I have a hard time at work. This is mainly because of the everyday need to make small talk. I don’t like small talk but when someone happens it upon me, I feel obliged to respond. Except I can’t, I don’t know how to. It’s just awkward.
For instance, yesterday I walked in on a colleague in the communal kitchen. I’d normally avoid this sort of situation as I am already anticipating the small talk. But I had to go in to drop my lunch in the fridge (it was morning and I’d just arrived at work). He was busy making his morning coffee. He greeted me good morning and excitedly stated that he’d spent his weekend at the Tour de France. I just did not know how to respond. I think the block was due to the fear of looking stupid. I didn’t know much about the Tour de France, and therefore had no background on which to frame a meaningful question to ask him. I was trapped. Was he watching it on TV or he was actually there? Wasn’t it in France? I just don’t know!
I felt terrible as there was this awful pause where he was obviously expecting me to come up with something so he could continue with whatever it was he wanted to share with me. But my inability to string together a coherent sentence to show him that I was interested was letting me down. He must have thought I was either ignorant or being rude by not being interested enough to ask him more about it. I ran through some questions in my mind but none seemed suitable.
I don’t know if anyone else has to go through this mental palaver any time an innocent colleague mentions what they’ve been up to over the weekend.