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Where has all the Small Talk gone?

Zoom, Teams or Face Time

Social interaction has changed beyond imagination in the last few months for most of us. Face to face via a screen has become the new normal in a way that we would never have thought possible back at the beginning of 2020. Whilst the technology we have now become accustomed to in order to run our everyday lives has many benefits, there is now a brand new way to feel socially awkward in your own home. Who ends the zoom call? Do you wave? What happens when we keep talking over each other due to delays or dodgy connections? What or who fills the normal pauses in conversation that might naturally be filled by weather chat?

Uh oh, did I really just say that?

That awkward feeling you have when you say something out of turn on a call, or suddenly hear your kids or your partner saying something totally non office worthy in the background is actually a signal from your noggin that is designed to help you avoid making social missteps in the future. 

Brain Hardwiring

This is one of these hardwiring mechanisms that exists to help you survive and keep in step with your peers. Psychologists  have suggested that having feelings of embarrassment after saying something awkward is part of a social survival mechanism to help you keep your footing in your tribe.

Ty Tashiro, psychologist and author of “The Science of Why We’re Socially Awkward and Why That’s Awesome” says “our minds have an overly sensitive emotional trigger when it comes to alerting us to unmet social expectations because our need to belong is so essential to our well being “

Red Cheeks anyone? 

This uncomfortable feeling can trigger the ‘fight or flight ‘ response and add to your already sweaty palms and escalating heart rate. 

There is so much heavy stuff to talk about, and in the absence of holidays, family dramas or the usual chit chat that might fill our natural silences with small talk, the art of conversation is taking a different path at the moment. 

How to deal with that awkward pause

  • Remember we are all in the same boat, we are all going through this extremely challenging time together and although our individual experiences may differ we are all challenged by the current state of affairs
  • Rather than focusing on how weird you feel, focus on the person or people you are talking to. Actively listen and engage with what the other person is saying and if in doubt, remind yourself and your screen mate that, yes, this is just weird
  • Be kind- no one is judging your zoom call performance. We are now fully accepting of having to answer door bells, handle barking dogs or manage toddlers in the middle of an at home work day. Embrace the awkwardness and have compassion for each other. 

Keep well

Dr Clara Russell