I’m not a fan of small talk. Frankly, I’ve never met anyone who is, and yet, we hear it all the time. These super vague filler questions show up at places like uncomfortable work functions and with those rarely-seen family members. It’s basically the verbal equivalent to having your grandma pinch your cheeks.
Something needs to be done. Yes, I’m looking at you small talk instigators. What are you doing wrong, you ask? For starters, here are some pretty major questions to avoid.
Why don’t you tell me a little about yourself?
Unless you’re conducting an interview, don’t ask this question. I’m telling you, you’re probably not going to like the answer. Super vague questions are hard to answer. You’ll either end up with a short answer that doesn’t allow for much follow up, or someone’s entire life story. Both can be unpleasant. Rarely does this question lead to a surprisingly inspirational story. I wouldn’t hold out for the 1 out of 10.
People hear this question and feel bad about themselves if they didn’t recently get engaged or discover some rare mineral in the depths of the rainforest? I’m actually guilty of asking people this a lot, although I try change it up with an “Anything new and exciting in your life?” So, how do you answer this super impersonal question? Why not take their question literally and mention something small that’s recently new? Small accomplishments are still accomplishments.
Do you have a boyfriend? When’s the wedding? Any kids on the way? Still living at home…?
You think you’re out of the woods because you managed to wrangle yourself a significant other. Wrong! Where are your children? Have you thought about children? You don’t want children?! (gasp). That doesn’t fit into any of the social constructs I’m comfortable with! These questions frequently come up at family functions, especially with that family that doesn’t actually know a whole lot about you. So, what do you do when your answer to these questions is no (or yes, you do still live at home)? Answer with confidence! Own your life decisions! Yes, I do still live with my parents and I’m saving a boatload of money and I’m super thankful to be able to do so! Are you saving a boatload of money living pay cheque to pay cheque? Didn’t think so *mic drop*. Okay, maybe cut out that last part. I suppose the passive aggressive approach doesn’t make things less awkward.
You have the power to prevent awkward social situations. This has been a public services announcement.