RACHEL BELLE

Most Americans hate small talk, but Seattleites continue talking about weather

Nov 10, 2022, 1:51 PM | Updated: Nov 14, 2022, 8:52 am
small talk...
Out of 1,000 people surveyed, 71% said they prefer silence to small talk and 89% of Gen Z use their phones to avoid making small talk. (Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash)
(Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash)

What do Americans think of small talk? “Most Americans dislike it. I would say most Americans want to avoid it,” said Matt Zajechowski spokesman for Northstar Inbound, a marketing agency that analyzed a study about small talk.

Of the 1,000 people surveyed, 71% said they prefer silence to small talk and 89% of Gen Z use their phones to avoid making small talk. Zajechowski shares the most common small talk topics.

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“We asked both the most common and what people dread the most,” Zajechowski said. “America’s most go-to topics: the weather, what are you doing this weekend, what do you do for work, or how’s work, current events, and sports. We also saw the most dreaded: sports, current events, and weather shows up there too.”

So people love and hate talking about sports?

“I think a lot can be dependent on if you like sports or not. If you dread it, it’s probably the last thing you want to hear,” Zajechowski said. “If your team is doing great, you’re super geeked about it, if your team is lousy constantly, you’re like, ‘I don’t want to talk about them.'”

Seven in ten people say they like making small talk with friends and family, but they dread it with strangers. I am the exact opposite. Small talk feels normal with strangers since there aren’t common topics to talk about. But I expect to have a deeper, funnier, and more interesting conversation with folks I’m close to. Small talk with a loved one feels awkward.

“I agree with you,” Zajechowski said. “I’m the same way. I think it’s super depressing if I’m talking to my mom and we’re like, ‘What’s the weather like?’ I think where people don’t like it with strangers is where they’re out someplace public like retail stores, grocery stores, and restaurants.”

But not everyone minds small talk.

“It’s a good way to get to know people when you first meet them,” Seattle’s Margo Hill said. “I was a politician’s wife so I can do anything!”

I randomly stopped Hill and her husband on the street, and small talk magically led me to a long-time Washington state politician.

“My name is Tim Hill. My last job was county executive for eight years here in King County,” Tim Hill said. “I’m retired and glad I’m out of politics.”

But he still likes low-key chit-chat with new people.

“Oh, I think it’s fine,” Tim Hill said. “I enjoy it with people.”

Small talk isn’t all that bad; look who I met by asking strangers boring questions!

“One of the big positive takeaways was 91% of people that we surveyed use small talk to turn it into a real conversation,” Zajechowski said. “We’re taking these small topics that are maybe irrelevant and it sparks this real, meaningful conversation where we learn more about each other and potentially develop a friendship or a relationship.”

Half the people surveyed said they engage in small talk to be polite. But not Margo and me. For us, it’s deeper than that.

“We could chat all day!” Margo Hill said.

Listen to Rachel Belle’s James Beard Award nominated podcast, “Your Last Meal.” Follow @yourlastmealpodcast on Instagram!

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Most Americans hate small talk, but Seattleites continue talking about weather