I don’t despise small talk. Small talk is the duct tape of life. It’s the temporary bond holding two things together long enough to see if they connect. Sometimes they do and sometimes they politely go their separate ways.
Some of my favorite conversations have been with taxi cab drivers. I’ve spoken with people from all over the world: Ethiopians, Mexicans, Iranians and even a guy from Jersey. One guy told me he works 7 days a week, 12 hours a day. I hope he never gets hemorrhoids.
Flying, too. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not the guy talking your ear off on the plane. But I have had people tell me fascinatingly intimate details about themselves as they’ve tried to distract themselves from their palpable fear of flying. I even sat between two women who had the same fear—one drank a lot of alcohol and the other gripped my hand like I had the last parachute strapped to my back.
In line, I don’t usually chat with my fellow customers, mainly because I don’t want others looking at my items as conversation starters—“You wear pants? I wear pants!” But I will give the cashier a joke or a smile if they ask how I’m doing.
And, of course, there are the conferences. Business conferences with nametags are the best. You have people with ulterior motives asking leading questions. It’s magical, especially if you go in with no agenda. "Tad, what if I told you that one conversation could change your life?" "Maybe after the crab cakes ... they're sublime."