I have hated small talk for as long as I can remember. Yes, I do participate in it myself, but underneath the smiles and chats I’m secretly screaming, “Tell me your deepest fears and craziest dreams and tell them to me now!”
If you must have small talk, let me help: This is a comprehensive, yet entirely flexible list of utterances that no one should ever say, ever. They are not necessarily rude or offensive. If you say them, the very worst scenario is possibly mildly offending someone. No big deal. However, the very absolute best scenario is that you will get an awkward laugh, a cliché phrase, and a now uncomfortable acquaintance in return. Who wants that? No one, that’s who. Let small talk die.
Don’t, just please don’t, talk about:
- Any notice of extreme height aka “Woah, you’re so short!” or its relative, “Woah, you’re so tall!”
If someone is actually self-conscious about their height, then you’ve made them sad. On the flip side, the most perfect possible ending to this interaction is a followup quick friendly-but-awkward interaction. Anyone who is of notable height in either direction already knows it and has absolutely definitely already heard the joke you’re about to crack, no matter how clever you think you are. Save your dignity, friend!
- The weather. It’s literally right outside. Everyone has access to the news or an app or arthritis to know whether or not it is going to rain this week. And sure, it can be an interesting conversation for a moment but after it’s done…do you move on to next week? Next month? No, this topic inevitably dwindles into awkward silence.
- Any mention of the person’s singleness whatsoever. Even the most confident and secure women can’t possibly know how to react to this. Laughter? Light hearted self-deprecation? Trying to casually convince everyone that you really don’t need a man without sounding defensive? There’s no winning here. You will sound like a lonely cat-lady whether you’ve ever felt that way or not.
- “You look so young for your age!” This statement is rumored to be a compliment for older women. However, if you are a hard working twenty-something, desperately trying to convince the people around you that you have your crap together, being reminded that you look like a sixteen year old is not encouraging. Sure, it’s not crippling either. But really, is “not crippling” the aftertaste you want to leave with people?
- Sports. This one’s probably just me. I didn’t watch the game, I don’t know who that player is, and I don’t care at all but I am going to pretend because I want to talk to you. I might even talk about sports from 2006 because that’s the last time I watched them but I’m desperately hoping it’s still relevant. If you love me at all you’ll save me from embarrassment and seamlessly change the subject.
I have had all of these conversations. I have even started all of these conversations. This is not to shame anyone or make anyone feel bad. We’re all guilty. Instead, let this be an encouragement to us to try a little harder. Think a little more. Make your conversations count. If you must have small talk, (it is an inevitable part of our world, though yes, ew, I hate it and it is the worst) make it encouraging, uplifting! Talking about innocent and light hearted things is fine, but eventually let those things lead to deeper things. Open up. Listen well. Share generously. And laugh, obviously.
Let small talk go die and get to know your dang neighbors for real.
P.S. Haven’t met my neighbors across the hall yet. Woops. Yes, I’m a hypocrite – learning right along with y’all. 😉
Do you have any phrases to add to the list of phrases that no one should ever say ever?