The Haught guide to small talk

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I think we can all agree that one of the worst things about work — and life in general — is face-to-face interaction with irksome humans. Yuck — what a sour, non-nourishing cultural staple it is.

The problem is, it’s unavoidable: we have to put up a facade of amiability for the sake of workplace cohesion and must constantly find things to say to people we don’t like but whom we encounter frequently.

If your go-to is the weather, lunch ingredients or reality TV, I’m going to be blunt: you’ve transcended cliche and entered a realm of pure beige, the atmosphere of which will slowly erode your very soul. You’re better off saying, ‘‘I have no interest whatsoever in speaking with you’’ than ‘‘It’s chilly out, isn’t it?’’

So what should be the subject of the mandatory conversation you strike up with odious or uninspiring colleagues?

Here are a few aces to put up your sleeve:

Go meta: mention how often you find yourself stuck for small talk. If this only adds to the tension in the air, discuss the tension in the air.

Get colourful: a co-worker willing only to make the minimum effort and go with the prosaic ‘‘what are you working on at the moment?’’ has forfeited the right to be treated as an adult. Tell him or her you’re halfway through a post-mortem on a strange humanoid creature you found in the stationery cupboard, or compiling a list of colleagues you suspect of being communists.

Think third party: bring up something you read in a really good newspaper column. I can’t think of one at the moment, but if you look hard enough …


An edited version of this article first appeared in the MyCareer section of The Age and Sydney Morning Herald. You can read Benign to Five in those papers every Saturday.


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Comments ( 4 )

  1. ReplyDeanne
    In regard to your piece on work toilet banditry....I think you need to introduce the following product in a future column -
    • ReplyHaught
      HA HA HA! "Creamy behemoth".
      • ReplyDeanne
        Creamy behemoth indeed,haha! But my favourite bit is where she says that her "skid marks are tenacious". Gorgeous commercial. I'm tempted to by some. They have some cute titles for their different fragrances - my two faves are "Shittin' Pretty" for women and "Trap-a-Crap" for men (available in the "Master Crapsman" pack,haha!) Check it out By the way, I am in no way affiliated with this product - I just thought it was totally awesome and wanted to bring your attention to it incase you had not yet heard of its brilliance.
        • ReplyHaught
          I hadn't. Much appreciated.

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