laurie helgoe introvert quote

Whether you call it chit-chat, banter or chatter, small talk has the same troubling effect on introverts.  It pushes us to the edges of a room.  It is the reason we are reluctant to meet new people.  It is one of those social pleasantries that is inherently unpleasant.

Small talk, you see, is an introvert’s kryptonite. Tweet this

Our distaste for small talk might cause some people to think we are socially inept or snobby. They imagine us turning our noses up at something that goes to the core of our culture.  They assume that we don’t like chit-chat because we don’t like people.  In reality, the opposite is true.

Introverts recognize that small talk creates boundaries between people. Laurie Helgoe, author of Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength, explains our sentiments well:

“Let’s clear one thing up: Introverts do not hate small talk because we dislike people. We hate small talk because we hate the barrier it creates between people.”

Unfortunately, our culture has deemed small talk a social necessity. Wikepedia even went so far as to describe it as a “social lubricant”, which makes it sound a whole lot more fun than it actually is.

Small talk is meant to be light and fun. It flees from depth and meaning. Personal questions are considered inappropriate.  Likewise, any emotion besides happy or neutral is discouraged.  Consequently, authenticity dies on the vine.

The truth is that small talk allows two people to have an entire conversation without really getting to know each other.

Instead of being light and fun, the conversation is flat and boring.  It is like a game of chess where both players always know each other’s next move.  It is a predictable exchange with predictable results.

Sometimes small talk can provide a slippery surface to slide into deeper topics.   It can also help us network, make new friends and make a good first impression.

For introverts, it is one of those annoying hurdles we must cross to get to the good stuff.  We indulge in it hoping that we will meet someone who hates this formality as much as we do.

We wait for that brave soul who asks inappropriate questions and laughs at all the wrong times. We cling to the hope that our path will collide with someone who is unapologetically authentic. We are ever in search of people who crave depth over breadth.

More than anything, we hope that just beyond the barrier of superficial banter we will find true connection.

We know we’ll have to endure some small talk to get what we want.  But don’t expect us to like it.


michaela chung