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Small Talk for a Great Exchange

“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”
—Mahatma Gandhi

I recently attended an event where I literally knew no one. In the first few minutes, fear rose up in me and said, “You can leave now; no one will ever know or miss you.” I came very close to listening to the fearful voice in my head, but I took a breath and told myself, “I can do this.”

​I walked up to a group of people and started making small talk. Hi. Nice to meet you. Where are you from? What brings you here? You know, the usual questions we ask when we don’t know what else to say.

​Small talk gets a bad rap, doesn’t it? I have been the first one to say, “Oh, let’s have deep meaningful conversations.” But, oftentimes, small talk is what we have in the moment, and it can be a bridge to something greater. What if we started looking at small talk as a necessary step to connect with others and a great chance to acknowledge them? Small talk says, “I see you,” and that is the first step toward any meaningful exchange.

Testing the water…
Small talk is like dipping our toe into the pool to test the water. At this event, I didn’t know anyone, so this gave me the opportunity to interact with another person on a “safe” level. We began sharing relatively generic information that people share with others when meeting them for the first time. In this initial interchange, we get a sense of the other person’s vibe and begin to connect on a level that is deeper than words. We get a “feel” for that person, and they get a feel for us. But even if it really is just a passing exchange, a few words—maybe about the weather—small talk allows us to share a piece of our humanity with our fellow human beings. It says, “Yes, we’re all in this together.”

The time of day…
Small talk may be “conversation for conversation sake,” but the sake of conversation is being able to interact with other people—connect, learn, and ultimately grow. We are all living on this planet together, so I say why not give each other “the time of day” once in a while . . . just because. We all express little clues about ourselves with small talk: our interests, what’s going on in our lives, and what’s pressing on the mind. I have found the key to enjoying small talk and finding meaning in it is really listening to what the other person has to say. I offer the person I am conversing with my full presence by giving them my Focused Attention. I used to have a hard time remembering people’s names in situations like this, but not anymore, because I am fully present.

Coming together…
Simply put, small talk is how we get comfortable and connect. Then, once we initially connect—link with others—we slowly find greater meaning and purpose together. We notice commonalities and differences, and we effortlessly move on to the big things in our lives “that matter.” In this gentle way of coming together, we lay a foundation for something larger than ourselves, creating waves of change and love.

When I founded the amazing non-profit Peaceful Mind Peaceful Life, it was a small community movement. I had the vision of people coming together and getting to know one another and wanting to make a difference—wanting to be inspired by others. Little by little, our connections expanded, and over the past several years, this community, this movement for peace, has grown to over 3 million. Peaceful Mind Peaceful Life connects people across the world with conversations of peace, love, compassion, courage, and hope. This is the conversation that will change the world—one precious person at a time.

Blessings and peace,

About Barb Schmidt

Barb Schmidt Barb Schmidt is an international best-selling author, businesswoman, philanthropist, and spiritual teacher with over thirty years devoted to spiritual development and research. In 2001, Barb partnered with Florida Atlantic University’s Peace Studies Program to promote dialogue in the greater community on the topic of inner peace. Additionally, she taught a class on meditation and spiritual practices as part of the life-long learning program at Nova University for five years. For the past ten years, she has been offering workshops and classes on spiritual practices throughout the world. A sought-after speaker, Barb regularly lectures at schools and organizations to spread her message of living a meaningful, happy life.
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