Let’s Chat

This week’s column: Chatty Cathy May Have Been Onto Something

So many of us distain small talk and dismiss it as inconsequential. Chit chat. An exchange of weather reports. Little more than a passing “How are you” –“Fine” conversation. Googling the term “small talk” fares no better. One definition deems it “polite conversation about unimportant or uncontroversial matters”; another calls it “an informal discourse that does not cover any functional topics” and scoffs that it is merely “conversation for its own sake.” Ellen DeGeneres says that she hates “having to do small talk. I’d rather talk about deep subjects…..meditation, or the world, or the trees or animals, than small inane…banter.”

I disagree with Ellen whose career, let’s face it, is in part based on inane banter. Since when did we all become so “deep” that we cannot exchange a pleasantry or two? Meditation, the world, trees and animals can wait. The first thing out of my mouth in a social situation is not going to be something earth shatteringly important or environmentally relevant. Small talk gauges your audience so that you can decide whether keeping up a conversation is worthwhile or should end with a smile and wave goodbye. It is a way in, or as Georgetown Professor Deborah Tannen says: “Small talk is meant to be small. It gets you on friendly ground, and it’s a foundation for when you have something more to say.”

Tannen is quoted in an article by Gloria M. Wong called “I Made Chitchat Meaningful Again”. Wong says that scientists who have studied small talk conclude that it is “like birds touching beaks, we use it to reassure each other that we’re pals.” Wong believes that small talk leads to “big talk” or disclosing something that teeters on the border of TMI (too much information), but does not actually go there. She tells a tale of sharing something with an acquaintance that was slightly revealing which led to the acquaintance then sharing a little about herself. My argument is that this connection could not have been made without the requisite small talk first. Small talk broke the ice.

This topic came to my attention last week. My sister called me and said: “I have a topic for you to write about.” She then told me that someone had accused her of “being good at small talk”, and she was not sure whether this was a compliment or not. She felt like the statement was not an accolade but a (not very well) veiled criticism. We talked for a bit about the topic and came to the conclusion that being good at small talk leads to talking about the bigger things, or the deeper things as Ellen likes to call them. Small talk, when done correctly, makes the other person feel that you are interested. It goes beyond the quick “How are you doing?” as you continue walking and not waiting for an answer.

So many people dismiss small talk and my theory is that they just do not take the time to do it well. I find it difficult at times, but once I realized that I like it when someone takes an interest in me I have tried to cultivate it. Small talk is sharing your time and interest with someone. It is a building block for conversation and a way to make a connection. And what friendship has not begun with small talk?

Actress Courtney Cox declares that she is not good at “small talk”. I have seen her interviewed and if an interview (Hollywood style) is not small talk, then I do not know what is. Small talk is a window into a conversation; it opens the door.

imageLiterary agent, Andrew Wylie declares: “I don’t do Twitter or blog. I’m bad at small talk, and don’t have good chat. Talk to me about publishing, and I can go on for hours.” Not to put too fine point on it, but Andrew, conversation is about give and take—I am not all that interested in you going on and on about one subject without ever asking a question, or being curious about the person you are talking to.

Small talk is a social grace. Many a meal has been spoiled by those who insist on getting their voices heard, their opinions opined, and even their rants pronounced before dessert. I say wait until dessert is over, and then delve into the deeper subjects while doing the dishes.

Advertisements
Published in: on February 3, 2015 at 2:29 pm  Comments (24)  
Tags: , , , , , , ,

No “Woe Is Me”

 

I have lost a lot of my readership but what I have left are those who are closest and dearest and mean the most. Some bloggers have gone by the wayside, some are on sabbatical, some are tired, a few are dealing with events beyond their control, some are ill, others have dropped me as I am no longer a faithful reader of their blog, and a few have returned full of vim and vigour. Such is the cyclical nature of the blog world. I am a small fish in a big world, but I am a happy small fish—and grateful for the true friendships I have made in this my alternate but very important world.

We often hear of the “next dimension”. I believe that bloggers who form friendships through their blog posts are members of this dimension. We form a community, and by careful weeding and nurturing, the community we form is one of our own creation. My blog world consists of those who are not too critical (a little critical is okay), warm and loving and supportive.  Many of us share deep bonds that are not so fragile that they can be broken by a little time away.

I also have some friends and family who follow me and do not have blogs—and I want to thank you along with my blogging friends. Thank you for taking a little time out of your day to read my postings.

I guess this is a Thank You Blog – I would never have imagined that a world that is at my fingertips would be so fulfilling. I have friends from all over the world that I would never have met without this. And one more time—I would like to thank my niece Chay who inspired me to blog—and even set me up on WordPress, lo those three or so years ago. And my sister Peg who has been with me since the beginning, and my brother John who I know reads me even if he does not comment much, and Krista …..okay this is not an Oscar speech so I cannot possibly thank all of you by name—but you know who you are.

Has your blog audience changed?

