Right now, as we speak…type? You read? That works, as you read (As long as it’s from 8am-11am Pacific time on February 14th) we are having an open house at work. We have brought all kinds of sweets and coffee in an attempt to lure people in to our bank and trick them in to opening accounts. Well, maybe not “trick” them per say, but “convince them”, bribe even. Everyone is making small talk and being cordial to each other and the whole situation seems a little silly to me. I get it, this is how you let people know your business is in the neighborhood, and who doesn’t love free donuts? Even so, this whole thing is a whirlwind of business cards, bank jargon and quotes like “Oh yes, check out our mortgage rates” or “We’re not like the other banks, we’re very much a boutique bank” that last one is my favorite. When I think of a boutique it’s a cute little clothing store with things I’ll never be able to afford, or a cutesy little jewelry and knick knack shop. Not a bank. Yet this is the most dropped line of the day.
This whole thing has me thinking of how ridiculous small talk is. I might just think that because I’ve never quite mastered the art of it. Even after working at coffee shops for four years, I am still pretty awful at having little uninvolved, robotic, small talk conversations. I understand it in a social sense. It’s how you narrow down topics to find something you have in common with whoever you’re speaking with at the time. But in a business sense I think it’s mostly just an awkward situation that is entirely avoidable. It could just be that I have an awful history with small talk. Usually the standard “How is your day going?” gets me answers like “My wife just filed for sole custody of my kids yesterday.” or (and this is no exaggeration.) “My step-son was just convicted of the murders of four police officers, see he’s there in the paper.” Those two only happened once, but still, awkward right? What are you supposed to say to that? Normally the responses are just things like “Well it’s raining and I got up at 5am” or “I’m alive I guess”. Anyways, I digress. The point is people never help me out with the small talk. I have good intentions with it, I really do, and honestly I sometimes actually care about what you have to say. However, people make it so awkward in the end that the alternative of just staring blankly while doing whatever they requested is far better than hearing about how awful of a day they are having, then trying to come up with an appropriate response. It really gets tiring and grating to talk about the weather etc. every ten minutes with people that come in. Every now and then I have something exciting to say about something interesting that happened to me over the weekend, but when you walk in to your bank do you really care about how great of a time your teller had on the Oregon coast over the weekend? I didn’t think so. So normally I see no problem in just saving everyone the charade of pretending that you care about people that you don’t know and their weekends or what have you.
This could just be a giant misunderstanding of the art of small talk from a socially awkward 20 something. However I’m sure most people would agree that the whole thing could be done away with, and life would go on.