I Hate Small Talk

What is the bane of existing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Seriously. I hate small talk. I want nothing to do with it.

I have some friends who are a husband and wife and both of them are on the spectrum. When we call one another, it’s because one of us has a problem and wants the other’s help. Thus, we call and we immediately jump straight to whatever the situation is. There’s no “How are you?” or anything like that. Now if the other is struggling with something, we might message later on Facebook asking how they’re holding up knowing what the situation is, but it’s never said in the area of small talk.

You know what so many of us hate about it? It’s fake. People say things and they don’t mean it. “How are you?” I have had people say that to me and keep just walking on by. It tells me they don’t really care. Besides, on a bad day for me, I doubt anyone would want to hear me talk about what I am dealing with that day.

I have a therapist here and in discussing the matter with him, something we came to the conclusion of is with me, I replace small talk with humor. When people come to the Post Office, I try to make them laugh. You all probably don’t know what a joy it is when people come and I’m talking with them and I can tell they’re genuinely laughing at my antics.

When a customer comes in who doesn’t know me and tries to engage in small talk, I tend more to freeze than anything else. I have no idea what to say. Sometimes I even have a hard time verbalizing a hi. Again, this can get people to think you’re rude, which is a sad aspect of the way it works.

Getting back to the fakeness of small talk, that’s what makes it so difficult. In my world, I keep looking around to find people who are real. There is a sort of loyalty level I have with people and I give them trust based on how I see them on that level. There are some areas I don’t trust some people with and some areas I do trust other people with.

That depends in part on how real people can be. If you ask me how I’m doing and you don’t really care, it is really saddening. That’s also because like anyone else, we do want people who really do care about us. One of the best ways to do that is not to try small talk, but real talk. Find out what really interests us. Ask us questions that aren’t generalities but can definitively be answered.

For me, I want to talk about subject matter and if I go to someone and I’m just trying to talk about that and not using humor even, that could indicate a different sort of relationship. Like all people, I have aspects of my personality that not even I understand in how I relate to people. Yet of all those ways, small talk is not one of them.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Autism Awareness Small Talk

What makes conversation so difficult? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

One of the rules you notice of social etiquette is everyone is supposed to engage in conversation about nothing in particular, such as talking about weather or things of that sort. In essence, you are supposed to talk about things you don’t care about just to make conversation. For someone on the spectrum, this is something that I can’t stand.

Remember Joe Friday? One of the statements he was famous for was “Just the facts.” That’s the way I find I think on the spectrum. I just want to discuss the subject data. Time is valuable and I want to use it the best I can in conversation. Having small talk is just often seen as entirely fake.

If anything, on the spectrum, it will leave me suspicious of you. Why are you asking all these personal questions? What are you trying to find out? You really become much more of a threat to me when you engage in small talk as I don’t know where you’re going. If you engage in real conversation about real matters, I know what we’re talking about and that’s fine.

Small talk is something that to someone like myself serves no real purpose. It’s really a show. Now there could be some exception if I meet someone who I already know well and we can just chit-chat, but if I don’t know you, it’s something that does produce anxiety.

This also applies to Facebook and I know others not on the spectrum who have the same kind of rule. If I accept your friend request and you immediately message me with a lot of small talk, do not expect me to engage with you. I need to know who you are and what you are messaging me about before I will respond to you.

The best way to talk to someone on the spectrum usually is to find out what they’re interested in and talk about that. It might take talking to someone outside of them to find out, like a friend or family member, but if you find out that person will likely be more open to talking to you. If you come up to us engaging in small talk, it’s like you’re prying us for information and we don’t know where you’re going with it.

Along those lines, I do have plans to write something about how we approach our interests as well. That’s another important aspect to keep in mind when talking to someone on the spectrum. Keep in mind also, we don’t care for fake people. If you’re not really interested, don’t act like you are.

So the tip for today? Avoid small talk. Just get to the point of the conversation. I don’t even like to have small talk with my own family. It’s even worse with a stranger.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)
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