The Lost of Art of Real Conversation |

I am no longer capable of small talk.

If I’m greeting one of the dads at my son’s school or a new colleague at work, I can’t just say, “Nice day, isn't it?” and leave it at that.

If a person comes to my door trying to sell electricity or solar panels or their particular version of God, I can’t talk about the weather or how I’m doing today. It's superficial and meaningless, and I’m not especially interested in how they’re doing, either.

Also, when did people stop saying “hi” or “good morning?”

Nowadays it’s always, “How are you?” Actually, if you're one of the mothers at school drop-off, it's more like, “How are yoooooooou?”

Sometimes I like to mess with people a bit. Here’s what I do at the supermarket.

Them: “How are you?”

Me: “Terrible. You?”

Them: “Good, thanks.” Fake smile.

It’s not that I am terrible; it’s just that I can’t be bothered answering honestly. They don’t actually care how I am, anyway. I know this because I’ve sometimes answered, “My mother just died,” and there’s been no reaction. I guess they don’t really listen for the answer.

Perhaps I’m just a grumpy old prick; I don’t know. But I figure this life is short, and if I’m going to engage with someone, I want to learn something. Anything. Otherwise, a simple “Hello” will suffice.

You see I’m fascinated that we’re all on this little planet at the same time in history, experiencing the wonder of life together. So I figure if we’re going to chat for more than a couple of minutes, rather than waste each other’s time with small talk, I’d rather learn what you’re doing, what you’re into; what you care about.

I know there’s not much time for this when the postie drops a parcel at my door, but still, I’d prefer to ask what it’s like being a postie when it’s been pissing rain all day than say, “It’s a bit cold, huh?”

Today, I was reading an interview with General Motors’ VP of Global Design, Mike Simcoe. He said he doesn’t want his staff high-fiving each other just for doing their jobs. When they say something, he wants it to mean something.

I agree with Mike. Meaningless, time wasting, small talk bores the sh*t out of me.

Think about it. When was the last time you had a great conversation with someone? How long has it been since you walked away from a discussion where you each shared something of value; where you truly connected?

Without the aid of alcohol…

When I was a kid, my dad and I used to talk for hours. We still do. My mum and I do the same on a regular basis. And my wife and I love to talk about all kinds of things – philosophy, politics, business, our son’s progress, and our families.

I’m going to be fifty next year, and I’m shocked by how fast the last ten have ticked over. Has it been a whole decade since I welcomed my fortieth?

If you take away the first twenty years where you’re clueless about everything, and the last ten when you’re back in nappies and wiping the drool from your chin, life really is short.

What are you doing today to make your life more interesting or more meaningful? What sorts of conversations are you having? What are you learning? Most importantly, how deeply are you connecting with the other temporary residents of this planet?

About a month ago, I chatted with a complete stranger for almost an hour.

Tom Schwab - Interview Valet | Midlife Tribe

Tom Schwab of Interview Valet

Tom Schwab lives on the other side of the planet, and though this was our first ever conversation, it never felt awkward or forced. And afterwards, I was so energised by it I couldn’t sleep. It was genuinely wonderful.

As Tom said, “Connections are currency.”

Last week, we chatted again, only this time, I recorded it for the Midlife Mastery podcast. Again, we spoke for almost an hour, and again, we loved every minute of it.

The crazy thing is, about a month ago neither of us knew the other existed.

Our conversation motivated me so much that I’ve decided I’m going to chat to more strangers – not about the weather, but interesting stuff, just like Tom and I did.

And I’ll go one step further and say that ‘connections are oxygen’. They lift the spirit, and they bring energy and life to an otherwise mundane existence.

They mean the difference between all of us co-existing versus co-experiencing.

So if you’re an electricity rep in Greenvale and you happen to read this, don’t be alarmed when you knock on my door and the first words out of my mouth are, “Hey Jake from RipUEnergy, how many mistakes did you make in your life to wind up flogging electricity door-to-door?” I just want to get to know you better.

Conversations are the difference between us co-existing versus co-experiencing. Click To Tweet


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Showing 2 comments
  • Andrew L. Hicks

    Connections are like oxygen. Love it.

    I’ve recently been studying a theory that the cure for addiction is connection. I think that’s true. Addiction creates a vacuum-sealed alternate world of isolation, and is often caused to begin with by lack of connection or broken connections.

    To connect is to breathe fresh air into the void, and fill it with color and potentiality.

    Great post, Peter. As an aside, two other events happened in a short, quick sequence as I first read this post last night. The first was, that I received a personal email from you almost simultaneously to reading this. Just a few seconds before, a friend I were discussing our contempt for small-talk. I smiled from ear-to-ear when I then opened up to this post and saw the words, “I am no longer capable of small talk.”

    Synchronization from across the sea.

    • Peter Fritz

      Ah yes, we’re definitely connected in some cosmic fashion, you and I.

      I agree with your assessment of addiction and its polar opposite – connection. Working from home, it’s easy to become isolated, yet ironically, operating online allows us to connect with total strangers right around the world. It’s pretty bloody cool.

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