We like to hate on small talk a lot because it’s seemingly meaningless. Maybe it is, or maybe we aren’t looking at it correctly. Really, behind every cliche question is a subtle but effective intention to connect with each other.
How have you been doing?
Are you in pain? Do you get excited to wake up in the morning? Where does it hurt? Why does it hurt?
Are you dating anyone?
Do you go to bed lonely? Do you fall asleep wondering if there is something you could change, add, delete, twist, that would somehow make you more lovable and less lonely? Have you been sleeping next to someone that makes you believe in new possibilities? Have you given up on love?
How is work going?
Are you fulfilled? Do you feel like your life has a purpose? Do you feel like you have a purpose?
I’m not advocating for us to completely replace small talk with the Real Questions. I do think that we can find unparalleled beauty in even the most ordinary and common ways of communication. Because really at the end of the day, we are all just trying to be okay. We just want to feel a part of something larger. Or, maybe some days we want to let ourselves feel as small as possible. The point is, no one will ever stop asking these questions. Isn’t that something a little special? I know we think these are just words to fill conversational voids, but there has to be a part of us that genuinely wants to know.
I want to know where and why my friends are hurting. I want to know where they’ve healed and what they’re looking forward to. I want to know if they feel as happy and loved as they deserve to. I want to know that the inevitable pain of this life isn’t completely crushing their spirit, as it so often can. I want to hear about what this complete stranger does for a living and whether or not it interests them or merely pays the bills. I want to know what they would do with their time if they didn’t have these bills to pay. I want to give them a seemingly empty compliment on whatever they’re wearing just so they can tell me where they bought it, or how long they’ve had it, or who gifted it to them.
I want to try to gauge just how much life is beating them at this very moment, which you can sometimes tell from such a simple question.
The only thing I don’t want is to hear that everything is fine. In a universe as large and vast as this one, where it’s a mere miracle to be alive each day, I don’t want us to take it for granted. When we say things are fine we are unintentionally locking down the joys of simple initial connection by being lazy. This life is everything but fine and small talk is really anything but small.