Filling space | Mark’s Remarks

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I read books that are designed for middle school students because I want to see what they are reading and what I can recommend.  

I’m currently reading a story called “The Thing About Jellyfish” by Ali Benjamin. In it, I read something profound this week that I wanted to share.  It is about a topic I have written about several times: small talk.

I have always enjoyed talking. I come from a long line of talkers and we are the type of people that others might run from when they see us coming. We are the type of people that might be avoided from time to time because we talk too much and might hold someone captive with our jabbering.

I like talking about important things.  I like to hear good stories or interesting happenings.  Like anyone, I enjoy talking about myself far too much. It’s always a good thing if someone asks you about yourself or wants you to tell them something about yourself. Right?

In the book, a young girl who is barely a teenager makes the statement that “no one really wants you to tell what you are thinking.”

Her father, who sees her only once a week, asks her what she is thinking about.  She tells him about some research she is doing for a school project and proceeds to tell him all about the topic; something she is highly interested and possibly a little obsessed with.

Her father lets out an audible sigh. She, recognizing his response for what it is, decides he just wants to make small talk with her.

What follows are some, as I said, profound statements about small talk.  

Why is it called “small talk?”  It seems to fill up an enormous amount of time and space. Why is small talk considered more polite than being quiet and why are people labeled as “painfully shy” or even “backward” if they don’t talk much? The girl goes on to compare small talk to applause, stating that people applaud whether something is good or not.

Basically, she says small talk and applause are meaningless most of the time.

I don’t know that I agree fully with what this girl says. After all, small talk often leads to meaningful discussion. If someone honestly wants to know how you are doing and means it, I wouldn’t consider it small talk.  

But I also agree that some people can’t stand silence and will jabber on, repeat themselves, and indeed “fill up space” with talk just for the sake of not having silence. I say this from experience and also because I have something to admit:  I often tell the same stories and repeat things. I’m not sure if it’s age because I think I’ve been doing it for sometime now.

I know this because I will often stop and say “Have I already told you this?” Honest folks will say, “Yes.” I am relieved when they do.

I think one thing we often miss in life is complete silence. I’ve tried it a few times and I need to try it more. If you really, honestly stay quiet for a length of time, you may hear things you didn’t realize were there.  

In the book, the girl realizes how pointless it is to speak up and also realizes how observant she can be if she keeps quiet. It is a tad bit sad, actually. But I can understand her point somewhat.

I have realized that there are only a few folks I really want to have conversations with. My family and  friends. That’s about it. 

And at times, even some of them are a toss-up.

If you examine small talk, all the “Hi, how are you?” and the “I’m fine how was your weekend?” questions, you might decide to dig in a little deeper.  I’ve started saying things like “Are you doing OK?” or asking someone a specific question about something we talked about when we last saw each other. 

Maybe it comes from the fact I realized how irritating I can be when I am a small talk machine.  But that’s just me.

By the way, I really want to know how you are if I ask. I’ll be a good listener.

 “I’mfinehowwasyourweekend?” type questions, you might decide to dig in a little deeper.  I’ve started saying things like “Are you doing okay?”  or asking someone a specific question about something we talked about when we last saw each other.  Maybe it comes from the fact that I realized how irritating I can be when I am a small talk machine.  But that’s just me.

By the way, I really want to know how you are if I ask.  I’ll be a good listener.

 “I’mfinehowwasyourweekend?” type questions, you might decide to dig in a little deeper.  I’ve started saying things like “Are you doing okay?”  or asking someone a specific question about something we talked about when we last saw each other.  Maybe it comes from the fact that I realized how irritating I can be when I am a small talk machine.  But that’s just me.

By the way, I really want to know how you are if I ask.  I’ll be a good listener.

“I’mfinehowwasyourweekend?” type questions, you might decide to dig in a little deeper.  I’ve started saying things like “Are you doing okay?”  or asking someone a specific question about something we talked about when we last saw each other.  Maybe it comes from the fact that I realized how irritating I can be when I am a small talk machine.  But that’s just me.

By the way, I really want to know how you are if I ask.  I’ll be a good listener.

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