The weather here in Durham, NC has been strange. On January 15th, we hit 70 degrees at noon; as I write this, five days later, it’s 31 degrees out. As you can imagine, it’s a popular subject of conversation.
But small talk about the weather has a bad reputation. Every so often, I’ll see an article about improving your small talk–by not talking about the weather–making the rounds on LinkedIn with critics citing reasons such as: it’s easy, superficial, and boring.
But I disagree. I love small talk about the weather. Here’s why:
Damn right, it’s easy. So I agree with weather small talk critics on this one, but I see ease as a good thing. Maybe you’re on a conference call with an unhappy customer. The call is going to be hard enough as it is, so you might as well give yourself (and your customer, who also doesn’t want to be on the call) a break with an introduction that doesn’t require precious brainpower that should be reserved for active listening, empathy, and problem-solving.
We’re all experiencing the weather of wherever we are. While it sometimes requires a level of means to deal with certain climates and conditions (air conditioning, a cozy coat), it is in a lot of ways an equalizer. I’ve always said this about humidity. Years ago, I was exploring New York City in the summer and escaped to M&Ms World for some A/C. I remember looking down onto the street and watching people walk by, all with sweat-soaked backs. I’m talking tourists in t-shirts, businessmen carrying their suit jackets, ladies in nice dresses–everyone was miserable and schvitzing their asses off.
Going back to those conference calls: if you’re talking to someone far away, you can get a tiny glimpse of what life is like where they are when you ask them about the weather. Their weekends could be filled with weather-related activities that just aren’t possible for you, like ice fishing or surfing. Then, you can either be jealous of them or grateful that you are where you are. Which brings me to…
People have things to say about it.
People have strong opinions and preferences about what is considered good versus bad weather, whether seasons are overrated (as in the change of seasons in general or a specific season), what activities are acceptable (or even possible) to do in different types of weather, what you can/should eat depending on what it’s like outside (like ice cream or soup), what the perfect day feels like…the list goes on and on.
And I think you can learn a lot about a person based on what they say about the weather. I’ll always remember when I worked in Wilmington, Delaware, a colleague of mine would wax poetic about the American Southwest; she loved everything about it, including and especially the weather. So when she got a job in New Mexico, it didn’t seem like it was on a whim–she was laying the groundwork to achieve her dream life in what she considered the perfect climate.
So. How do you feel about weather small talk? (Comments about the weather are also acceptable.)