Friday, September 30, 2011

Small Talk

Small talk is defined as an informal type of discourse that does not cover deeper topics of conversation. Small talk can also be defined a conversation for its own sake, commenting on the perfectly obvious. 


Bronislaw Malinowski (1884 - 1942) was a Polish-British anthropologist who was influential in structural functionalist sociology. His ethnographic fieldwork made a major contribution to the study of Melanesia (an area off the northeastern coast of Australia) and the phenomena relating to reciprocity (how people informally exchange goods and labor), which he later applied to informal linguistics. 


The ability to conduct small talk is a social skill, no doubt, a quintessential skill in social networking. It helps define relationships between friends, colleagues, and new acquaintances where it serves to define each other's social position. 


In colloquial terms small talk helps us save face, a positive social value a person effectively claims for themself at the water cooler.  


"Face" (Chinese in origin) was described by Arthur Henderson Smith (1894) "The term "face" keeps cropping up in our conversation, and it seems such a simple expression that I doubt whether many people give it much thought. Recently, however, we have heard this word on the lips of foreigners too, who seem to be studying it." 

Links to Examples of Face Saving:

Raymond Cohen--Negotiating Across Cultures: Communication Obstacles in International Diplomacy (Symbolic Acts)
This article illustrates how substantially insignificant concessions can be critical to researching agreements.
Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton -- Seven Strategies for Treating Perception - or Framing Problems
Fisher, Ury, and Patton have developed a technique for negotiating agreements called principled negotiations.  One aspect of this approach is to deal effectively with people problems and one way to do that, they say, is to allow one's opponent to save face.   This and other approaches are discussed in this article.
Jeffery Rubin -- The Timing of Ripeness and the Ripeness of Timing
One way to create "ripeness" or "readiness" to negotiate is to reframe the conflict in a way that allows all the parties to save face, Rubin argues.
Raymond Cohen--Negotiating Across Cultures: Communication Obstacles in International Diplomacy (The 1971 U.S. - Japan Monetary Crisis)
This essay illustrates the importance of allowing losing parties to "save face."
William Ury -- Beyond the Hotline
One way to control crisis situations, Ury says, is to give the opponent a face saving way out of the crisis.

No comments: