As a human race, there are a few things that are universally insufferable and generally regarded as no-nos. Lack of clean water. Murdering your siblings for money. Biting your nails in my ear. We have a Pavlovian response when we see, hear, or feel these things. We cringe in pain, and pray someone will relieve us of our misery. But at the top of the charts, surpassing all cultural boundaries and ideals? Small talk.
I’d honestly rather stick needles in my eyes than engage in small talk. But as an adult, I have to control my rage. I have to sit through the pain. I have to answer the hairdresser when he asks where I’m going on vacation. I have to smile through the agony when the cab driver asks if I’m going to visit my boyfriend. (Rub some salt in the wound, why don’t you?) It causes me a very real, very physical pain when I get sucked into small talk.
Now, you might be thinking: Tine Vogue is being dramatic. Small talk isn’t that bad. Well, you’re wrong. And if you don’t believe me, I challenge you to remember a time and place where you overheard a pair of strangers talking—maybe on a first date or when their mutual friend escapes to the bathroom (pure evil, btw). You know what I’m talking about. You can hear the awkward dread in their tones. You can see their eyes dart around, hoping someone will do something to save them. You can feel their panic rising, and you wish you could help open a black hole beneath them so the earth will swallow them, and they’ll never have to think of a proper response to: So crazy weather, right? Unless natural disaster Joaquin is a-brewin’, the weather is likely not crazy, and nobody—NOBODY—wants to talk about the goddamn weather.
So the idea of medium talk is to get past the surface-level b.s. that is small talk, and quickly. But how does one go from zero to is there a god? without immediately offending or creeping anyone out? Turns out, being a good conversationalist is a lot like being a good journalist: ask questions. Good ones. Don’t ask them where they live now—ask where they would live if it could be anywhere in the world. Don’t ask them what they watch on TV—ask what their least favorite show is. Feel awkward asking a question? Time to put on your big girl panties. The other person is going to feel negative-test-day relieved when you give them something—anything—to talk about.
This is both a relief and utterly upsetting to me. Because 1.) As a journalist, I have had all of the tools right there in my back pocket, and 2.) I have been ignoring them for the better part of my life. What I’m hearing is that even though I wasted 200K of my life on J-school, I could be making up for the pain by charming the pants off every person I talk to. But these guys have a point. I mean, if you were to ask me my least favorite singer, you bet your ass I’d be going IN on how much I hate Ariana Grande. Nothing binds people together quite like hating the same things.
Medium talk takes conversation to the next level—and that’s how you stand out. It’s how you go from being just a guy in the room, to being an intellectual. It’s how you go from eating lunch in your cube, to landing the invite to the local Pizza Hut buffet with the coworkers. It’s similar to when high school teachers said that asking questions made you seem interested, engaged, and intelligent. Navigating adulthood? Same. Warp your questions ever-so-slightly, and you’ll be able to shmooze with the best of ‘em. Yes or no questions? Amateur hour. Ask questions that require a thoughtful response. And if we ever run into each other, don’t you dare ask me about the goddamn weather..
[via NY Mag]
Image via Shutterstock