I’m a Finn, I don’t do small talk, but should I?

With all the things going on as a result of the social distancing and COVID-19, I think I’m not the only one whose days have been busier than usual with things that necessarily are not on my list.

When someone asked me when is a good time to call to someone with family nowadays, my answer was, there’s no such time. I don’t want to be rude. It just that I like to give time and thoughts to people that are important to me. That’s why in the last few weeks, I have preferred to make an appointment to do so.

Horrible, right? No room for spontaneous actions. True. Spontaneous has been on hold lately. Not because I want it, but because there are a zillion other things I need to be able to fix/attend/do, too.

A few days ago, I called my ex-colleague. He’s a good friend and knows me pretty well. I started by asking how is he doing, and since I could already hear from his voice, he was busy, I said, I just called to ask how he’s doing. He was laughing out loud and asked, “Saara, when did you start to do small talk?”

I know I’m not the small talk girl. “Straight to the point and gone” would be closer to my style. This doesn’t mean that I don’t like to have a discussion. It just means I don’t like to waste yours or mine time over shallow chitchat 🙂 or that’s how I want to put it. When you’re tight on time, quality becomes even more important to me.

When you add the fact that Finns are famous about not doing small talk, but express themselves brutally honestly and bluntly, as the Finnish saying goes, the soup is ready. I guess that’s why our family finds the Dutch people approachable. They seem to share a similar level of bluntness and brutal honesty.

Here’s why I don’t feel comfortable with small talk.

What happened to your personality?

It feels like you’re trying to fit in the mold that most can fit by sticking with the safe subject—not giving anything real from yourself to the conversation. Wouldn’t it be better to shut up? I’m not saying every conversation should be deadly serious, but why would you waste someone’s time with nonsense?

Entrapped by small talk

Think about the situation when you’re leaning towards small talk. Do you know that story about Finnish people riding in an elevator in complete silence? Imagine someone starting to talk to this person who’s with his/her thought. It feels like torture, and the only thing that goes through your mind behind that forced fake smile is when this cruelty will be over?

There’s nothing natural about small talk

A conversation with a friend with actual interest is pleasant. A forced conversation that feels like work is not my idea about pleasure. It’s just more exhausting extra work for that day.

Small talk feels like a clumsy attempt to hit someone in a bar

OK. I believe I’m a pretty decent friend and a nice person. And I can be empathetic. I can spot someone who looks lost at a party, and I have thought that I can make that person feel a bit more comfortable by talking. But damn, when it’s not working, and it feels so uncomfortable. All you can think of what made me do this?

I need to be a medium to be able to succeed in small talk

Somehow it feels like small talk forces me to transform into some sort of mind reader mode. I need to understand what you will find enjoyable so that I can talk about that. I need to laugh at what you’re saying even if I don’t see it funny. 

I think you got my point.

I can understand the problem. We should get to know each other, but how can we do that? I can’t say small talk would help, if at the same time we’re fake, awkward versions of ourselves. And diving to the Mariana Trench of your mind and soul on a first date is not really for everyone’s cup of tea either.

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