Given the choice between story time and small talk, I will always choose stories. I am a skilled raconteur but a horrendous conversationalist. Holding up a conversation is a struggle for me, especially small talk. Most chat-worthy opportunities do not make sense to me and I find myself awkward and confused.
When asked, "How are you?" I will provide an answer but rarely follow up with the socially appropriate response, "and how are you doing?" This is a common symptom of Asperger syndrome which I believe I have despite never being officially diagnosed.
My socially crippling lack of conversational skills isn't always apparent. I have found crutches and coping mechanisms over the years, but given enough time it will become clear. Uneasy exits after prolonged silences. Improper introductions. Dominating discussions on issues or topics about which I am passionate.
At my small group this week, I made that admission - that I am bad at conversation but great at storytelling. One of the other guys was surprised and thought I was kidding. He and I have chatted several times and from that perspective, he thought of me as an eloquent and articulate addition to the group. Some explanation was necessary.
If you and I wanted to swap tales from our younger days, we could talk for hours. If you wanted to debate which Bond movies are the best, grab some coffee and make yourself comfortable because we will be a while. You want to introduce me to a band that you are excited about, both of us will walk away from a long conversation in search of new music.
But ask me how I'm doing? Meh. I'll provide a one word answer then stare out the nearest window. It sure looks windy outside. I wish it would snow.
That makes sustainable friendships difficult without some measure of common interests.
That makes intimacy impossible without arduous effort.
That makes small talk uncomfortably painful because I rarely see the point of idle chit chat.
Then I go to work and speak with dozens of people through out the day.
Then I go to church and talk to pastors and friends.
Then I go to my small group and contribute to the discussion.
Then I get on Google Hangouts with friends from out of state and participate in the conversation.
Then I hang out with my kids and .. well ... they all talk far more than me.
Conversation, if there's no purpose, is exhausting. Yet I love being around people. I find their stories fascinating. Being in the company of good friends is refreshing. I crave camaraderie.
If only we could skip the small talk. If only we could start with something meaningful.
I am not sure I know how to do that.
Next time you see me, don't ask me "How is your day going?" Instead,
ask me, "Can I tell you about my day?"
I guarantee I'll say, "Yes."