisocial. When I do not take a breather every now and then, by not connecting with somebody or just straight up walking away from conversation, I will be unable to keep connecting with people long-term.
Talking Less Results In The Opposite
The interesting thing is, that since I started becoming more conscious about when, how, and under what terms I want to connect to somebody, I have actually found it easier to start talking to another person. I am not wasting energy on internal conflict, which would otherwise be something that inhibits my capacity to connect. To stay true to my own motivation and willingness to exchange, seems to be the ultimate tool to keep building authentic relationships.