So I hate small talk, I absolutely do. Talk about your favourite meal and place of birth and state of origin like we usually do or even worse still, the infamous “have you eaten” question and other questions people naturally rely on to fill up awkward silences on a date or break the ice when they first meet someone. But I find that for every new relationship you build or are in the process of building, answers to these seemingly mundane questions actually help reveal the core of a person to you.
Think of it like the first layers of a bulb of onion that must come off for the flavour to be released into your pot of food. But here is my version of small talk that I deem meaningful; questions you can ask when you are in the process of building a romantic relationship with someone in a non Q and A format that it becomes an interrogation and less of an eye-opening, revelatory conversation. And that should be your keyword – revelatory. After all, the whole point of all the conversations succeeding the first few is to get to know who you’re dealing with as thoroughly as possible.
Instead of asking what state they are from, ask what childhood memories they have of growing up in the place where they did. Having an idea of what kind of upbringing they have had will give you deeper insights into why they think the way they do, what drives them, their perception about certain subject areas, their truths, their struggles, their passions etc. Knowing that I am from Enugu or Imo or Delta or Kano doesn’t tell you anything about me save for my tribe. Honestly.
Don’t ask where they work, ask about the work they do there. I find that at the core of every human being is an attachment to what they do, the titles that they bear, a sense of purpose (or lack of it) in what they do and where their monthly or daily income comes from. So instead of asking about where they work, or their job titles and leaving it at that, follow up with asking about what their typical work day is like. In this one question, you can learn if they like what they do, if they find fulfilment in it; office politics and drama, and maybe what they plan to do career-wise in the future. Very important.
Instead of asking how many siblings they have or their position in the family, ask about the sibling they are closest to and why? If they are the only gender in the sibling mix, ask if they miss having the opposite gender as part of the family and why or why not.
Instead of asking what kind of music they like, ask to go through their current playlist. Music, like most other art forms, is a spiritually connecting force. I like to believe that you are more likely to have more in common with someone who shares similar tastes in music, arts, or literature.
Instead of asking what their best food is ask what their comfort food is. Comfort food is food that provides a nostalgic or sentimental value to someone, and may be characterized by its high caloric nature, high carbohydrate level, or simple preparation. Truth is, food has some connecting effect too and we tend to have an emotional attachment to foods that make us comfortable or bring back memories, revealing a bit more about who we are. One of my comfort foods will definitely be okpa. The recipe is stupefyingly simple and boy, okpa isn’t just comfort food to me, it’s the town I grew up in, it’s the place I schooled, it was a culture – a morning ritual even. And it is hardly one meal I would mention as my favourite meal, if I had one.
Or you could find out what they think about sex before marriage and why they hold such beliefs. This instantly tells you what spiritual inclinations they have or at least claim to profess and the second part will tell you more of their convictions in these beliefs or if they just have a crowd mentality and to what degree they do. Or just stir up some controversy, plainly. When it comes to discussions bordering on controversial topics such as morality, spirituality, and the likes, people are very prone to reveal their true selves.
Or you could spark some heated debate and ask what they think about Buhari’s government. Anything Buhari sparks up an argument. It doesn’t have to be in detail because quite frankly, our politicians are a bunch of jokers. But this tells you how interested they are in what is going on around them, their level of interest in governance and the state of the country and maybe how widely read they are. If politics and governance is your thing, then this is your cue. You could throw in some whistle blowing gist; ask if they would whistle blow if they had a chance to – this could quite frankly be a loyalty test.
Add some fun to it, ask them what thing they have done till date that they consider the most daring. It could be a career switch, or a trip they made, or a big step they took. I have a fear of heights and I am pushing this fear to the limits by doing scary stuff like walking the longest canopy walk in Africa and going on a roller coaster that literally spins you way up in the sky. I’m looking forward to sky diving one day. But yes, absolutely fun way to find out what they do for fun and occasional adrenaline rush and how adventurous they can get.
Finally why not play a very simple game I’d like to call Five Seconds. So here, you just give them two options to choose one that best describes their taste, flair, preference, etc in five seconds. For example;
Red Wine or White Wine?
Rock or Blues?
Concert or Clubhouse?
Lie-in or Hang-out? And so on. With this, in a few minutes, you can at least decipher how extroverted or introverted someone might be for starts, and build your way up from there.
To love, life and everything beautiful and fair,
The Quiet One