Gretchen Rubin on Small Talk

Small talk. At the start of a new year I always find there are new social events to attend via work, school and community and they require me to engage in polite conversation. Do you ever have days when you really cannot be bothered? There are also occasions when I am guilty of glazing over if the conversation is boring, relentless and self absorbed. But sometimes that “Hello, my name is Susan” ….just doesn’t work. Last year I read Gretchen Rubin’s, The Happiness Project. A good friend had referred to it on numerous occasions and I had looked up her website and bookmarked and then…left it to gather dust. But after unearthing the site I purchased a copy and made my way though various chapters about Rubin’s experiment with strategically creating enduring happiness.

One of the ideas that resonated was conversation and preparing to say affirming and encouraging things to people, in particular your husband/partner. Considering how our words can build people up, whether it is a bedmate, our child, neighbour, co-worker or even enemy is a sobering exercise.

So how might out words, our polite conversation with people have the same impact? This article has simple practical ideas from googling the news before attending and event, so that you are ‘news ready’ to planning open ended questions to ask. It seems small talk is no small task.

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Smile and Get Creative

Do you write? Are you a writer? Of notes and texts and emails. Of letters, reports and essays. Of poems of passion, speeches and of fiction. Gretchen Rubin shares Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Rules for Writing Fiction here. If you dabble or are secretly creating some work of note take time to absorb these tips.


  1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
  3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  4. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
  5. Start as close to the end as possible.
  6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
  7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
  8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.