I've been thinking about the purpose of small talk.

I keep thinking of the image of two warriors who meet in a valley to shake hands.  I once heard that that was the origin of the handshake: to shake someone’s hand is to show a stranger you’re not carrying a weapon.  You make yourself vulnerable in the interest of having more discussion with this person.

Small talk probably does something similar: You go slow with the stranger; you demonstrate you have nowhere better to go at that moment; you’re willing to spend time without a private agenda and show that you're game for forming a “we.”

Here’s the short video I made this week about small talk.  Click on the picture to link to the video:


I started a site for short videos at Tin House Magazine.  Click here to visit the blog.  We’re publishing a few videos a month.  Try it: speak some magic into your iphone.  Poof: You’ve got a video.  Share it with me.

About the Author

Ilana Simons

Ilana Simons, Ph.D., is a literature professor at The New School as well as a practicing therapist.

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