Ever wonder what life would be like if people just decided to stop talking to each other, about anything? It would appear that the world around us is changing in a way that offers both expansion and limitations in our communication styles. It seems that words are less spoken then typed.
I’m not just referring to cellphone use. I understand that technology has a huge impact on how communication has morphed into brief text and emoji symbols, but something else is happening.
I remember when neighbors talked to each other. As a kid, neighbors would say “Hi” and “How are you?” Although brief, these forms of communications seem to give more of something to connectiveness and relationships. Maybe it’s just me, but this type of small talk seems to be disappearing.
What do we say the first time we meet someone, to build a relationship? What does our body language convey? Think of the initial conversations you have experienced when you first meet someone.
If you are starting a new job, it is likely that the person who hired you asked some questions about you and your skillset. If you are meeting someone at a community function you might talk about the weather or the activities at the event. If you are greeting a neighbor or being greeted, you might discuss the neighborhood.
If you think of human beings as a network of connections working together to create societies and ideas for progress and improving the world around us, then communication is how the information is transported and spread.
Communication is also how relationships start, grow and are strengthened. Communication is also an essential element that can help us with belonging, building meaning and being part of something bigger then ourselves.
And if a relationship starts with communication, it is also possible that a relationship could end with poor communication or a lack thereof. So where is the start of that relationship? I believe that it begins with small talk and can be maintained and strengthened by continued healthy communication.
The other half of small talk, or most communication, is listening. It is so easy these days to become distracted in so many ways from so many directions which, in turn, can negatively impact listening skills.
Sometimes it may feel that the other person, or you, are “too busy” to sit and listen to the other human being. Listening requires actions that include things like attention, body language, reflecting, clarifying, summarizing and limiting distractions.
These skills can help us to engage and be grounded in the moment with another human being and enrich the human experience.
I can’t imagine a world without small talk and healthy communication. I know these have had, and continue to have, a big impact in my personal life with my family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, clients, and people in the community.
I know that these tools can help others to create and maintain relationships that are healthy, long lasting and genuine.
My hope is that we will find the time to talk to one another, to improve our human condition with the skills we have been using for so long and not let them fade behind the things that distract in the busy world that surrounds us.
Daniel Park with Health West Inc. is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), native to Idaho, and has worked in mental health for over 10 years. He got his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Boise State University.