Story of a lost journalist

September 5, 2015

To small-talk or not?

Filed under: My Musing Moments — Cris @ 13:52

Say you need to ask someone something. So you make a call. What’s the first thing you say after hello?

Here’s how I work. I say hello, and then I say this is why I called you. Right on to it. Not that I believe this is the way it should be. I am bad with telephone manners. I am bad with any kind of manners. And if I try any other track like ‘how have you been’ or ‘so long now, isn’t it’, it would sound absolutely artificial coming from me. So artificial even to my ears that I doubt if I would do much more than cackle and make strange sounds. Hi, cough cough, how, cough a lot more, are you.

Now, a lot of people are good at this. They call a rare call and ask you how you are, what’s up with you and all before they tell you why they called. They are comfortable here, but the question is, is the person they called comfortable. Sure it is done with exactly that intention. That people think it is bad to call out of the blue when you need something after not calling for so long. So they make the compulsory small talk first. See, we care about you, we are not just calling for our needs. And while that good intention is appreciable, I really wonder how the other person – the receiver – finds it all.

If he is a bad phone person like me, he would be uncomfortable. He’d prefer the hello and the why after that. That way, you can just talk about that. Oh, that’s why you called, oh yes, we could do that, or we can’t do that. It’s easy, see, matter of fact.

The argument now that could come is, what if the small talk is genuine. What if the caller, despite calling for a need, actually wants to know how the friend has been, what’s been going on. That it is only the busyness of a busy life that’s kept him from calling before, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t care. They’d like to know for real.

That could be true now, but my counter argument is, if this need had not come, or the need is no longer there, would you still make the call and ask? Clubbing the small talk with the purpose seems somehow the preferred choice.

Because see, if the random just-for-talk calls come too sometimes, it sounds more genuine. I wouldn’t say the bad-with-phones person would find it comfortable. But it might grow on her, and she’d learn to be comfortable with the person. I talk from examples in my life. There is this friend who used to call at first and I would never answer. Or say flimsy excuses like ‘work’ (yeah, right!). But later I’d pick up, at first be very uncomfortable, conscious. Then somewhere along, learned to be myself, blurt out if I want to cut the call and go. That was easier. No different really from real life talks. But won’t work with everyone.

So erm, I don’t really have a concluding point here. I guess if I am the caller calling for something, I’d just get straight to it. It would definitely work with friends you call often (even when you don’t need anything). And it would work with the rare callers too, cause my guess is they’d prefer it, even though they would tell at the end of the call – Selfish brat, don’t call all these months and calls now when she has a favor to ask. But that’s going to come anyway, small talk or not. With small talk, that line would be – Selfish brat, calling me now after all these months and trying to pretend she cares!



  1. I think, I have been able to work both ways. You end your conversations fast. It felt a little odd till I sort of assumed that you are someone who likes to keep the phone talks short 🙂 (Thanks for the conformation). But there are others who call and talk for almost an hour, which is also okay with me. As usual, nice read. 🙂

    Comment by iamworthatry — September 6, 2015 @ 01:26 | Reply

    • Hey ya, some people are comfortable with long talks. For some reason, I am wired this way. But here, I was talking about the small talk that comes before the purpose of a call. If the purpose itself is small talk, it is a lot clearer, and maybe can learn to get used to it. Both ways, the caller to know this is not someone who is good at long talks (like you gathered of me), and the callee to get comfortable.

      Comment by Cris — September 8, 2015 @ 16:57 | Reply

  2. I agree with the sentiment!
    I cannot make small talk, unless I called the person with the intention of making small talk and general enquiries about their welfare (as often happens with relatives)

    But if I call with a purpose, then I’d rather get straight to the point. Which is why my response to people who call me for something, and start off with “How are you?” often seems abrupt. I just say “I’m good. What’s up?” and there’s a momentary pause at the other end, when the caller is taken aback.

    Good to know that you feel the same way!

    Comment by gowrink — September 6, 2015 @ 19:57 | Reply

    • Gowri, that is nearly my exact reaction. The ‘What’s up?’ in second line. “Good good, what’s up”. I am pretty sure the caller gets the so-rude feeling, but if I try to be polite and undo it, I will just sound artificial. The better of the two is curtness, I suppose!

      Comment by Cris — September 8, 2015 @ 16:59 | Reply

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