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Even worst than small talk
On irritating conversations, daydreaming, ineffective best practices and stupidity.
Everyone is talking about Elon Musk since he bought Twitter, so i felt I should do so as well.
It also seems like everyone is talking to Elon, and he doesn’t like it:
I cannot agree more.
When a stranger asks me in the elevator “Nice weather today, uh?”, I try to resist the urge to answer “Yes. By the way, what do you think happens after we die?” - just for the sake of killing the small talk and convey that there are more interesting questions they could have asked. Even in a 15-seconds elevator ride.
The opposite behavior is as irritating, in my opinion: hyper-pragmatism. People who force the conversation into the practical aspects of the matter. They will keep asking “Why does it matter?” or “At the end of the day, what are we supposed to do?”, and they will start doing so as soon as the chat starts discussing complex questions.
It’s an acute allergy to insights and ideas, sometimes even stories, paired with an addiction to decisions, details, or technical matters. “I don’t have patience for ideas, just get me to the punch line”. Ugh.
If small talk is an habit that legitimizes emptiness, hyper-pragmatism is an obsession with the nitty-gritty.
Our workplaces are filled with it: we run into searching for solutions, when sometimes the conversation is supposed to be about anything but. It’s the manager who offers a higher salary when the talented employee starts giving signs of discontent - without even thinking that it might be about something else entirely. It’s the colleague who will dismiss long e-mails, because they only need to know what you want from them.
By the way: I have nothing against pragmatism. It’s absolutely essential, and many companies often suffer from a lack of it. We do need to get to the punch line, eventually. I am here to point at an equally important need, a need for compelling ideas and questions in our professional and personal lives - even if they are there only to trigger some good intellectual sport.
We need ideas to fuel our neurons and keep our mind truly awake and agile.
A life made of radical practicality is a life lived on purely technical premises.
I will avoid going into generational stereotypes with this. Yet I do meet more and more clients in their 30s searching for compelling conversations and struggling in workplaces (sometimes even in their own families) where they are surrounded by people who are there to have transactional conversations only.
I see also some interesting initiatives that are trying to change the culture in the right direction; I wonder what cultural or social event is needed to accelerate the mainstream adoption of “talking as a proxy for thoughtful interactions” and leave behind us the old "talking as a thing humans have to do”.
If I would close this post with a “What can we do about this?” paragraph, I would probably sound inconsistent. So I’ll just stop here, and I’ll just invite you to share with me any comment, insight or thought. You can reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on LinkedIn. I am always to have a chat, virtual or in-person.
If you liked what you read, be a friend and forward this e-mail now to a couple of friends/colleagues that might enjoy it as well. They will be grateful, I will be grateful, and you will feel good about it.
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Who’s the first person who came to mind when you read the previous line? Interesting.