Small Talk…


Call it a vice… or a passion… sometimes my burden.

But on any given day there will be two or three occasions that I just have to STOP EVERYTHING and READ SOMETHING… ANYTHING!

Maybe ten minutes… maybe half an hour… until I receive some insight or nugget of value.

I know, it’s weird… but I’ve learned a lot of stuff this way.

Thankfully, there’s plenty from which to choose. We have hundreds… even thousands… of books in our home, on virtually any conceivable subject.

And that’s after downsizing last Fall and spreading a sizable collection spanning a number of carloads between two county libraries and the Cultural Heritage Department with our neighbors in the Oneida Nation Tribal Community.

But alas, I digress… back to my story.


Often when this feeling hits, I pick up the closest thing I can get my hands on… open it to anywhere… and read until, well… until I’m done.

Which, by the way, usually results in my daughter reminding me that books are meant to be read from the beginning… not from the middle or the end… but there I go digressing again.

So a few minutes ago I found myself on page 114 of Malcolm Gladwell’s National Bestseller, Blink… a tremendous book I read in its entirety about three or four years ago.

On that page, he describes the rules that govern Improvisational Comedy… the most important of which is that the movement of the conversation isn’t stopped by the other party shooting an idea down or taking an adversarial stance.

In other words, whatever is offered by one party… no matter how silly or ridiculous it may seem… is simply accepted by the other party and then used as the next building block to keep the conversation going.

One step leads to another.

And this concept reminded me of a conversation I had… or should I say that I didn’t have… with an acquaintance a few days ago.


You see, it turns out that being a contrarian has its place… but using it as a form of communication in each and every circumstance isn’t likely one of them.

I’m not saying that we can’t disagree… or even that we can’t agree to disagree… but this conversation seemed negative just for the purpose of being negative.

It also came on the heels of this individual’s comment that he didn’t feel he was very successful at getting his points across because he felt that others argued with him a lot.

Hmm, I wondered… who is really arguing with whom?

So just to test a thought, I changed the subject and asked, “Did you see the game on Saturday night?”

The Green Bay Packers had just destroyed the top-seeded Atlanta Falcons and the entire community seemed to be riding the wave. In fact, the upcoming game against the rival Chicago Bears is the talk of much of the national sporting press, not to mention being fairly dominant in this city.

His response…

“I think the hype is ridiculous…”
“I don’t get it at all…”
“Never have… never will…”
“I don’t even want to talk about that…”
“I gotta go.”

And suddenly… true to his word, he was gone.


In reading Mr. Gladwell’s words tonight, it suddenly dawned on me that breaking the flow of conversation not only brings Improv to a screeching halt… it also tends to have a similar effect as we make small talk and look for commonality to build other relationships as well.

Hmm… I thought, whether one likes football or not (or for that matter, any other subject), how difficult would it be to simply acknowledge another person’s interest and let the conversation run its course?

You know, just accept the comment, use it as a building block… and move on.

Think how differently the conversation might have gone…

Me: “Did you see the game on Saturday night?”
Him: “No, but I heard it was REALLY something…”



Oh… and (GO PACK)


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