Apr 23, 2006

Small Talk

It happens to me all of the time:

At church: "Everybody stand up and greet one another. Please pay special attention to someone new."

"Hi, I'm Adam."
"Hello, I'm ______."
Frozen smiles.
This other person wanders off.

Ugh. I'm supposed to say something there, but what!

I'm supposed to fill that pause with words that make that person feel welcomed and significant. It would save time just to say that, but in the neurotypical world, you aren't allowed to use accurate speach.

Maybe I should learn from the other neurotypical brains around me about how they make small talk. Here are some of the nutty things they say:

"So, how are you doing?"
I used to answer that question in sufficient detail so as to provide an accurate assessment of my condition. Since they didn't make a specific request (e.g. Hi, how is your financial condition, how is your health, etc), my answer might need to be quite long. I finally learned that I'm supposed to say, "Fine and you?" Then the other person says, "Fine, thanks" or "Fine" or on occassion people will respond with "Fine and you?", but don't wait for me to answer a second time.

Does that make any sense to you? It would make just as much sense for people to great each other this way:
"Blah, blah"
"Blah, blah, blah"
"I acknowledge your presence. It is pleasant."
"I also acknowledge yours. It is also pleasant."
"Confirmed. Greeting complete. Do you wish further conversation? Please choose a topic."

Wouldn't that be cool! No one would have to guess what they are supposed to say, and you might get to learn about some really interesting things instead of:

"Hey were yah from!"
"So, what do you think of this weather!"
"Warm enough for yah?"

If I'm outside, does it really matter if it is warm enough for me? And what will the speaker do if I say no? Does the average man or woman on the street have any ability to raise or lower the outside air temperature?

"NO! It's not warm enough for me, and I'm sure angry about it! This your fault?"

How about this one: "So, what do you do?"

I notice that a lot of these banal questions start out with with word "so". That's a neurotypical way of saying, "I am beginning to speak to you." If I walked up to you and said, "Now commencing chit chat." You would wonder what nut house I escaped from, but you sure wouldn't be confused about my intentions!

"So, what do you do?"

Well, periodically throughout the day, I eat meals, make numerous trips to the men's room, I change my clothes, pray, read the Bible, think mean thoughts about people who ask . . . stop me when I get to what you were looking for."

I better stop ranting, I'm starting to get out of control.

One other thing, it's hard for me to be in group social situations when many of the people in the room are quiet types. We all sit and it is quiet. (now picture rain man rocking back and forth and speaking). It's a social situation, you are definitely, definitely supposed to be talking to each other.

They sit. Quiet. Fear strikes, I may have to start the conversation. What should I do!

I know what to do, "So, how about that weather! Warm enough for yah?"



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