I hate small talk. As a cashier at a grocery store, small talk has become a big part of my life and it literally makes me physically ill. How many conversations can you have about the weather? I actually look up conversation topics so I don’t have to have the same conversation 200 times per day.
Even so, it pains me to walk into the staff room and hear coworkers complain about customers. I have heard my coworkers complain about having to make conversation with customers, stating that customers often give too much information. I know everyone needs an outlet and, thankfully, I have seen each of my coworkers do their job well. Working with people is difficult and exhausting, but it is such an amazing opportunity.
Besides, what is wrong with Too Much Information? This is the stuff that gets to the heart of a person. It is about really getting to understand who that person is. Asking real questions – ones that open the door for discomfort and disagreement – are opportunities for you to learn something new, or even just to realize the state of the culture we live in. What do you do when you only have two minutes with a person who just told you their husband is dying and that is why their family is in town? How do you respond to the person who complains about having to wait and then turns out to being the slowest person on the planet?
The exciting part is that you then get to decide who to be. You can be the kind person who listens. You can be the person who responds graciously even if you are insulted. You can silently evaluate the character you are seeing in the person in front of you and decide if you want to be like that or if you want to behave differently. You get to decide to treat that person the way you would like to be treated.
Every conversation is an opportunity to show each person they are worthy of the same kindness and respect as any other person. You get to reflect that a person is worthy of care because they are a valuable human being, regardless of what they have or how they look. You might even get to influence our entire culture by either tactfully correcting poor ideas and behavior, or by demonstrating what our culture should look like. You get to learn from people of all walks of life and then take the information to shape who you are.
Every interaction is an opportunity to be the person you want to be and to be grateful to the person in front of you, regardless of how that opportunity presents itself.