I am notoriously bad at small talk, I hate that business in England requires even as you don’t look people in the eye or wait for an answer small talk is required.
So conversations evolve thus:
(Person X wants Person Y to type up minutes and photocopy ten copies and bind them)
‘Hi, how are you’ (don’t really care how you are, please reply with fine thanks and you)
‘How about this cold weather we’re having, hey’ (yes, because it’s generally cold in the winter and you can’t really change that beyond dressing warmly or not going outside or emigrating. commentary has no effect on it, what do I come back with, ‘yes, it is, isn’t it’)
‘So you been keeping busy lately?’ (is this personally? does this matter in the business context? is this busy in the office? in which case you are saying I have too much to do/not enough to do? that I’ve taken too many coffee breaks?)
‘Can you please type up these minutes then print and and bind ten copies for me’ (why do you bother to use ‘can you’? this implies there is choice. obviously one could refuse but when it is part of one’s job description, refusal is generally not taken in a favourable light)
This backwards forwards bantering of meaningless prose has made me cynical about conversation in general unfortunately.
I have a friend who, upon meeting him for the first time, someone said to me, ‘he’s rather intense isn’t he?’
I can’t tell if he read some self help book and totally took it to heart, if he is just programmed for great politeness or if he just sees silver linings in everything, even when it is not possible to have a lining because it’s a cheap summer jacket from Mr Price. I actually suspect it really is the latter but that just makes him more weird to me.
Every time I see him sometime in the course of our conversation, usually within the first ten minutes, he will surface with a banal comment like, ‘LC, your hair looks great today’ (this genuinely was the last compliment he paid me after I’d come in from a small hailstorm, a huge amount of rain and a near on gale force wind) or ‘LC, that’s a really nice sweater’ or ‘LC thank you SO much for forwarding that email of kittens playing the piano to me, it really made me smile.’
I wish there were more people with such a shiny outlook to life to neutralise the cynicism of me. But I fear the shine tarnishes when too many people like me are looking at you funny trying to work out what your motive is.