Thanks for visiting! As you may already know, this is the fourth installment of my blog series about navigating social skills in the workplace. If you are on the autism spectrum, you might think you are at work to do your job. Therefore, small talk, smiling, and other social niceties may seem like a waste of time and unnecessary.
Small Talk and Neurodiverse Adults
It takes a lot of social energy to take part in small talk. So, many people on the autism spectrum don’t think the effort is worth their while. I run support groups for autistic working professionals. Many neurodiverse people have shared with me that they think small talk is superficial, tedious, and mind-numbingly boring. Sometimes, it is the last thing they want to do! But, it is an important social skill necessary to build relationships at work.
What is the value of small talk?
Small talk helps open the door to future conversations of deeper and more interesting content. It is like a preview. It’s like taking a test drive. People are looking for someone who is friendly, willing to take the time to acknowledge they exist in this universe. They want to talk to someone who will listen and will add some humor and joy to their life. Most importantly, if they walk away with a positive experience from “small talk”, they are more likely to engage in a future conversation. If you avoid small talk, people interpret that as you are avoiding them. Like there is something about them you don’t like. So, they might interpret you as rude or dismissive.
It’s Okay to Not Like Small Talk
Now if small talk is not your thing, that’s okay. Maybe save it for people you might want to befriend or people who are important to you in life. For example, you might save it for coworkers, so you can get to know them better.
It is an essential tool for building relationships. Again, it serves to crack the door open to communication. So, If you want to get to the point of having deeper conversations on topics of shared interest, you need to take part in small talk. Sometimes it only takes 1 or 2 episodes of small talk to get to this point. Before you know it, the door of communication will be open. You can exchange a variety of exciting ideas with people who are important to you.
Small Talk in the Workplace
Small talk serves a crucial purpose in the workplace. This social skill is a way to express friendliness and openness. One simple moment of small talk with a colleague can leave a positive impression. It increases the likelihood they will work with you and collaborate on projects with you. Additionally, it will help you repair future miscommunications in your relationship. Because they occur in almost every relationship.
I understand that this will take some effort. Likely a great amount of energy if you are Neurodiverse. So, before starting small talk with someone, it might be worth thinking about the ultimate benefit. Building the foundation for a relationship with your colleagues. This will help give you that push to engage in small talk.
Stay Connected With Open Doors Therapy
Thanks for reading my blog. I hope you enjoyed learning more about social skills in the workplace and how small talk plays a huge role in building relationships with your colleagues. If you liked this blog and feel like it applies to you or someone you know, I would love for you to be a part of our working professionals community at Open Doors Therapy.
Here are three easy ways to stay connected with my South Bay Area counseling clinic:
- Contact Open Doors Therapy and schedule a free 30-minute phone consultation.
- Connect with me on Facebook for another way to stay informed.
- Sign up to receive my newsletter for news and information directly from me!
Other Autism Services at Open Doors Therapy
My Palo Alto/Bay Area mental health clinic serves individuals with autistic traits. This includes individuals who identify as having Aspergers, high functioning autism, undiagnosed autism traits, etc. and their families. I am proud to offer individual counseling, parent counseling, and group therapy for the Silicon Valley area and beyond. Additionally, our therapists offer support and educational groups for neurodiverse working professionals, college students with autistic traits, gifted youth & caregivers, autistic adults, women who identify as neurodiverse, a summer social skills college transition training program for youth transitioning to college, teens & caregivers, and a mothers group. To learn more about any of these services, contact our office and schedule a free consultation.
About the Author
Dr. Tasha Oswald is a trained developmental and clinical psychologist. She is the founder and director of Open Doors Therapy, a private therapy practice in Palo Alto, near San Francisco, CA. She specializes in social skills groups for neurodiverse adults and teens on the autism spectrum.