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roygerdodger
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30 Jul 2008, 6:54 am

I hear it mentioned a lot of this site.



RogueProcess
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30 Jul 2008, 7:07 am

This is by no means a great description, but, basically, it's the rather trivial and pointless pieces of conversation a lot of people have to try and initiate further conversation. Classic examples would include "The weather's nice today", "How are you doing?", "That's a long queue!", and so on and so forth :)



roygerdodger
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30 Jul 2008, 7:09 am

RogueProcess wrote:
This is by no means a great description, but, basically, it's the rather trivial and pointless pieces of conversation a lot of people have to try and initiate further conversation. Classic examples would include "The weather's nice today", "How are you doing?", "That's a long queue!", and so on and so forth :)


Oh yeah, that, I've been doing that for years.



RogueProcess
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30 Jul 2008, 7:11 am

I do it as part of my job - I work behind a checkout in a supermarket :P



No_YOU_get_over_it
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30 Jul 2008, 7:48 am

I used to revile small talk, until I figured out that not all small talk is created equal.

From my perspective, there are two kinds of small talk. One is useful social lubricant. The other is mind-numbing drivel. Learning to tell the difference and honing skills in the former has made a world of difference for me.

(Now that I read RogueProcess' description of small talk used by cashiers etc, I'd add a third kind, that signals "I see you're human." This is important from both sides.)


I've been living in a country that claims to disdain small talk. You'd think this place would be Aspie heaven. People ask things straight out (like what you pay in rent), are very direct about their assessments of who's fit to be their friend (or business associate or what have you) and are brutal about brushing off or outright rejecting those who don't fit their schema. People you've just met come out with statements that begin, "You're the kind of person that ____" and make some really odd judgment about your character.

Living in the land of the Blunt woke me up to the reality that it's worthwhile to do the work of figuring out where directness has its place, and where it just rudely ramrods a breakdown in communication and destroys all potential for connection. Who knew? I now highly value "small talk" used as a tool for sorting out whether people share your values without alienating them. In that context, there's nothing small about "small talk." Which means it's a mine field when you're not yet keyed in to the real game, and a game of strategy once you've figured out the system.


Example:

I like people who are solution-oriented and upbeat about getting through daily complications. (Not that I'm a model of that, mind you!)

Instead of saying to someone I've just met, "so are you a real whiner or what? I hate whiners!" I'll ask them whether they found the place OK, if they had a long commute, how traffic was. Nobody cares if they found the place OK; that doesn't mean the question is superfluous.




Coming back to the second form of small talk, drivel. This probably would not be categorized by NTs as "small talk," but it seems a lot of Aspies do, and I think it deserves the term. The main character in Anne Fine's novel Telling Liddy says that her family has "conversational ponies," topics they trot out and parade around in every conversation. Lawn care was one of their favorites. My parents communicate this way; I don't see any potential for connection, they're just talking and want to be affirmed in whatever they believe. I don't get it at all. Well, maybe from an alien-anthropologist visiting a bizarre planet I do.

Since I was really wrong in rejecting the first form of small talk, maybe there's something I have yet to learn about the second as well. I've noticed some dull stories can be used as an escalation of the weather topic by people who're still evaluating each other, so I try not to shut it out immediately.

So far, I'd rather just avoid people who communicate exclusively via drivel. Tools I've figured out for shutting them up without miffing them too much provide short-term relief; 'Transactional Analysis' theory gave me a quick&dirty template for surviving-by-analysing when I'm truly stuck listening to this stuff. They're not going to change and engage in conversation I find meaningful. If people are happy talking that way, and aren't invested in connecting with someone who thinks very differently, more power to them.


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No_YOU_get_over_it
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30 Jul 2008, 8:13 am

RogueProcess wrote:
I do it as part of my job - I work behind a checkout in a supermarket :P


Hats off. Sometimes shop cashiers are the most human contact I have in a week. They seem to see that I'm human, and they seem to welcome small indications that I see them as human. Of course, perhaps they see me as a freak and are laughing at my efforts to integrate. Either way, smiles are exchanged.


I wanted to post on this, b/c I've found that w/ very little work, Aspies can become better at this than are many NTs. We notice stuff that others don't, right? Don't most of us have a feel for systems, a natural curiosity about how things work? Technical things like office ventilation or clerical work-flow aren't boring to those surviving them.

In May, another expat asked to meet and "catch up." She's about as NT as they come, very pretty Daddy's Girl at 45. Turned out she'd screwed up her residency and work permits. She claimed she wanted to stay here more than anything, but started whining about the clerks at the immigration office refusing to speak English. When I asked her to try to understand =their= plight, that they're overworked and underpaid and have way too many foreigners expecting them to speak all kinds of different languages, she gave me a blank look.

She's been here two years, and it's not a difficult language. When I arrived, I started my paperwork speaking garble, but at least it wasn't English. The clerks really honored my efforts, outlined the process for me, and waived requirements for sworn translations of documents.

This pretty NT had alienated them right at the beginning, by not caring that they were human. Look, there is NO AIR CONDITIONING in those offices and they're right under a tiled roof. The hallway gets a good breeze, b/c they open all those windows, but the offices themselves are sweltering and the doors are mostly shut so there's no cross-ventilation. Would One. Tiny. Little. Question. about how the clerk was getting on have cost pretty NT that much? Not to mention an effort to speak the local language, or to get them talking about their work at the intersection of their country and the rest of the world. One of the clerks never met her father, who was a soldier from _my_ country.

