How can I avoid small talk or go beyond it to what’s really important in a conversation? — Anonymous
Look, I wholeheartedly agree: Small talk is asinine, at best. However, the fact of the matter is that a one Miss Kristin Banta once sold pot (flower pots, mind you) before she got her famous gig as a designer in Los Angeles and made a star appearance on Millionaire Matchmaker. Now, as controversial as the neoliberal model is, there is something we can learn from Banta: You can’t suck at small talk, period. One can conceptualize small talk as the currency of social interaction. If you want to talk about the meaty topics — soy, if that suits you much better — you’re going to have to chat about the H&M basics first: first, last, zodiac, preferred gender pronouns, etc. There’s no cutting the necessary crap, but you could always spice it up. Instead of just plainly asking “so what’s your name, dude,” you might try an alternative method such as remixing everything lobbed your way in a new-age meets art nouveau rap — however, for peace and sanity of contemporary poetics, don’t be a Kenneth Goldsmith — or attempting to predict their natal chart horoscope for the day. Mix it up like a salad or a shake.
On the topic of small talk, can it be canonically established that reciprocity is [OK hand sign emoji]? Do not be plastic in the slightest; if someone asks you a question, it is without hesitation that you should return the question in mint condition, lacquered in the stylistics of your chest voice. Human interaction is a narcissistic exchange grounded in self-advancement and thought — it’s what our entire lives are founded upon — through the emotional exploitation of others. If you need that condensed into a snack-pack sized bite, it means that when someone asks you a question they are really attempting to ask themselves. How rhetorical. Obviously, there are exceptions to the rule (read: Tim Gunn, season six), but it’s not possible to just look at a one sided conversation and go “I wonder why it’s not working out” when one person is practically shoving words down the other’s throat without any inclination to share. Don’t be a greedy fink-rat.
If at this point you’ve reached a stalemate and started mumbling A-W-K-W-A-R-D under your breath, then do not show any signs of frustration or anger. Your scene partner is likely attempting to upstage you with their dramatic inner monologue and voiceover, so keep quiet and pressure them with silence to force a point of discussion out. One other psychological technique you can employ is subtly changing posture, using new hand motions or mirroring body language. Doing this permits the other to take notice and perhaps also change the dynamic of the conversation.
What’s most important is that you orient the conversation toward the direction you want to end at. Look at trendy topics in today’s society. Most people are not fond of discussing the weather (contrary to popular belief) or penny board designs, but are more statistically interested in deconstructing capitalism, colonialism and the patriarchy with an intellectual, academic lens.