Updated: Nov 10, 2020
Some of us are working from home more these days. Moving to and from the office in cohorts. Our kids are having limited in-school attendances. Life has just been…different. Not only are we disconnected from our people, but we’re disconnected from our places. The disconnection from our places is what got me thinking about Rhonda in accounting.
Maybe you’ve never had lunch with Rhonda. Maybe you don’t know the name of her partner, or her kids. Maybe you’ve never seen a picture of her dog. But maybe you used to pass her in the hall every morning, when you’d stop and say hello, maybe compliment her outfit, or ask how her weekend was. Maybe you stood next to her chatting when they were handing out cake for David’s birthday or maybe you joked with her about the stupid new expense reimbursement policy.
Rhonda isn’t in your circle of friends, but she was a part of your day every day and you were a part of hers.
When we plan our socially distanced get togethers with our circle of friends or family, we don’t think of Rhonda. And maybe Rhonda isn’t thinking of us. But the absence of Rhonda, and all the other acquaintances we used to mini-connect with throughout the day, is having an effect on us that we may not have realized.
The mini-connections are completely gone. Your barista, Kevin, who always knows your coffee order in the morning. Gloria, who is always waiting to use the microwave after you’re done heating up your lunch. And Rhonda in accounting. You’ve talked about the weather, you’ve talked about the hockey game score, and you’ve talked about the traffic. You don’t know their political affiliation (if any), the names of their kids, and you don’t know what they like to do for fun. But you engaged in these mini-connections multiple times throughout the day every day in the workplace, at the gym, and in line at the coffee shop. The importance of small-talk has been studied and re-studied, across different cultures, different generations, and different socioeconomic groups. It may not form relationships, or strong meaningful connections with people, but it isn’t the opposite of deep conversation. It’s a micro-connection. It engaged you with another human being, albeit only for a moment, and it’s these multiple small social interactions that are one of the components that contribute to our happiness.
Small talk is over-looked, it’s discounted, it’s even sometimes avoided or deemed to be awkward (think about those weird short elevator rides when you would stand shoulder to shoulder with people but stare at your phone or the floor numbers overhead), but not everything has to be deep and meaningful. Small talk is an integral part of our every day. And right now, and possibly for the next while, it’s gone.
So – what do we do? How do we reforge those mini-connections, or forge new and different ones? Here’s my Monday Dare for you. Keep it simple. Let it be weird. Don’t send a text or an email, but pick up the phone, or hop on Teams or whatever work platform you’re using and find Rhonda in accounting (or your workplace equivalent) and ask her what she thinks about this weather.
Want to read more about small talk? Check out these articles:
(Photo credit: https://www.clearvuehealth.com/b/small-talk-happiness/)