Destinations Magazine

Small Talk and Growing Pains

By Sweetapple19 @sweetappleyard
Small Talk and Growing Pains
Here’s the thing about being an academic. You spend quite a lot of your day alone. Or in my case, you spend it with 2-year-old children as a pediatric researcher.
Furthermore, you spend your time around other people who spend their days, largely, alone. And so quite often something happens after a few years in this environment.
You lose your ability to small talk.
Well, it isn’t lost per se, but so under-utilised that a situation requiring these dormant skills becomes quite terrifying. A room full of unknown people drinking white wine and making polite chit chat looks like a bunch of hungry rottweilers.
When I was working with toddlers, there was no such thing as small talk. We jumped right at the big questions.
"What do you want to do when you grow up?" "Ride a pony!" "Fabulous!"
But this little frog has leapt from the safety of her tertiary lily pad into the corporate pool and shit it is an adjustment.
Once again I have to be charming, execute witty comebacks and form an actual conversation rather than directly asking for what I want. I have to enquire about peoples’ days, the weather, their dog Fluffy etc. I have to make time and space for the not-so-important.
I’m appalled to admit that this has been one of the hardest transitions on my new career path. When did I lose the art of simple conversation?!
This new role requires me to bring all my well-used skills to the table, while honing old forgotten ones. It is demanding me to grow and adapt. And that is what all those inspirational quotes don’t tell you…growth is uncomfortable. I have small talk growing pains.
Some may say that small talk is over-rated, preferring to come in hot with some stimulating banter. But here is the thing. When you look back on some of your now close relationships, or important contacts, many of them will have evolved from small talk. It may have been that one person in a room of others who asked you a little about yourself. You then bonded over a shared love of black and white movies and Friday nights in. It's hardly ever the wanker who came at you out of nowhere and started talking about politics and inflation. Sometimes dialling back a notch and really listening to someone can be the loveliest thing you can do for them.
And in the corporate world, it gets results. Many people aren't used to talking to someone who gives a toss about Fluffy. It throws them off guard and makes them want to help you, or at least listen to you.
It is true what they say. You can learn something about yourself from every situation. So what have I learned this week?
Make time for small talk. Put it into practice. You never know where it might lead you. You never know what you might learn.
Nobody is boring, their interesting bits may just be hiding a little deeper, or buried under quiet self-doubt.
People are just people. We all want the same thing. To be taken seriously, liked and hopefully not end up socially rejected and ostracised, eating out of the bin and re-rolling ciggy butts.
Have a good week!
Much love XX

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