We’ve all been there, you are stuck in a lift with someone you vaguely know, and suddenly have an overwhelming urge to comment about the weather, or ask how their day has been or their plans for the weekend. This type of conversation is unmistakeably small talk, and is something that we Brits seem to do an awful lot of. But what do we think of small talk? Is it something that we enjoy, or hate? And how do we fill those silent moments? OnePoll conducted a poll of 1000 UK Adults to find out.
Given just how unpredictable our climate can be, it will perhaps come as little surprise that ‘the weather’ is the number one small talk topic, with a massive 82% of adults saying they have small talked about it in the past. The next two most popular topics were ‘the news’ (35%) and ‘that morning’s journey’ (31%).
However, when asked whether they actually enjoy small talk, just 1 in 10 adults said that they ‘love’ it, and 15% said they actively disliked engaging in small talk conversations. This lack of enthusiasm for small talk could well be connected with the fact that 70% of respondents agreed that engaging in small talk could be awkward. The thought of having to make small talk on a long plane or train journey could indeed be the stuff of nightmares for many, as talking with a stranger on public transport was judged the most awkward situation for small talk.
Our poll also found that as much as 59% of adults have taken action to avoid small talk in the past. Of these small talk avoiders, half said they had looked at their phone to dodge a conversation, and 40% admitted they had walked in a different direction just to avoid the person with whom they may have small talked with! Nearly 4 in 10 of these avoiders even confessed that their tactic was to hold back from where they were going just to evade a potential small talk exchange. Our results did also seem to reflect the stereotypical traits of British politeness and our tendency to be indirect, with just 3% of respondents saying they have been blunt enough to simply tell the other person they wanted to stop the small talk.
Our results indicate that for many, when thinking of small talk, the fear of awkward silences may come to mind. The majority (56%) of adults in our survey said periods of silences in small talk conversations were awkward, and judged a period of silence to become uncomfortable after an average of just 4 seconds!
All this negativity surrounding small talk does appear to get to some people, with 4 in 10 admitting that the thought of having to make small talk can stress them out. Those awkward silences seem to be the main culprit for this stress, with 60% saying the fear of not knowing what to say is what gets them stressed. However, if you are one of those people who finds the mere thought of small talk stressful, rest assured that this could get better with age, as just 28% of our respondents aged over 55 experienced this stress, compared with 48% of respondents aged between 18-24.
So whilst small talk is something that we all experience and take part in, our poll suggests that for many Brits it is something that is endured not enjoyed, and at times actively avoided. Next time you see someone make an abrupt change of direction at a train station, or suddenly hold back from where they are going to look at their phone, they may well be taking action to avoid some awkward small talk. So go up and strike up a conversation, they’ll love you for it.
Does the thought of small talk bring you out in a cold sweat? Or do you love talking to strangers and new people? Have your say below….
For a copy of the full report – please contact OnePoll info