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Old 09-27-2012, 10:46 AM
 
Location: Boston
701 posts, read 1,265,618 times
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I don't like making small talk, but I'll engage in a bit of it to be polite.
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Old 09-27-2012, 10:53 AM
 
8,018 posts, read 6,567,845 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by regular folk View Post
My wife is not too friendly to strangers. People approach her on a regular basis and make small talk to her just to be friendly or to pass the time. She does not respond.

It bugs me how coldly she treats these people and I ask her about it and she says, "I didn't ask those people to speak to me, they have no business with me, they are just destroying my privacy!"

These could be people who are in a grocery line, or the grocery check out cashier, someone pumping gas next to her, the mailman, security guards, handymen who do work around the house, etc. They seem to be speaking to her in a nice way and are not crazy or homeless or using her to try to sell something.

To me, if someone speaks to me and asks a question or makes some type of comment they are owed some type of response. Exactly how long to keep the conversation engaged is the question.

What do you think?
I don't really like small talk either so I tend to give them a smile and short one word answers to their questions. Hopefully they'll get that I don't feel like talking right now and we can go about our business.
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Old 09-27-2012, 01:22 PM
 
Location: On the corner of Grey Street
6,067 posts, read 8,329,059 times
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I'm from the south and if I said hello or made small talk with someone and they ignored me I would think they were extremely rude. I don't know why small talk annoys and offends some people so much. I'd rather engage a stranger in small talk about the weather than have my nose buried in my cell phone. So what if they're a stranger? I bet a lot of friendships and relationships have come about because someone decided to engage in a little small talk with a stranger.
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Old 09-27-2012, 01:25 PM
 
14,752 posts, read 28,514,549 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cpg35223 View Post
I live in the South. Striking up conversations with perfect strangers in grocery stores, etc., is just the way we roll. It doesn't mean you're best buddies, but it is a nice way to while away the time at the post office.
Post office is the wrong word here.

I think it's a regional thing. The South has its way of doing it. It's informal yet slightly courteous. The Southwest has another way of doing it. It's totally informal. The Northeast (except New England) has its way of doing it, and it starts in by being nosy or complaining. (Think standing next to Mrs. Kravitz on "Bewitched"). Regardless, I find it funny and can deal with it. Whoever said metro NYers are not friendly is way off. In the suburbs, if you walk down the street, and you're not from the neighborhood, people are curious and will talk to you. I'm sure they talk to people they know, too. In the Pacific NW, hang it up. It is NOT protocol.

The post office story for which I've been decked on the Seattle sub-forum goes as follows:
I was in line at the Bellevue WA main post office dressed in business attire. I was toward the front of the line. There was a woman with a toddler, whose rump was placed on the counter window, while she made her purchase. She asked the postal worker "Will you please hold his shoulders, while I reach in to my purse?" Spontaneously, I said to the postal worker, jokingly, "Tell her that's not in your job description." He laughed. The lady was embarrassed, but smiled. Others in line chuckled. One uptight Stepford "Bellevue housewife" says to me "Are you from California? That sounds like something they'd say down there." I was quite sick of the anti-California sentiment, since it even blanketed conservative educated white people, with whom one would think they didn't have a problem. I told her what I thought of her and to move back to her inbred Minnesota or Wisconsin, and that the transplantation finally brought some attractive people to the area.

It either happens or it doesn't. There's some kind of chemistry that is conveyed. On planes and trains, it's very easy for this to happen. Because of some intangible rapport, I've had 3 hour train rides in Europe or 7 hour flights across the Atlantic, where the passenger across or next to me and I conversed about everything under the sun for the whole trip. And sometimes, I haven't said a word to adjacent passengers except for hello and goodbye nods.

Last edited by robertpolyglot; 09-27-2012 at 02:24 PM..
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Old 09-27-2012, 02:11 PM
 
679 posts, read 1,048,061 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by strawberrykiki View Post
I don't know why small talk annoys and offends some people so much. I'd rather engage a stranger in small talk about the weather than have my nose buried in my cell phone. So what if they're a stranger? I bet a lot of friendships and relationships have come about because someone decided to engage in a little small talk with a stranger.
But what if you're the dozenth person to try to engage them in small talk on their way to work before they've had coffee and they're not morning people? What if it's on the way home after a long day when they want to decompress? What if they just want to sleep or daydream on the bus or subway? There are pros and cons of both driving to work and taking public transit. The fact that you don't get to choose who is around you on public transit is both a pro & a con. Maybe the person you're trying to engage in small talk has dealt with talking to people all day at work and wants to catch up on personal email or wish a friend or relative Happy Birthday on Facebook. Or they want to listen to music or watch something.

