The Sacrament of Small Talk

‘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?

About So Here's Us.... life on the raggedy edge.

I'm a bookworm, nature lover, kick-boxer, candy fiend, sci fi geek, home body, progressive Christian and part-time student. I love my crazy life and the messy, fun, stubborn, silly, brilliant people who populate it. View all posts by So Here's Us.... life on the raggedy edge.

9 responses to “The Sacrament of Small Talk

  • Barbara Robson

    Christie…..those feelings of insecurity are false. You are an interesting, compassionate, and intelligent person;
    beautiful inside & outside. This comes from the highest authority – your Mom!

    • So Here's Us.... life on the raggedy edge.

      Even though you HAVE to like me, because you’re my Mom, it means a lot! Thank you!

      You’ve raised me to act with confidence even when I don’t feel like it. I don’t think I could act friendly if it weren’t for the training you gave us – look people in the eye, speak up, try to make other people feel welcome… You MADE me push through the shyness and that has made all the difference. So, thank you!

    • So Here's Us.... life on the raggedy edge.

      Excellent article! I definitely think it’s a spectrum and I’m not as introverted as this author, but I totally appreciate his perspective. People think because I’m an outgoing chatterbox I’m not an introvert, but being around people is exhausting (not an “aloof nerd” – just a nerd).

      I definitely agree that we need to respect the way God has wired us. So I will continue to hide in my car rather than visit with other parents in the parking lot every day. And when it can’t be avoided… hopefully I will remember that these mindless little conversations still have some value.

      Speaking of… I’ll see you tonight at the party! I feel quite differently about parties where I know everyone very well.

  • Bleuberry

    Honestly, I can’t identify with much of how you feel… I’m pretty much a classic extrovert. But I work with people all day long and sometimes at the end of the day I’m completely exhausted and am sick of people so the parties just seem like a lot of work. Lots of active listening and being really really interested in someone’s life, even if (my rugged, not yet fully refined by Christ) I would really rather ignore everyone and sit quietly alone! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  • Kathleen

    A beautiful way of looking at it. I’ve never been nauseous, but I have always felt uncomfortable in new situations. Like conferences. I’m getting better because I need to, but it’s always hard. And harder in situations where you don’t really feel any connection or commonality with the people. Thanks for the great perspective.

    • So Here's Us.... life on the raggedy edge.

      Thanks Kathleen! I’m glad I’m not the only one. That’s probably the reason I prefer to be an organizor than a participant at things like conferences and parties. Rushing around staying busy or even up front with a microphone is easier than visiting. Though I’m almost always glad I’ve gotten to know people, after the fact.

      Long live introverts!

  • So Here's Us.... life on the raggedy edge.

    Reblogged this on So Here's Us… and commented:

    How responsible of me – I’m recycling last year’s Christmas-y posts. This year I am looking forward to the staff party slightly more, since I know/like/have lots in common with the people at his new job. BUT the small talk thing continues to be a challenge.

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