Small Talk is For Small Minds. Think About It.

From a recent New York Times article, Talk Deeply, Be Happy?: “People who spend more of their day having deep discussions and less time engaging in small talk seem to be happier, said Matthias Mehl, a psychologist at the University of Arizona who published a study on the subject.”

It’s about time the larger world became aware of what I’ve known for years, which is that small talk is for small minds. It’s why I’ve always made a point of making sure that others know how spiritually fulfilled I am by essentially forcing as many persons a day as I can into having conversations that, being less enlightened than I, they would no doubt prefer to have with their pastor or psychiatrist.

Losers! I refuse to enable such insular coddling. If it’s worth lying awake at nights worrying about, it’s worth bringing up to a stranger in a supermarket. That’s my motto. Just yesterday at a Starbucks, for instance, I turned to the lady behind me in line, and with forthright candor said, “Being here is like waiting to die, is it not? It takes longer than you think it’s going to, and though you hope you’ll get what you want, you don’t really know what you’ll end up with. But you do hope it won’t be too hot. Think about it.”

I then faced front again, secure in the knowledge that I’d just vastly improved the woman’s life. She might not have realized I’d done that; judging from what I could overhear her murmuring to the woman behind her, she didn’t. But later, I know, the full impact of my words sunk into mind and soul like a bowling ball dropped into the ocean. There’s no doubt but that at some point in her day, she reflected back upon my wise, perspective-altering utterance and wondered, with the inevitable envy, about the secret to my great and profuse happiness.

But will she see that the answer to her question lies in the question itself?

“Do you know why you’re not happier?” I recently said to my mailman. It was the first time we’d ever spoken. “Because you don’t ask people questions like the one I just asked you. Think about it.” And with just that bit of wisdom I so rocked his world that three times since then he’s accidentally dropped my mail in the bushes outside my gate. It’s because he can’t concentrate on his work. He’s too preoccupied with what he can do to to secure for himself the happiness he so trenchantly saw demonstrated in me.

“You’re experiencing futility,” says my outgoing phone message. “But at least you’re alive—for now. Leave a message that shows you’re living, not just surviving.” It’s amazing how many people are so moved by that unexpected call to their higher selves that they can do naught but silently hang-up and immediately begin reverentially contemplating my happiness.

It’s almost a burden, this knowledge I have of exemplifying joy through the refusal to engage in mindless small talk. Do I ever waver in my mission? Sure I do. Sometimes I, too, would like to discuss the weather, or whether or not Glenn Beck inherited the mental deficiency evidenced by one or both of his parents apparently being unable to spell “Glen.”

But do I give in? No. Why? Because if I were to let down my guard, and allow myself to engage in the kind of casual socializing favored by the great multitudes who ask no more of their fleeting encounters than that they leave the parties involved feeling satisfied and affirmed, then I know that I would have no one but myself to blame for what I have every last reason to fear would happen next.

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  • Karen

    wow…I just saw the comment from Tim.

    John is capable of speaking his own words, whereas you have to use a quote.

    Think about it!

  • That is SO funny. As a kid I had Desiderada (sp?) on my bedroom walls.

  • Too great. Thank you, Karen.

  • I know. Losers.

  • Wow. Thanks! I … wrote it in a pretty big hurry this morning, so I definitely appreciate your warm response to it. One never really knows, sometimes. Often. Always.

  • Tim

    I don't know why I posted that quote. John's post somehow reminded me of that tidbit of hippydaze nostalgia. National Lampoon Radio Dinner thought it was funny to lampoon Ehrmann's Desiderata, on some level, I find it to be sort of true. I hope John knows that I don't mean it with any disrespect to him.

  • onemansbeliefs

    Sadly, the genius in most humans is not recognized during their lifetime… At least you will die knowing that you have left a legacy of wisdom that one day will be appreciated 🙂

  • Greta Sheppard

    gee willikers…Iike, what can I say . . . for one who was afraid of her own voice till she was 50–didn't know her opinion counted for much…well…this is all kinda' intimidating….but I will continue to envy you, John…oh, to be so extroverted!

  • Martha

    Bitingly funny.

    “codling” = coddling.

  • You rock….seriously hysterical 🙂

  • That’s what I thought! But the WordPress spell check changed my “coddling” to “codling.”!! But I’ll go back, cuz you’re right.

  • Tim

    “You are a fluke of the universe. You have no right to be here. And whether you can hear it or not, the universe is laughing behind your back.” —Deteriorata

    Think about it!

  • Karen

    wow, now I have EVIDENCE that my long winded talks and need for debates are actually providing a genuine service to those subjected to me! I knew I was right! Now if only I can get them to realize it. I’ll have to begin my conversation with:…Now for your own good we are going to have a nice lenghty “chat”… Oh but wait, then they might think right off the bat I’m going to be stating I’m right….oh well “kill two birds with one stone”. hehe

    You think like me, but only write and say it better!

    Hope you have just as incredible, wonderful day as I am going to have today!

  • Stupid small-talkers. Someday they’ll thank you.

  • Linda Chimienti

    So, John, are you saying that “Think about it” is the new “Have a nice day”? And can I use both together when I’m at Starbucks to sort of identify myself as a medium mind. (Or grande mind.)

  • To me, small talk is what I have with people I don’t want to talk to. I like your “think about it” – if only more people could think!

  • Tim

    maybe my favorite thing you’re ever written.

  • Thank you!

  • “Think about it.” It’ll be, like, the new catch-phrase. For really obnoxious people. Cool. I’m in.)

  • Hopefully with cash.

  • HAH! Man, I do have the witty readers.

  • How about that crazy weather lately?

  • Very nice post, John.

    Think about it.

    Actually, very funny. Thanks.

  • Fred White

    Is this John Shore the famous Honeywell closet-case programmer who wrote JSOCTAL?

    Or maybe a descendant?

  • …..SO guilty of that in my thirties….that and the attitude of….I don’t think YOU’VE had the privilege of meeting ME yet! lol ! Such a relief it is to stand in the grocery line and talk about how cute the babies are….without feeling like I’ve missed an opportunity! Thanks for helping us laugh at ourselves!

  • Liz

    Laughs. Because you are so funny. Poor Matthias Mehl, psychologist. He does exist?

  • yeah, it's a real article, from the real NY Times.