Now, I’m not one to brag, but I have to say—I’m pretty good at small talk. Coming from the good ol‘ state of Texas, I’ve been able to perfect the art of chatting to anyone about anything. It’s not the easiest (or most enjoyable) thing in the world, but it’s a skill I’ve been refining more and more since coming to college.
But you see, that’s all it is—it’s just “small” talk. This petite discourse is fine and dandy in a modicum amount, but the issue arises when there is a stunt in its growth—when those words never breach the surface.
Abroad in Italy as part of a Boston College program with 28 other students, there was a lot of small talk, especially in the beginning. That’s natural enough, though—necessary to discover similar interests, backgrounds, etc. With a number of people, however, I’ve struggled to expand this talk. I’ve caught myself a number of times being too comfortable with shallow discourse concerning last night’s adventures, tomorrow’s plans, etc. Although the talk is small, it can still wear you out. I believe it to be human nature to seek connection, to seek true friendship, and this is not possible when the subject matter constantly circles around how much a person drank last night, which individuals are “hot”—you get my point.
I’ve already had a lot of time to reflect on my study abroad experience. I’m not sure if it’s the language barrier or simply the different cultures, but small talk doesn’t seem to exist among the Italian people. Living in a homestay, I have been able to experience the “authentic” Italian life, with an amazing mom and dad, two sisters, and two dogs. One of the most striking things about the Ferrari family was their warmth. I believe this goes for a lot of Italian people, but their passion and genuineness is truly inspiring. Quick kisses on each cheek were the introductory procedure. Not even liking hugs, I was surprised to discover how much I’ve grown to love this simple yet genuine greeting.
I wish this were acceptable in the states. I’m not saying that I want to go around kissing strangers, but I wish it were the norm to just put it all out in America. Riding my bike down the streets of Parma each day, it is simply the norm to see a couple making out on the side of the road. Although everyone’s prudish and conservative side might incline them to turn away from the blatant Public Displays of Affection, I’ve learned that you have to say “kudos to y’all.” Life’s far too short to not show these feelings.
Our environment at BC and most places in the states says to hide the affection for privacy, to preserve a layer of fakeness when first meeting people—to stick to the small talk— but I say it’s about time to move on from this.
A Forbes article titled “11 Secrets of Irresistible People” lists “ditching the small talk” as the third most important quality. “Irresistible people create connection and find depth even in short, everyday conversations.”
This is a quality that I strive to have, but it’s definitely not an easy one. It’s hard to strike that balance between being able to be friendly and warm, while still being real. I think the Italians have it down. When they’re upset, happy, in love, they let it be known. They show it.
When we find ourselves too comfortable in surface talk—small talk—our brains switch into autopilot. Stagnation. If people talk a bit deeper, they’ll be amazed by what they find. I will strive to be more open and vulnerable in my conversations and actions when I return to BC, in the hopes that the person I’m talking with will be encouraged to do the same. Hopefully, if he or she adopts the same mentality, openness and ingenuity will spread across our campus. And, just a fair warning to all my friends back at BC: you might be getting a few kisses each time I see you.
Featured Image by Breck Wills / Heights Graphics