It's the holidays-- Yay! Many of us will be visiting with family and friends we haven't seen in a while. This time of reconnections is a wonderful thing, and after we've shared a nice feast of food and drink, things usually go pretty smoothly. But those opening lines of conversation leading up to that... Well, they can actually be quite stressful for some of us.
For a surprising number of people, the "small talk" that helps get conversations going between strangers, occasional acquaintances, and distant relatives can be unbearably awkward and dissatisfying.
Some people offer strategies for overcoming this such as asking lots of questions about the other person and just listening to them carefully. This is not bad advice. But if you implement these strategies the wrong way, things could get even more awkward as you subject your unsuspecting uncle to an accidental interrogation...
I used to hate small talk too (even as a child), but now that I'm here living in Japan I find that small-talk is everything... and I have come to realize that it's just the process of building the temporary emotional connection between people in order to have a better talk about something more important, or even just to have a more connected experience of something that will not be primarily verbal (eating a meal, playing a game, or a watching a movie).
So whatever side of the awkwardness you are on, don't get too wrapped up in the content of it (how unimportant or uninteresting it might be) and just focus on the safe, caring connection that is being built by the seemingly trivial surface speech.
As a Gemini-Cancer cusper, I am both blessed with the gift of gab and yet deeply concerned with serious authenticity. So I am very aware of the struggle between wanting to communicate but being less interested in discussing the weather, the latest sports scores, or the tea we are having... and I don't want to fake it because that makes me feel unsatisfied, dishonest, and guilty.
But I also came to understand that small-talk isn't really primarily a content-based form of communication. It's really much more like animal calls, purrs, and tail-wagging. With this realization, we can be more committed to the authenticity of the underlying emotional experience than to the details of the surface statements... Commit to the connection rather than the meaning of the words.
I'm not suggesting to lie about stuff, but just let the surface flow lightly while you engage authentically at the deeper level of the emotional connection.
This change of mindset really freed me to heartfully meet anyone engaging me and connect with them where they were at, without feeling like I might be faking something...
...after that, the conversations themselves simply fell right into place without any effort at all--
I hope this helps you smooth out your enjoyment of the holidays and joyfully reconnect with your family and far-flung friends! Happy Holidays!