Queen's University — Since 1873
2nd March 2012

We need to talk

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I’m tired of talking about the weather. I don’t want to discuss Gap sales or gas prices either.

I refuse to be an active participant in this generation’s semantic drudge.

Small talk makes my stomach churn. Even the term is a little sickening — it implies a brief and meaningless exchange.

Please don’t ask me about my reading week. I don’t want to shout frantically over my shoulder about the ‘burbs. You’re bronzed, I’m boring, and we both won’t invest enough time to take this subject anywhere.

I’m not sure how or why it happened, but we’ve lost our ability to converse poignantly, to exchange thoughts and impressions in a mutually beneficial way.

Somewhere along the line, the tougher topics of conversation were shunned in favour of discussing the simple.

It isn’t a loss of words, but an absence of courage. To express a thought or opinion is no easy feat, and the anxiety it can induce is well deserved. But it doesn’t mean we should stop. Ever.

Like music, poetry and painting, conversation is a skill. And, like art or sport, it needs practice and dedication to be strong.

I’m not holding my breath for a Socratic debate in the waiting room, but I’m scared that a lack of conversation is keeping our ideas stagnant.

Without even the most informal dissertation, these thoughts may never manifest and society won’t grow.

Conversation isn’t a series of desultory remarks; it’s an involved idea swap. It isn’t really what you talk about, but what you take away. If Gap sales get you going, then go for it.

Verbally treading water won’t get us anywhere, but engaging with and developing these topics will save them from becoming stale.

Societal growth can’t be anything less than constant, so let’s keep talking. Let’s keep away from quick quips and stop expecting the easy.

Let’s make every word count, because conversation isn’t just an exchange of words; it’s an ability to pace, articulate — and in my case, gesticulate.

It’s an art and a skill and a passion and a connection. It’s the foundation of our relationships, and without it people might never connect.

Small talk might make acquaintances, but it isn’t built to last.

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