Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Small talk

I've always found small talk challenging. Talking about anything other than technical or academic subjects is hard. I think I've just figured out small talk, though. The primary aim of small talk is not the communication of propositions. Rather, small talk for humans is like grooming for less verbal primates.

10 comments:

TP said...

Alex,

The next time we meet up, if the philosophical and theological conversation flags at any point, feel free to pick crumbs out of my beard rather than small talk. ;)
Tim

John Farrell said...

If you ever come to Boston, Alex, we'll cure you. The Irish call it craic. But it's not small.

:)

Alexander R Pruss said...

:-)

By the way, I didn't actually intend the last sentence of my post to belittle small talk. Quite the opposite. Grooming is of great social importance in the non-verbal primate species, and now that I see the analogy, I can see that small talk could be of equal social importance in our species.

Jarrett said...

I had a teacher in my high school days and he would always say there's three things you don't talk about in mixed company, "Sex, politics, and religion." (It's no wonder people get feisty about abortion, since it can cover all three areas). That leaves us with weather and sports. However, anyone that lives in the south will tell you sports is a religion down here. Now, that just leaves us with the weather.

So... how's the weather? Down here it's hot with a lot of humidity. :)-

Alexander R Pruss said...

We had an enormous rainstorm last night. Today it's pretty cool (89F at 3:43 pm) but looks wet.

ursula said...

Of course there is much more to small talk than just small talk. The exchange of propositions doesn't happen in the words, it happens in the body language. Next time you experience small talk, check their physical demeanor and then see what they are really telling you.

Skeptical said...

It looks like you are conversationally implying that all of your talk is academic, technical, or small. Please cancel!

Alexander R Pruss said...

I don't see the implicature. :-) The only implicature I see is that small talk is neither technical nor academic. On reflection, I don't know that that is true.

But one of these days I'd like to get a T-shirt that says "All implicatures are canceled." Then I can go around telling people that it has not been proved beyond reasonable doubt that X has committed plagiarism, that I saw a big omnivore on the loose at the APA, etc.

D. A. Armstrong said...

Being naturally introverted, I had to learn the skills to maintain small talk amidst people I really didn't care to know. I learned one thing that works for almost any male and quite a number of females. Ask about the persons work? Not just how it is, but what is it, what makes it challenge, why did they chose that job, etc. I try to follow with technical questions and learn something along the way. This is much more intellectually stimulating than say the weather, sports or the news. I walk away finding something interesting and learn new things. They walk away feeling like I really care about them. Little did they know, I just didn't want to talk about the next American Idol is or which celebrity got divorced.

Dennis Whitcomb said...

Here's a link to memoirs of an acquaintance of mine. She is an anthropologist, diagnosed with Asperger's, and taught herself about human interaction by observing gorillas:

http://www.amazon.com/Songs-Gorilla-Nation-Journey-Through/dp/1400050588