‘Tis the season for close-quarters shopping, holiday recitals and office Christmas parties. Extroverts soak it all up – the energy, the excitement and the near constant socializing. For the rest of us, who shall hereafter be referred to as “normal,” the constant pressure to make nice with strangers is exhausting and overwhelming.
I’ve been struggling to find the appropriate analogy to describe my feelings as I anticipate my husband’s staff dinner. Sticking hot pokers in my eye? Getting a pap smear? Painful dental procedure? All three at the same time…
I hate small talk.
I’d like to think that this makes me a person of great depth, integrity and complexity. As if I am simply too busy/intellectual/chock full o’ spiritual insight to discuss unimportant topics with any old Joe Schmo who crosses my path. Of course, I have ample time to peruse pintrest, watch Walking Dead webisodes and google my own name.
The truth is, I am shy in new situations. Most people don’t realize it, but I’m actually chock full o’ insecurities. I care too much what people think of me. I over think everything I say. Then I over analyze what I’ve already said and the tone with which I said it, and my body language, and how it may have come across.
And this is why a simple discussion about the weather, local sports and your pet cat freaks me the heck out! I put on a good show. I am outgoing and friendly when I need to be, but my heart is beating like a hummingbird and my whole body is tensed to flee. Before a party I sit in the car and suck back the nausea.
Does it really matter if I can maintain a steady stream of shallow banter? Although I like people (and talking!) I’m an introvert, so small talk with new people will never be comfortable or easy. So why turn myself inside out to make it happen?
Someone reminded me the other day that every person I meet is made in the image of God, and when I get to know them, I am getting to know God better. Everyone has something to contribute. Those few moments in passing may be my only chance to connect with this completely unique and precious person.
So maybe it won’t change my world to hear about her bunions and his disgust with union politics, but it’s not always about me. I need to stop focusing on my own angsty feelings and make sure they feel comfortable. After all, who doesn’t want to feel heard and valued? Even just for the duration of the elevator ride, or the really awkward office party my husband is dragging me to.
So here’s me, off to check the weather report to make sure I have some good material.
How do you feel about small talk? Are you the silent, mysterious type or the life of the party?