The dreaded small talk. Sometimes we make it when we are waiting awkwardly for the mutual friend to arrive, other times we make it on a first date, hoping and praying to find something in common. It consists of very simple things: the weather, work, clothing perhaps. What it doesn’t consist of is depth.
One thing that I am very happy with my friendships and relationships is that with nearly all of my friends, I don’t ever have to worry about saying how I feel. Whether it’s about relationship advice or cancer treatments or big dreams, I know that I can talk about it candidly with my friends, and that we can really go deep into it. We don’t waste time talking about those things that don’t really matter, but instead we can really get to the heart of a subject. I’ve had those friendships where I didn’t feel comfortable bringing up the truly important things. Maybe I wasn’t secure enough in the friendship to discuss politics or religion, or maybe I didn’t feel that they would agree with my opinion and didn’t want to argue and potentially scare them off. To be honest, those friendships didn’t really last very long, nor did it progress to the ones that I have now. I didn’t get that closeness that I have with others when we do have deep conversations rather than just aimless small talk.
You might be thinking: well, small talk is good, it’s a great icebreaker to get to know someone. But is it though? I mean, in Florida, most people are going to agree that it’s really hot outside right now. You’re not really learning anything new about them or their personality. But if you dive right in, and start talking about things that truly matter, maybe it’s the environment, maybe it’s something happening in the world right now, maybe it’s a cause near and dear to your heart, then you will learn something about that person. You’ll learn if they share the same passions as you, or maybe you’ll learn a whole new way to look at things. I bet you’ll even learn that you can have differing opinions on the same topic, and you enjoy discussing it with them. Sometimes, having an intelligent discussion of a topic can open your eyes to new knowledge and can give you insight into why someone feels the way they do, rather than just disregarding it as an opposing opinion.
I recently had a conversation with an acquaintance that I didn’t know very well. We’ve met a few times here and there, but I wouldn’t say we’re besties. However, I was a part of a dinner conversation that was very real, it was very deep, and it was great. There were good things discussed, and there were heartbreaking things discussed. But I walked away thinking, wow I really got to know this person now, in a way I didn’t before. And all in a good way! We could have discussed small things that aren’t really all that important, but it wouldn’t have given either of us a chance to actually get to know the real person. Instead, we were able to really break down barriers. When you open up about something deep, maybe a past experience or something you’re going through, you let down those walls that we all put up. And yes, even if you’re extremely outgoing, you have walls that you put up. It’s human nature, we do our best to protect ourselves, and in doing so, we put up walls to keep people out at first. But when you break down those barriers, you can see commonalities, you can find something to instantly bond with someone. Even if it’s not related directly to the topic you were discussing, by letting go of that wall of that public face that we try to keep up and by being unapologetically real and open, you can find some common ties that can bring you together.
So give it a try, pick a topic, and really dive into it. Have more than a surface conversation. See what new knowledge you glean from someone, and what new opinions you hear. Everyone has something valuable to add to the conversation, we just have to be open to hearing it, and respecting it.