As a divorce and family mediator, I am involved in multiple, deeply serious conversations every day.  Listening to my clients, and more importantly, helping them listen to each other, is critical to the success of each and every mediation.  

So, maybe I’m like the algebra teacher who doesn’t want to help with her kid’s math homework, but when I’m off-duty, I like to put the deep, emotional discussions on the back burner.  Chit-chat, the stuff you discuss with your barber, your hairdresser, or the person on the treadmill next to you, makes me happy.  I want to hear about Lily the cat, my friends’ travel plans, and my brother’s golf game.  I want to know who’s going to be the next person eliminated on “Survivor,” or whether Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce are engaged.  I also want to do some small talking myself, maybe about the new recipes I’ve tried, what I’m currently knitting, or yoga.

Some people think small talk is shallow.  I think it can be the start of something huge.  For example, for many years I made a point of going to the same checkout line at the grocery store because I liked the friendly cashier.  One day, she told me that she was starting a side business cleaning houses, and I hired her on the spot to clean for my elderly parents.  And though my parents are no longer alive, my friendship with her has thrived. 

Small talk has other benefits. Ask anyone who’s attended a networking group.  Before exchanging business cards and attempting to make sales, the networkers do a bit of a chit-chat dance.  Finding common ground and shared interests builds the “know, like, and trust” elements essential for entrepreneurs.  

Another benefit of small talk is the opportunity to improve our active listening skills.  Making eye contact shows the other person that you’re engaged in the conversation.  Asking open-ended questions (instead of the simple “yes” or “no”) and then listening to the responses in order to understand rather than to respond are conversational techniques that improve by practicing small talk. 

Engaging in small talk with co-workers, whether in the lunchroom or the parking lot, can spark future collaboration or improve creativity.  It can add a sense of belonging which usually results in a greater sense of happiness.  And don’t forget that office small talk may generate a spirit of positivity in the workplace, which is always beneficial.  

For those of us who experience occasional social anxiety, engaging in small talk can help.  A brief conversation with a stranger may be a baby step towards a greater social comfort level, especially if you remember to smile.     

Small talk, over time, will likely set a tone of trust with the other person, and that trust can allow the conversation to transition into more meaningful talks about deeper topics. 

My conclusion?   With all due respect to Charlamagne Tha God’s book, “Get Honest or Die Lying: Why Small Talk Sucks,” (which I haven’t read), I obviously disagree.