Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Have You Noticed that Our Generation Doesn't Make Polite Small Talk?

The other day I was in the parking lot at work and I noticed a new colleague parking her car. I had seen her around a few times but I had never actually spoken to her. I went over and introduced myself. The answer I got was "hi". Okay...maybe a bit awkward. I would think when someone introduces themselves to you that you should return the introduction. It's not like your name is a secret.
I need to tell you that she wasn't being rude as much as she just seemed unable to carry a conversation. So I said (hoping she would jump-start with a few more minutes talk) "I've seen in the hallway and the library, are you in _____'s class?" The answer: yes.
"Well, I just thought I would say hello and welcome you to our school..."
I swear that I am pretty good at reading body language. And there was nothing there.
I think this whole conversation is very indicative of the wider phenomenon where people can not speak to others in a sincere, polite and arms-length manner. At least not here in southern Ontario. I think this is a primarily a problem of the last twenty-five years. I mean, my parents were great at friendly small talk. I see people of that generation striking up conversations in the lines at Walmart. What is wrong with us that we can't do that too? And let's face it - it's not that we don't, it's that we can't.


  1. I disagree; I can usually engage people in small talk. Often it's about sports, but then that's one of the reasons sports is so popular. There are very few people I can really talk to about important topics like politics or religion, because that conversation could turn ugly very, very fast. I can't talk about "gay marriage" or about how "detainees" in Guantanamo Bay should be treated, but I CAN talk about whether Peyton Manning should retire, try to come back to the Colts, or look to be traded to another team, or whether Andrew Luck will live up to the hype.

  2. Maybe you should have said, "I’m gwine ter larn you how ter talk ter ’spectubble folks ef hit’s de las’ ack. Ef you don’t take off dat hat en tell me howdy, I’m gwine ter bus’ you wide open,"



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