December 2015
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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Slices of Life, Small talk

Small talk not always so small


By: Jill Pertler



I am a small talker.

My son christened me with the label yesterday.

“Have you ever noticed you make chit chat with everyone you meet?” he asked. His words felt more like an accusation than a question. “You’re a small talker,” he said.

I knew he was right.

I also knew my blithe banter possesses a power and purpose unknown to non-small talkers.

I believe we are in the middle of a communication gap unlike any other generation has experienced. Oh sure, we may be communicating more than ever, but we are talking less. In doing so, we are watching – opposable thumbs poised for action – a cultural shift in the very way we connect and interact.

The newest and most popular methods for communication require no vocal skills. Email. Social Networking. Texting. All require fingers, not voice boxes, to get the job done.

Although I’ve learned to manipulate my opposable thumbs as well as the next monkey, I still believe verbal communication is a worthy art – perhaps a dying one.

The other day, one of my teens reported that a friend broke up with his girlfriend via text message. I gasped in disbelief. My 13-year-old questioned my reaction.

“What’s wrong with breaking up with someone in a text message?” he asked. I wish I could say it was an innocent question. Instead, I fear I am the one who is naive.

I’m part of the Brady Bunch generation. I remember when phones were tethered to the wall and you had no choice but to take a call from your boyfriend in the kitchen while your mom hovered nearby. You talked to him despite her presence because talking was important. Perhaps we remember the past through rose-colored glasses, but I won’t let the simplicities and complexities of normal conversation go down without a fight.

At first glance this appears to be a David and Goliath battle: little old me against the advances of technology. Let’s not forget how David and Goliath turned out. David had a few smooth stones in his pocket.

I have small talk.

I hold onto certain old-fashioned beliefs that are hard to shake. One is the inherent value of other human beings. People function best when their routine involves human interaction. Touch. Eye contact. Conversation. We are not a species that does well with isolation. Email can’t take the place of looking someone in the eye or touching them on the shoulder. A text message can’t replace small talk.

“Think it’s going to rain today?” “Did you get your haircut? Looks nice.” “Have you heard the news?” It doesn’t need to be complicated.

That’s why they call it small talk.

Sometimes, though, the smallest things can be big. I tend to believe human interaction is one of them. People are worth talking to. Everyone you meet has a story. Most times all you have to do is ask.

So, I small talk my way through life – at the grocery store, the library, doctor’s office, school, restaurant and super store. Wherever I go, I bring my small talk with me.

To the idle observer, it may seem like typical chit chat; to me it is more. It is an attempt to save our language from evolving from “laugh out loud” to LOL. An effort to bring us back – even for just a moment – to a time when terms like “multi-tasking” and “quality time” didn’t exist, your friends were smarter than your phone and people sat around the kitchen table or paused over the backyard fence to pass the morning, share gossip and just stop for a spell to chat.

I am a small talker. I’m afraid we’re a dying breed. I’m looking to change that – one conversation at a time.


Last weeks column: Doggone good advice from the Cat

Jill Pertler, award-winning syndicated columnist and author of “The Do-It-Yourselfer’s Guide to Self-Syndication” is collecting fans on Facebook on her Slices of Life page.  Email her at; or visit her website at

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