Good-bye Johnny V

Playing guitar

Playing guitar (Photo credit: hugochisholm)

“Writing is a way to fathom what we have lost, to make sense out of what makes no sense….I don’t believe everything happens for a reason, but I have faith in our ability to retrieve from loss something valuable to keep, or to give away.” ~ Abigail Thomas, Thinking About Memoir

A friend once said to me that life is one loss after another. She had just lost someone close to her, and was in a melancholy mood. But she was right. We lose our parents. We lose our friends. We lose our relatives. And sometimes in that loss, we temporarily lose ourselves.

A family friend just passed away suddenly. A friend who is my age. It was a shock. And though I knew him as a polite and talented man, he was a mentor to my eldest son, and someone whom my husband admired greatly. He came into their lives by chance, but he made both of their lives better for having known him.

I watch the way they both cope, and they cope in different ways. My husband copes by “doing something”—by taking food over to the brand new widow, who is still in shock and deep grief. He handles things “head on” when it comes to loss. My son though, is having trouble dealing with the loss—he cannot face seeing the widow, as his grief is too fresh, too on the surface and he feels he would be no comfort to her until he comes to some understanding of his loss.

My son is a musician. His mentor was a musician, renown across Canada. He gave my son lessons, not only in guitar, but life. He was also my husband’s friend, a man with strong opinions and beliefs—both things my husband admires. He was a renaissance man of sorts, music was his main game, but he liked to cook and bake, and spread his good cheer to his friends.

As I mentioned, I did not know him well, but I knew him enough to grieve his passing, to feel the loss that my husband and son feel. And to grasp life as I did not before. This message is sent again and again—life can be taken away from us in less time than it takes to blink. Need I say we should not take it for granted? (And how do we remember that in times when we are not feeling loss?)

On the weekend, we will celebrate this man’s life and music. Celebrate not mourn. That is all part of the journey. I have my own rather simplistic view that death is not the end, that it is a new beginning—but I recognize that it is a loss nonetheless

And what do we keep? We keep him in our hearts and our minds. We remember. There is no bliss in loss until we can come to grips with  it. Then the bliss is realizing that we had the gift of knowing the person, and appreciating what we received uniquely from them.

Prima

You’ve Got A Friend in Me

Friends

Friends (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A few thoughts on friendship:

“Each friend represents a world in us, a world not possibly born until they arrive.”  ~ Anais Nin

I am grateful to my friends for so many things, and without them my world would be one-dimensional.

I would never name all my friends for fear that I would leave someone important out—but you know who you are if you are reading this. And if you are not a friend yet, my heart is open. It is open because the friends that I have opened it.

I echo the sentiments of Cicero when he wrote:

“How can life be worth living, if devoid

Of the calm trust reposed by friend in friend?

What sweeter joy than in the kindred soul,

Where converse differs not from self-communion?”

Or more simply in the words of a Hallmark card:

“You paint my life brighter

And make my life lighter.”

I am inspired today by the book “Friendfluence” by Carlin Flora. The subtitle of her book is “The Surprising Ways Friends Make Us Who We Are”. I have just started reading her book and pulled the quotes in this post from it, but I am interested see what conclusions she comes to. I know that my friends have influenced me in what I read, how I write,  and what recipes I try. I have friends who encourage me to exercise, friends I laugh with, and friends who most importantly are there when I need them.

I sometime wonder how I have deserved such friends—I am humbled by their friendship and eternally grateful.

I used to think I could stand alone and face things by myself. I cannot—I need my posse of friends to keep me from falling off a path that is at times rocky. They smooth the way.

Today, my bliss is in the celebration of my friends. Could you survive without yours?

Published in: on March 28, 2013 at 10:28 am  Comments (29)  
Tags: , ,

Blueberry Bliss

List of U.S. state foods

List of U.S. state foods (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I can attest to the fact that this recipe is absolutely outstanding–a friend served it at a dinner party she and her husband hosted last week. Barbequed Steak (even though it was cold as cold can be, Dave braved the outdoors for us), baked potatoes, asparagus and this dressing on a baby spinach salad with roasted walnuts, dried cranberries, blueberries and red onion:

BLUEBERRY SALAD DRESSING
1 cup of blueberries
2/3 cup olive oil
2 tbsp water
2 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp salt
Put all of the ingredients in a blender and mix until smooth. Refridgerate until serving time. This recipe accents a spinach salad well. Use up dressing within a week.
By the way, I brought garlic butter buns–that was my safe contribution. And we were served a chocolate cake celebrating the upcoming birthdays of my husband and I. Within a month of each other we are turning the big 3~0 x 2.
English: Flowers round church door at St John ...

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But the big news of the night was that Debbie and Dave (our hosts) got married. They have been together for well over a quarter of a century and decided to take the plunge in a private ceremony. They broke the wonderful news to my husband and I, and our other good friends, Lee and Rhonda (who were married the same day a year later than we were) after they had celebrated our birthdays. Talk about humble hosts. I did not notice the flowers in the kitchen from their small but elegant wedding, nor the beautiful ring on her finger, (or Dave’s finger for that matter)–which makes me wonder: what kind of a reporter am I?

Anyway–it was a blissful night of food and friends.
Do you have some blissful moments shared with friends?
Published in: on March 16, 2013 at 12:32 pm  Comments (52)  
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,