“Is your middle name Thomas? Like Thomas Paine from history? Sorry, that’s kinda nerdy.”
“Yes. Want to know something really nerdy, Robert Treat Paine signed the Declaration of Independence.”
“Oh, I didn’t mean you were nerdy. I meant what I said was nerdy.”
“That’s okay. I don’t mind being associated with the guy who’s known for Common Sense.”
Every day is an opportunity to have small talk with strangers. If you grew up like I did you were told to never talk to strangers. Which is probably great advice for children, but many people carry that on into their adult lives. Sure you end up talking to them periodically, because hey all of your friends were strangers at one point. And that’s my point. Without talking to strangers you would have no friends. Seriously. No friends and who wants that?
Talking to strangers is a missed opportunity for most people. I am not suggesting to become friends with everyone you meet, although I do advocate being friendly. Just be open to talking to someone you might not otherwise talk to in your everyday life. For most people it can start with a cashier as you are waiting in line. Sure you could just awkwardly stare around while they ring up your groceries. Or you could engage that human being standing across from you.
Now, no need to get highly personal. Like I said you won’t be friends with everyone, but start with something small. Small talk, duh. Be vulnerable. When asked if you found everything alright, answer truthfully. Don’t be entitled, angry or irate for these are not becoming. If it was yes say so and add to it. If not say so and explain why. One word answers kill small talk. And people kill small talk on purpose. I say engage in it.
You never know what you might find out about someone and you may make a connection (although sometimes brief) and know that you are part of something greater in the world. Life is worth taking the chance for and small talk bridges those gaps of time that occur between two or more people. The choice is yours connect or miss out. And hey, you might just make a new friend or two along the way.