Superficial Conversation

Since I was young, I have loved deep conversations, either personal, philosophical or controversial.  But I wonder if those of us who make a hobby of romping in mental space are less tolerant of superficial conversations.  For certainly superficial conversations grease society and keeping things light can help us all see our mutual humanity.  But just returning from a 4th-of-July picnic, I am reminded how at large get-togethers most conversations are about the mundane, without real opinions — we walk away not knowing each other.  People hide their religious thoughts, their political thoughts and our their thoughts on any controversial area: sexuality, tattoos, divorce, food preferences etc….  Some people are more prone than others to tip-toe around in politeness.  And some of us are more prone to habitually (and perhaps perversely) steer conversation toward the controversial.  *Sabio raises his hand.

So, do you think the disdain for the superficial is just a bigoted response of mental hobbiests?  To what degree does the spectrum from those who engage in nothing but superficial, non-committal talk to those who are rabble-rousing controversialists depend on genetics and temperament.  I wonder about my reflexive self-righteous distain of the superficial.



Filed under Events, Philosophy & Religion

10 responses to “Superficial Conversation

  1. Oh, my gosh, I hate small talk!

    Of course, this could be partly because I’m not very good at it. I grew up in a household where idle chatter did not occur. You didn’t talk unless you had something to say. Talking just to talk was considered frivolous and wasteful even.

  2. Ex-Android

    That is why I enjoy a good argument on the internet in the varous forums and blogs. We can really get heated (if the moderator permits) and no punches can be thrown. It’s either come back with a better carefully-crafted point or bow out. I love it when language is used as a cudgel. An example of one I once read:

    “He never opens his mouth without subtracting from the sum of human knowledge.”

  3. 1minionsopinion

    I was just talking about this same thing with a friend last night. I was explaining to him how it was like there were different me’s depending on where I was.

    At work at the library, there’s the me that jokes around with a few people but otherwise keeps quiet and focused on the job. The only serious conversation around there has to do with how much work there is to do.

    I have the me that goes for dinners out with a birthday group of a dozen or so women. They’re very superficial and chatter about inanities like films or job annoyances (most of them are library people, too) or trips they’re taking. Nothing serious ever gets talked about.

    Now there’s a me that attends Freethinker activities and I’ve been enjoying that immensely because it reminds me of the conversations I used to have in university with people from all kinds of disciplines (political science, philosophy, sociology, religious studies) talking about all kinds of different things, often late into the night.

    But last night I got to be a different me altogether – he and I talked inanities and zany stuff like I’d do with anyone else, but we’d also reached a level of comfortable intimacy where we each felt we could open up and talk about other serious and personal things that we maybe couldn’t share as easily with someone else. I hadn’t realized how much I was needing that kind of connection with somebody.

    Most of the time I don’t mind the inane, pointless chatterboxing that makes up a day around regular, ordinary people. But other times, I really feel like there’s a whole world of people out there with apparently no frickin clue as to what’s really important.

  4. This is the reason why parties make my eyes roll back in my head. I’m often bored by surface level chit-chat. I understand that others revel in it, but it completely misses the mark for me. I’m also not the most skilled at every-day chit chat.

    Is it a part of temperament? Sure. Biological? Hmmmm. I don’t think that’s the answer for me. I remember being a very chatty kid at the age of 5 or 6, but after several years of not fitting in at public school (I was an LGBT child who struggled with gender norms), I became shy and introverted. I withdrew from people because they had a habit of using me as a verbal and physical punching bag.

    So, I mostly kept to myself as a kid, and I think I never really learned the ins and outs of everyday chit chat at an early enough age to make it feel natural. I’m better at small talk now, but it generally feels artificial and unrewarding.

    So, when I do speak to people, it tends to be on a deeper level and it tends to be with people I’ve developed a trusting relationship with. I’m the kind of person that has a small circle of trusted friends.

    *chuckle* As I’m looking over my comment, I realize that, as per usual, I’m “self-disclosing”.

  5. Temaskian

    I’m trying to learn small talk. I’ve been trying it out on my ex-church mates.

    We think too much to make small talk. Naturally. To make small talk, I think the trick is to pretend not to be thinking about things we’re really thinking about.

    It feels dishonest, but I think it’s the only way to make small talk in polite company.

    Perhaps everyone else thinks as much as we do, they just pretend better? Just stating a possibility.

  6. Hehe, I already know your opinion about MBTI, but I’ve found it helpful in situations like this. I am a flaming ENFP, but when I find that people want to talk about things instead of ideas, I play along, telling myself “they are not an N”.

    IMO, it’s kind of like playing make-believe with kids. And it goes both ways. One of my closest friends is a raging ESTJ, but he indulges me in some fantastic conversation about ideas.

    FWIW, Malcolm Gladwell himself once got in a conversation with me on the comments section of my blog, about my defense of MBTI in the workplace. Like you, he’s not a fan, which is totally cool.

  7. i love small talk. you can learn so much. and often, i find that small talk can lead to deep talk given enough patience and trust. but i’m an ENTP/J so i LOVE any type of dialog. i’ve found that my ISTJ friends have the most hatred for small talk. now that i think of it, i think you may be in that category… but you always surprise me and i don’t like label’n and leave’n, so i leave it up to you. i think you’re onto something.

  8. @ Leah :
    Smile! Yeah, I hate basketball but then, I am terrible at it. I wonder if any of your siblings grew up around the same attitudes but who now enjoy small talk.

    @ Ex-Android :
    Yeah, the internet is a safe-haven for controversy.

    @ 1minion :
    I agree. I like small talk but it is the lack of flexibility that I don’t like. — Always serious or Always trivial <– both are irritating.

    @ timberwraith :
    Yeah, being an emotional punching bag can shut down a chatty lass easily.

    @ Temaskian :
    Indeed, there may be a hesitancy even though thinking. But without practicing communication, thought can remain unformed and unrefined.

    @ JS Allen & Ghost :
    Yep, one of my points is that we tend to make virtues out of our temperaments.

  9. CRL

    Pardon me for being late, but I’ve been away for the past two weeks.
    For whatever reason, in my group of close friends, politics/religion/etc. are our form of small talk! Perhaps, since we are all familiar with eachother’s opinions, even when we disagree, the conversation never truly heats up. Which is kinda odd, considering we range from very, very atheist to very, very Christian; extremely liberal to moderate w/ one conservative (a bit of a rarity in SF!)

  10. @ CRL
    I always leave posts open and love comments any time. Sounds like you have a great community of variety.

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