Why should talking to a stranger about the weather take precedence over what the desired audience of the small talker wants to do? There is a huge distinction between a stranger in a public place and a planned social event with people you know. For the latter, it's rude to ignore the people for the devices. The former, it's not rude. People in public or quasi public spaces have different needs and wants and it's important to be respectful of that. A stranger has no right to impose on another person's time for chit chat if that person isn't in the mood for it.

Don't get me wrong, I have made friends through small talk. I don't remember it, because I was all of 3 or 4, but one of my first friends as a child was another little girl I just started talking to on a subway car. Our mothers started talking too and we and they were friends up until about high school when we lost touch. I've made a number of other friends over the years too. But I think small talk works best when BOTH people want to engage in it. If one person doesn't, the one initiating should be paying attention to the non-verbal cues. When I get really stressed, I don't want to talk to people. I don't make very much eye contact and my body language becomes more closed off. When I see that in other people, I don't make small talk because they're probably not in the mood. I have a long commute, so I can't get right home to be in private when I'm stressed on a workday. Many others are in the same boat.

If someone's listening to music or looking at a cell phone, that's a pretty clear sign they're not in the mood to chit chat. I think small talkers should respect that and leave the person alone unless they need assistance with something like directions or if/when a bus or train is coming. And they should just directly ask the question and not try to prolong the conversation.

Also, if someone doesn't respond to small talk, it may have nothing to do with the person initiating it. I have anxiety. If I'm feeling close to a panic attack or I've just had one, it's taking pretty much everything I have to calm myself down. I just don't have the energy to sit there and chat about the weather while I'm trying to cope with that. Or it could be physical, someone may have a headache or a cold or worse. I used to live in a building with an elevator and it was common to at least greet the other person or people in the elevator. Sometimes we'd exchange pleasantries. There were a couple of times I didn't read the situation well and the other person wasn't very responsive. It turned out one person's mother had just died and the other was going for either chemotherapy or dialysis and was exhausted. Those experiences made me pay more attention to cues. And I apologized to the people in question/expressed sympathy for their situations.

Last edited by exscapegoat; 09-27-2012 at 02:31 PM..
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Old 09-27-2012, 02:30 PM
 
Location: right here
4,127 posts, read 4,762,954 times
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I'm not really into small talk..I tend to keep to myself. However, if someone engages I'll always be friendly.
I live in Florida I have to be careful...some people will say hi, you respond, and they ask for money.

I run in the mornings...all the old ladies will say hello and good morning..I think they want to make sure I'm not going to rob them. It puts me in a good mood because everyone is trying to get in a walk so we have something in common. I remember I was running on Monday morning ..there was an older gentleman ( 70 at least)..I was running slow and he stopped to show me a crab..I could have kept running but he looked lonely..I spoke with him for about 5 minutes..and went on my way. Actually made my day. No, I don't owe them a response but it's nice to know people actually speak to each other....

Last edited by dnvrsoul; 09-27-2012 at 02:47 PM..
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Old 09-27-2012, 02:35 PM
 
Location: Simmering in DFW
6,948 posts, read 19,395,173 times
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This topic is interesting to me! My DH absolutely HATES when strangers -- especially at ajoining tables in restaurants -- try and strike up a conversation. He experiences it as an intrusion. However when we are walking our dogs he insists on waving to every passing car and greeting every person we pass with a wave or a brief "hi." I am almost the opposite. If someone says something to me, regardless of the circumstance, I respond. I don't mind if its in restaurants, shops, elevators, etc. But when I am walking I never wave at drivers nor do I greet passers unless we lock eyes. One of my BFF's is always engaging strangers and loves to facilitate group conversations. If she is in a waiting room and you are there perfectly minding your own business, you will be quickly drawn into her lively style and funny topics. She can make a hermit invite her in and she just loves to apply her magic. Sometimes when we are having lunch she will tie up the servers....even having them pull out smart phones to show her/us photos of pets & grandkids. Now, I do sometimes find this a bit tiresome when we haven't seen eachother in over a month and my time for lunch is a bit limited....really don't care about Mr. Server's dog photos.....
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Old 09-27-2012, 02:52 PM
 
16,801 posts, read 14,449,165 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by regular folk View Post
She says people should only talk to each other if there is a formal introduction first, a business necessity, or part of an ongoing relationship.

