Big Talk, Small Talk

“How’s it going?”


And so ends another conversation. In our modern society (at least in the United States), we’ve become accustomed to little pleasantries throughout the day, offering mechanical responses to superficial questions. In other words, we habitually engage in “small talk.”

What, then, is Big Talk? Started by Kalina Silverman, Big Talk attempts to engage people in meaningful conversations. With a curated list of questions, Silverman offers a way to escape the monotony of our everyday small talk, and gets people to think more deeply about their responses: What gives you hope? What do you want to do before you die?

That’s not to say that Big Talk is easy to implement. For most situations, I’ll at most get the person to dig a little deeper. “How are you doing?” is very similar to “How’s it going?”: people usually respond with “good.” What separates the two, however, is what happens after you give someone a couple seconds of silence. “How are you doing?” usually opens the conversation a little more. Maybe this example is “a-little-bigger-than-small talk,” but it’s a start.

I want to work on going further, moving towards more Big Talk in conversations.¬†Sometimes, all we need is someone who’s open to listening, someone who can offer a proverbial (or literal) shoulder to cry on. We want more mature conversation, sharing opinions and engaging in reflection beyond gripes about work and trying to come up with something “interesting” to offer from your past weekend.

Here are a few “big talk” questions that I want to try and ask more people:

  • “What would you rather be doing right now?” (instead of “What are you up to?”)
  • “If you were to drop out of school/quit your job tomorrow, what would you do the day after that?” (instead of “What are you doing next?”)
  • “What is one activity you’ve always wanted to do?”, and “why haven’t you done it yet?”
  • Among friends: “How would you describe me to someone else?”

And my favorite:

  • “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

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