I hadn't known where Pretty NT lived, but a few weeks ago I went with some people to one person's apartment to watch a video. One guy was looking for a place, and they were talking about the apartment upstairs becoming vacant. Pretty NT's name was on the bell. Maybe she met Sugar Daddy and is moving into his villa on the river; or maybe things didn't work out at the immigration office.


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Douglas_MacNeill
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30 Jul 2008, 10:04 am

roygerdodger wrote:
I hear it mentioned a lot of this site.


Some examples:

"I notice from your profile that you live in North Carolina.
How far would you live be from, say, Raleigh?"

"How has work been for you lately?"

(The kind of questions you ask when you don't know
that much about the person you're talking to...or do you still
enforce the rule about prepositions requiring a following object
and say "the person with whom you are talking"?)



patternist
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30 Jul 2008, 10:14 am

Quote:
I wanted to post on this, b/c I've found that w/ very little work, Aspies can become better at this than are many NTs. We notice stuff that others don't, right? Don't most of us have a feel for systems, a natural curiosity about how things work?


I couldn't agree more. We manage to come up with some very interesting things to say, sometimes, if people "get" us.


and

Quote:
The main character in Anne Fine's novel Telling Liddy says that her family has "conversational ponies," topics they trot out and parade around in every conversation. Lawn care was one of their favorites. My parents communicate this way;


Yes! Thank you for making this point and bringing up this metaphor! This is something about people that has always puzzled me and bothered me on a subliminal level. I don't do this. Other people do. I don't have a word for it. I haven't bothered to analyze it yet. Now I will be watching people to identify these "conversational ponies" and will no longer feel inferior (yeah, I feel inferior when people do something I don't, I guess it's a default I constantly have to work to correct) when they do it.



Ashley1984
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30 Jul 2008, 10:24 am

Small talk dos not always make sense to me!

I mean, I understand what it is and why other people find it nice to use, but I hate having this type of conversation with people! Sometimes I wonder what the point to the conversation is, but there is no point. They just talk...

I find it hard to just talk to people without having anything interesting or important to discuss.



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30 Jul 2008, 10:44 am

patternist wrote:
identify these "conversational ponies"


Hey, thanks for the thanks.

Another thing I've found is that once I've identified one or more of someone's "conversational ponies," it becomes easy to get them talking. There really are cases in which one needs to provide a space for the other person (say, someone in a position of power) to have a good feeling and feel heard. Directing the pony show can come across as empathic in the right setting.




Ashley1984 wrote:
wonder what the point to the conversation is, but there is no point. They just talk...

I find it hard to just talk to people without having anything interesting or important to discuss.


Well ... the tough thing for me is figuring out what the point is. There's almost always a point, it's just not clear from the content. Even pony-only people are probably trying to connect, right? They just take turns talking about their lawnmower or pedicures or whatever. Maybe that's all they have for connecting.

Or I'm the one fervently deluding myself into believing everything must have a point ...


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patternist
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30 Jul 2008, 10:51 am

I don't usually have a difficult time figuring out a point. A lot of it is is "see, I was right!" and "I'm smarter than you" and "haha look how clever I am!" disguised as factual information. Sometimes, though, I do think I miss the point, thinking it's something else entirely. But I always find the need to assign a point to something, so if there isn't one, I'll make one up.



MadAme
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30 Jul 2008, 11:23 am

"Conversational ponies," I love it. :D We all know people who have their pet topics like that. I know someone whose pony is the weather. Good or bad, she has to comment at length about weather conditions every day. But she's the first one to admit "I'm a fair-weather person." Wonder if she has that seasonal affective disorder?



Last edited by MadAme on 30 Jul 2008, 11:25 am, edited 1 time in total.

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30 Jul 2008, 11:25 am

roygerdodger wrote:
I hear it mentioned a lot of this site.


small talk is the crap that a load of people especially typically found in neurotypical population to be "Fun"

like

Hows the weather

hows today due

whats up

long line today huh

hows the day been going

did you see what was on tv last night

hey did you see that article in the paper

did you see gasoline cheap anywhere

i personally think small talk is a load of rubbish, if you cant have a real xconversation that please, TFSU


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MadAme
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30 Jul 2008, 11:29 am

My college classmates used to say to me, "You're too down-to-earth, you need to learn to make small talk!" Grrr.



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30 Jul 2008, 11:31 am

MadAme wrote:
My college classmates used to say to me, "You're too down-to-earth, you need to learn to make small talk!" Grrr.


No you dont!

Smalltalk is freaking worthless BS... its like if you dont have a good conversation to talk about then please dont talk and get on with life dont waste my time with your damn smalltalk. if i want to find out "how the weather is" i will go on my damn google page. if i want to find the cheapest gas i will go to gasbuddy.com and god for bid if i want to find out what was on the damn b00b tube last night I WILL LOOK ONLINE!! !


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30 Jul 2008, 11:36 am

I don't see a lot of difference between "small talk" & "white lies".
White lies are the statements that you'd make to spare someone else's feelings,
or get yourself out of a jam. The statements you make are essentially meaningless.

Small talk can be taken as a superficial effort at being polite, or simply passing the time
with a relative stranger. I prefer to get direct to the point in dealing with others, but in Rome you speak Italian. In Berlin, you drink beer. And in Seoul, you go through an hour of small talk before it's polite to talk business.


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