Does your wife have a lot of other rules about how people should behave? Perhaps this is just a symptom of a rigid personality.
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Old 09-27-2012, 03:06 PM
 
Location: Noblesville, IN
3,695 posts, read 4,076,202 times
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I do try to read the non-verbal info people give regarding small talk...usually you can tell if a small comment will be met with a friendly response or if they really don't feel comfortable. I'm usually pretty good at that so when I do say something and that person doesn't respond, I usually find it rude. We, in Dallas, have a tendency to chit chat but it really doesn't have to be overdone. Sometimes, just a smile with another patron in line is enough to make us feel connected. And I suppose that's the point of it to me...to feel connected with others. It's nice.

And yea, sometimes the other person might take it to another level (like taking too much of your time when in a crunch) but really, that doesn't bother me too much. Like another poster said, the other person is sometimes lonely. Who am I to deny them a few minutes of my time if they choose to initiate some chit chat. Last week at the Kroger, a woman started talking to me in the pet food aisle and we must've talked for 15 minutes. I was a little antsy to get moving but she was delightful and I felt good about it.

Connections...yep, that's it!
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Old 09-27-2012, 03:08 PM
 
Location: On the corner of Grey Street
6,067 posts, read 8,329,059 times
Reputation: 11540
Quote:
Originally Posted by exscapegoat View Post
But what if you're the dozenth person to try to engage them in small talk on their way to work before they've had coffee and they're not morning people? What if it's on the way home after a long day when they want to decompress? What if they just want to sleep or daydream on the bus or subway? There are pros and cons of both driving to work and taking public transit. The fact that you don't get to choose who is around you on public transit is both a pro & a con. Maybe the person you're trying to engage in small talk has dealt with talking to people all day at work and wants to catch up on personal email or wish a friend or relative Happy Birthday on Facebook. Or they want to listen to music or watch something.

Why should talking to a stranger about the weather take precedence over what the desired audience of the small talker wants to do? There is a huge distinction between a stranger in a public place and a planned social event with people you know. For the latter, it's rude to ignore the people for the devices. The former, it's not rude. People in public or quasi public spaces have different needs and wants and it's important to be respectful of that. A stranger has no right to impose on another person's time for chit chat if that person isn't in the mood for it.

Don't get me wrong, I have made friends through small talk. I don't remember it, because I was all of 3 or 4, but one of my first friends as a child was another little girl I just started talking to on a subway car. Our mothers started talking too and we and they were friends up until about high school when we lost touch. I've made a number of other friends over the years too. But I think small talk works best when BOTH people want to engage in it. If one person doesn't, the one initiating should be paying attention to the non-verbal cues. When I get really stressed, I don't want to talk to people. I don't make very much eye contact and my body language becomes more closed off. When I see that in other people, I don't make small talk because they're probably not in the mood. I have a long commute, so I can't get right home to be in private when I'm stressed on a workday. Many others are in the same boat.

If someone's listening to music or looking at a cell phone, that's a pretty clear sign they're not in the mood to chit chat. I think small talkers should respect that and leave the person alone unless they need assistance with something like directions or if/when a bus or train is coming. And they should just directly ask the question and not try to prolong the conversation.

Also, if someone doesn't respond to small talk, it may have nothing to do with the person initiating it. I have anxiety. If I'm feeling close to a panic attack or I've just had one, it's taking pretty much everything I have to calm myself down. I just don't have the energy to sit there and chat about the weather while I'm trying to cope with that. Or it could be physical, someone may have a headache or a cold or worse. I used to live in a building with an elevator and it was common to at least greet the other person or people in the elevator. Sometimes we'd exchange pleasantries. There were a couple of times I didn't read the situation well and the other person wasn't very responsive. It turned out one person's mother had just died and the other was going for either chemotherapy or dialysis and was exhausted. Those experiences made me pay more attention to cues. And I apologized to the people in question/expressed sympathy for their situations.
I think if someone says hello to you, it is rude regardless of circumstances not to offer a return hello. Period. Doesn't matter if you're having a bad day, people are annoying you, you're busy, whatever...if someone says hello, you say hello back. That's just plain good manners. But as far as engaging in extended chit chat, then yes I agree, you should read the situation. If I'm on an airplane or public transportation then sometimes I don't want to have a lengthy conversation. Anyone engrossed in a phone or a book or whatever has made it obvious they don't want to talk, and I would respect that and expect others to respect me if I was preoccupied. Some people just lack common sense.
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