How to Start Loving Small Talk: The Campfire Metaphor

Small talk gets a bad rap. You may consider the time spent making small talk with people you barely know as wasteful.

“How are you doing?”

“I’m doing well, how are you?”

“I’m well too thanks for asking.”

That cycle seems to repeat itself over and over again. What’s the point of the repetitive exchanges? What’s the point of parroting the same questions and answers with each person we come into contact with? We sometimes want to risk being perceived as antisocial in order to escape the brutality of small talk conversation.

Small talk is however, your guide toward warmth and meaning. Small talk is your entry into the more valuable insights which others possess. Small talk is the door into the room which is filled with meaning. Sometimes that door is locked, and the combination to gain access to meaningful discourse may include having to go through the motions of small talk.

Much like starting a fire, small talk enables you to get a flame going prior to attempting to set large pieces of firewood ablaze. Putting a lighter to large pieces of solid firewood isn’t bound to bring positive results. Fires begin small and grow in size. Your relationships with people are much the same. Coming up to someone and attempting to spark up a blaze of a conversation prior to starting small will leave you without any positive results. Starting a fire requires you to utilize a source of heat, tinder, and kindling in order to get the bigger pieces of firewood burning hot. This article hopes to shift your perspective regarding small talk, and align it with the process of starting up warm, fiery, relationships.


The Spark: You


“Hey, my name is…”

As you walk through life and meet new people, you can only hope to provide a spark for meaning to grow out of the conversations you partake in. Think of meaningful relationships as fires which need a constant addition of firewood to keep burning. The beginning of these fires though, should always start small. As a mere spark, you seldom have enough power to light up the firewood of meaningful relationships. You can’t just walk up to someone and make them express the deepest and most meaningful of notions. You can’t force anyone to love you right off the bat, therefore you’re forced to depend on things which are easier to light up in flames. You’re forced to strike a match, and simply see whether you can set ablaze a meaningful conversation.


Tinder: Dry, Flammable Material, Such As Paper, Used for Lighting a Fire


“How are you feeling today?”

One of the easier things to light on fire in hopes of it setting off a chain reaction to set the firewood ablaze, is a piece of dry paper. Burning paper by itself though, won’t provide you with enough heat. Similar to partaking in small talk without it going anywhere, attempting to start up a meaningful campfire with only paper will leave you unimpressed. The fire will burn for a minute or two, then go out. Paper is too unreliable of a fuel source to provide meaningful heat. Utilize small talk as a tool, much like paper, which burns toward more meaningful conversation, not something which is a final goal in itself. In other words, your acts of small talk should lead to bigger talk, for lack of a better term.

As you partake in mundane small talk, you’ll be able to slowly inquire into more personal matters. You’ll be able to spread your humble spark by way of casual conversation, into a small but promising little flame.


Kindling: Small Sticks or Twigs Used for Lighting Fires


“What did you think of that Mexican restaurant?”

As the paper burns hot, the little sticks around it begin to light on fire. These sticks give birth to a flame which grows in force and capability. It begins to engulf bigger sticks in flames, and sooner or later, even larger pieces of chopped wood begin to crackle and pop. Small talk got you here, and now you’re able to derive some meaning out of your conversation. The person you’re speaking with has grown familiar to your warmth, and their lasting interest in you is burning. Talking to them starts becoming easier. You start going back and forth, and as it dries, the wood begins to want to catch on fire. You no longer need to worry about their interest not being set ablaze by the little flame you’ve built. You’ve got a solid fire going.


Firewood: Wood That Is Burnt as Fuel


“What do you think of following one’s goals and interests which may not align with what society at large deems as acceptable?”

As your kindling burns hot, the large pieces of firewood begin to catch on fire. The conversation has reached the meaningful stage. You’re now free to express your philosophies on life, and your true personality can come out unsuppressed. They begin to feel a sense of warmth while speaking with you. All you need to do now, is keep adding firewood to this meaningful fire. Find interesting topics, share meaningful insights, and thoroughly be impressed with the individual in front of you.

Even with your closest friends, you need to begin conversations somewhere. The only difference in starting fires with people you know well, is that the large flames start quicker. The firewood is drier with the people who know you well. Your spark engulfs the piece of paper, that paper burns through kindling fast, and the firewood seemingly sets itself ablaze.

Small talk is a necessary tool in every single interaction you partake in. You can’t put a match to a thick piece of wood and expect it to burn. Remember, you are merely the spark of meaningful conversation, and as a spark, you have no option but to rely on the smaller things which help spread your flame.

Book Recommendation: 

The Encyclopedia of Country Living, 40th Anniversary Edition

 

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