Recently I attended a birthday dinner party and as I sat a table surrounded by strangers I realized we were making small talk.
When I was growing up, I was taught the proper etiquette procedures and manners, including making “polite conversation” with people unknown. Having these skills meant I could mingle with society with an air of decorum.
I haven’t used these skills for many years, but here was an opportunity to dust them off.
Of course there were the introductions, brief descriptions of the person and their relationship for being at the table.
Side note: A good tip for these types of parties. Separate couples. This takes them out of a safe zone and intermingles with new people.
After deciding on drinks and food, we all settled into on “polite conversation”.
Topics of ease are always weather, dogs, books, movies…. all safe subjects.
I watched as people around the table discussed their lives to some who were familiar and others who did not know. I watched his or her eyes darting back and forth keeping contact with everyone to keep everyone involved.
Listening to the stories and the jokes, with polite smiles and laughter like everyone at the table had become close friends, I could hear my own voice speak short sentences. Usually answers to questions, but with a sharp response. No wasted words.
The small talk around my house is to the television or animals in the yard. I have a thought and say it out loud, only to hear myself say the words and wonder why.
During the dinner I did sway some of the conversations to thought provoking mini-discussions, but mostly behaved properly.
I didn’t even interrupt the descriptions of canning fruits, though I had done those years ago, but offered the recommendation of saving for Christmas presents.
At another occasion I heard a friend say that is was nice to sit with others and talk without being reserved to telling the truth.
To be politically correct in today's society, one must pause before speaking, rethinking the words about to leave the mouth.
Yet, friends can say the first thing that comes to their minds without fear of reprisal. Speaking openly and honestly seems to be a forgotten skill.
The small talk continued in a blissful light hearten manner. Since these people may never be visited again, I could have told lies and tall tales, but my etiquette training did not allow for such providence
The evening ended with cordial good byes. No one had been angered, or offended and the pleasantries of the dinner could be savored for future gossip.
Small talk brings strangers together, but what do they bring to the table?