Debate of the Week: Do we need lessons in small talk?
THE NEWS: How do you gain the social know-how, cultural and linguistic skills to hold a good conversation?
Teenagers around the world are turning up to higher education and the world of work without the basic conversation and listening skills they need to succeed.
Professors say the simultaneous rise of tech and a global pandemic which forced young people indoors has created a generation of students who struggle to engage with others– especially those with different opinions. Do you agree? And if so, what can be done?
When Gillian Sandstrom was a graduate student in Toronto more than a decade ago, she encountered a stranger on the subway who was carrying a scrumptious-looking cupcake.
Sandstrom had long considered herself an introvert and found small talk uncomfortable and even embarrassing. But drool-worthy desserts can’t go unadmired, so she approached the woman. “By the end of the conversation, she taught me that people can ride ostriches,” she recalls. “That’s what conversations do sometimes—and I was hooked after that.”
The experience inspired Sandstrom, a senior lecturer in the psychology of kindness at the University of Sussex in England, to conduct some of the leading research on the benefits of casual interactions with strangers and acquaintances. These brief but pleasant exchanges can enhance health and happiness, lifting mood, energy, and overall well-being. They often promote learning, expand people’s world views, and contribute to a sense of belonging. Plus, they’re good for both parties: Sandstrom’s research indicates that people view “minimal social interactions” such as a smile, compliment, or quick chat as an act of kindness.
You can maximize these benefits by making a point to talk to a wide range of people, additional research suggests. Chatting with your colleagues, barista, Uber driver, and the person surveying the ice-cream aisle with you builds what’s called relational diversity, which is a unique predictor of well-being.
Despite the benefits, many of us hate small talk. We often assume that the people around us aren’t interested in talking or won’t like us—but research indicates that we tend to underestimate how much our conversation partners enjoy our company, a phenomenon called “the liking gap.”
“We all have this negative voice in our heads that tells us we’re not very good at this social stuff,” Sandstrom says. “But the data suggest that people actually like you more than you think they do.”
Do We Need Lessons In Small Talk?
With the pandemic and tech boom, lessons in small talk would only provide confidence. It can be a mood lifter and encourage open mindedness.
Some people prefer to be left alone. Maybe they might be going through a certain phase and chatty people would just ruin their outing. Not everyone is interested in everything around them.
Linguistic- language abilities, scrumptious- extremely tasty, introvert- a shy person, acquaintances- a person one knows slightly, underestimate- something to be smaller or less important than it really is, phenomenon- a remarkable person or thing.