I found myself sitting at a round table full of people I knew of but can’t really say I know well enough.
Whilst they engaged in the kind of small talk which I find deplorable: “What do you do?”, “Where are you from?”, “Where do you live?” and the pointless questions we ask one another to judge based on superficial information, I noticed something. No one was asking me those questions.
I couldn’t figure out if it was a good thing or a bad thing. It’s good in the sense that I’m not having the same boring conversations over and over again with these people I met years ago but don’t know much about since our friendship is superficial and the conversations are quite mechanical.
However I felt a little left out. Thanks to my friendship theory and perhaps the nature of how I interact with others, no one wanted to have that superficial, small talk chat with me. Because I make it clear that I prefer one to one deep connections with people.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be able to live on despite the minimal rejection – but I did find it interesting and it made me think about how I am perceived by others and whether there is significance in being superficial?
Small talk is safe. You know what you’re getting with set questions and set responses. Things like “Hows work?” “Yeah it’s good!”, “How are you?” “Yeah good thanks, and you?” “I’m good!”.
Just once I would like to ask someone I’ve met “How are you going?” and they respond with “I’m actually going through a tough time because…” or “Lately, I’ve been thinking about the concept of…”.
The whole point of conversation is to learn about each other, so why do most people just say “I’m good” and cover up what is really happening in their lives. Fear of judgement or opening up? Who knows.
There is definitely something safe in having superficial friendships – it means you get to spend time with someone without actually having to deal with whatever issues they’re having.
I can see how that can apply to some people. But for me, it’s torture. As a person who likes to meet new people, hear different experiences and better understand different points of views, superficial relationships seem really pointless to me.
One of the main reasons for this, is because aside from being on a moral shaky ground, I associate superficiality to being fake, this being a negative characteristic.
Up until now. Reflecting on the significance of superficiality and what benefits that can arise from it – I realise that there needs to be a balance of how we interact with others.
We can’t speak deeply with absolutely everyone, there is a sense of security knowing that you can have a light and fun time with another person without the conversation getting too deep, where emotions and thought can be left behind, and you just have fun.
Having superficial conversations are primarily great for larger settings, and require a very minimal level of care and effort at the time. It means to be in the presence of others and not have a deep or meaningful connection through expression of thoughts and emotions. You can have a non-verbal connection with a superficial friend, if there’s a mutual understanding of simply having fun together.
It’s also a great way to network efficiently – being able to accrue names in your contact list effortlessly through a social dance of words without feeling emotionally connected.
And the best part, asking for a favour from this person isn’t considered rude, because in essence the best part of networking is that you can use someone without being their friend.
This has never sat well with me, and I don’t even know if it’s ethical, but it seems to be the thing that everyone is doing. I need to feel emotionally connected to someone in order to continue a friendship with them – and this is why I find the idea of using my networks to get something very difficult.
There are many benefits to having superficial friends and networks, even though the ethics of it might be a bit strange, as long as the intention is sincere – then it is a very clever way to meet people.
Perhaps one of my biggest shortcomings in achieving success with others is my lack of superficial connections, and there is some good in it.