I feel it’s time for me to come out (Stop it!). My aim with these blogs is to be nothing but honest and vulnerable and I feel like there is an elephant in the room that needs to be discussed. Here goes…
I’m shy. I am painfully, embarrassingly, annoyingly shy. The kind of shyness that stops me from looking at people in the eye, holds my tongue when it comes to speaking to new people and so often halts conversation into awkward silence. Now, for those of you who know me well and often struggle to shut me up, there may be a little scoffing going on. But I implore you to cast your mind back to when we first met and remember the awkwardness, the fear in my eyes and the, quite frankly, ridiculous clown act that I probably put on for you.
You see in spite of my gut wrenching shyness, I know that my current and hopeful future jobs don’t exactly go hand in hand with being incapable of actually speaking to people. So I act. For the sake of my work I fake confidence I never possess and put on the best front I can muster. I play the clown, knowing that if I can make people laugh I might just be able to get them on to my side and thinking that I’m not the rudest person they’ve ever been introduced to.
But its all pretend. Underneath it all I am the kind of girl that would rather be looking at her shoes, playing on her phone and avoiding peoples’ gaze so they don’t approach to say hello. Now don’t get me wrong, I do actually like people. I’m energized by people (those people whom I know well and don’t have to put on a front around) and, once I get over the first few terrifying encounters, I love nothing more than hearing people’s stories and telling people my story.
But the thing is I’ve worked out what it is about meeting new people that makes my skin crawl, insides clench and hands shake in the way that they do… Small talk (*shudders* *Falls off chair*).
Yes those two little words that, when placed together, fill some with joy and cast fear into the hearts of others. Small talk, the verbal equivalent of smiling and waving at each other. You’ve acknowledged each other’s presence and seem super friendly, but you have learnt absolutely nothing about each other. It isn’t just my social anxiety and slight autistic tendencies that have resulted in my dislike of small talk, but more my wondering why it seems to be such a big deal.
You see, to me, there is nothing small about talk. Words are big and powerful and expressive. Our talk has the power to tear people down, build people up and change the world. Free speech, the ability to say what we are really feeling, is a human right, a right that some people in this world are all too sadly denied. Why would I want to waste my precious, powerful, privileged words on talking about the weather? I want to spend the few words that I have been allowed on trying to say wonderful, beautiful, profound things – not discussing traffic jams! Last year I fell in love with a quote that says, “Our words are the clothes our thoughts wear.” I want people to hear my thoughts wearing gorgeous outfits that show just how much time has gone into them and how important they are, not tripping out of my mouth in a hastily shoved on pair of joggers showing that they weren’t quite ready to be heard yet. There is nothing small about talk; anyone who has ever been silenced or told they are not allowed to speak about something will get that. Proverbs 18 tells us that “The tongue has the power of life and death”. Our words are powerful, our conversations could be massive, our talk should be a big thing.
So let me try and sum all this up. I am by no means having a go at those wonderful (superhuman in my opinion) people who can talk to absolutely anyone about absolutely anything. Some of my best friends and people I look up to most are queens (and kings) of idle chit chat. The world needs these troopers or we’d all be stood around avoiding each other. But what I am trying to say is two things actually…
First, please (please, please, please) don’t think people are rude if they don’t automatically and expertly jump into small talk as soon as you are introduced. Maybe they are so anxious and awkward that they are trying to summon the courage and energy to actually look at you and speak. You crazy outgoing cats will never understand the guts is takes to do that, but please be patient, because they’re probably well worth getting to know! (And this is coming from someone who is now very good friends with two people she was just plain rude to on first meeting! I just took time to warm up a little!) Church leaders and youth leaders, please (PLEASE) don’t make people feel bad if they find it difficult to talk to new people, send in the superhumans and try to let us shy people do it in out own time.
Second, and I guess this is where the challenge for this blog comes in, make your talk big! (oooh eloquent, Lex!) I am the kind of girl that would hate sitting next to you chatting about the wettest winter on record, but would absolutely love to have a deep conversation about faith, life, death, love, the world, ethics or anything else that matters. I might not know how to do small talk but at the big talks I come in to my own. And it is for the simple fact that, generally, I genuinely care about most people I choose to talk to. I don’t want to waste precious time spent with them talking about irrelevant things when I’d much rather be learning about what matters to them, hearing their story and sharing some big talk with them.
Your words are powerful, your words are a huge thing. I pray that today you would use your words for big conversations. Tell someone how you really feel, voice a fear or dream, change the world. There is nothing small about talk.