Small Talk and Signalling

Small talk is more than just polite nothingness, it helps us safely check in, helps us be social, and important helps us find interesting people. But only if we do it right.

SMALL TALK! Hoo ha. What is it good for?


Person at party looking very bored

The most common form of small talk is just an acknowledgement of existence.
– It is an utterance of “I see you” without any real depth. When the person at the grocery check out, or the person passing you in the hall/path asks “how are you?” or “you alright?” they don’t really want to know, they are mostly acknowledging that you exist, and they’ll swipe the groceries or step aside, or expect you to or something.
– Unless something is urgently wrong and needing action, the answer is “fine thanks”, even if that isn’t accurate.
– It is considered rude not to respond.

The next most common form of small talk is to decrease the awkward silence.
– If you are stuck near someone, such as an elevator, and you don’t know them, then this is NOT a social situation, quietly ignore them unless they speak.
– If you are sat down at the same table as someone you don’t know in a party or similar situation, this IS a social situation, and it becomes awkward to ignore them.
– Small talk is supposed to be shallow (without depth) and safe (no risky topics) unless there is a reasonable chance that you could be friends, or even close friends.

The last form of small talk is, in my opinion, the most important one. It is a safe way of finding out if the other unknown person is interesting.
– much like the second version, you talk about some shallow common safe topics, but you add in a quirk. This might be a pun, or a reference to some niche knowledge, or including a few things you prefer to talk about (still “safe” for public discussion)
– if the person misses all of those signals, they are not likely compatible with your interests, stick to the safe and shallow topics. If you have an opportunity to move tables, do so and rinse and repeat.
– However, also keep an ear out for them trying to signal you, they may have missed your signals, but are trying the same tactic. If you pick up on them, indicate that you have; perhaps return a pun, or acknowledge the source for the reference, or give a return bit of niche knowledge that is related to what they said.
– If you pick up on each other’s signals, now it is time to work out what you both have in common that you can get deeper about.

Essentially, small talk ensure that we are being polite enough to each other that we can work together against a common problem if need be. It can also be a very useful tool for separating the people that are interesting and compatible with you * from those who are not.

Did you know we post on Facebook [Link]? We posts bits of content there from here, but it may be easier for you to keep up with if you too are on Facebook. We also post idle thoughts and various memes that don’t make it to the Jomida page.

* That doesn’t mean those people who are not interesting and compatible with you are boring or stupid per se. They are likely interesting and compatible for someone else, and that is okay.

Hearing Voices Primer

We’ve added a new Education Page, a Hearing Voices Primer. Our Primers are quick ways to orient to some of the important basic frameworks for certain complex mental health concepts.

Check out the complete Primer here [Link]

Here is a preview:

Hearing Voices is a code phrase for someone who perceives (hear, smell, see, taste, touch, ‘sense’) anything beyond what others do. It is not synesthesia, feeling the presence of god, talking to yourself, negative self talk, or a few other things that people mistake. While people diagnosed with schizophrenia may Hear Voices (etc), Hearing Voices does not mean you are schizophrenic, psychotic or a few other medical conditions which have become synonymous with Hearing Voices.

For simplicity, I will use the capitalised Hearing Voices and variants to mean the entire phenomena rather than the specific trait of only hearing voices.

Hearing Voices is quite common. Most people have experienced some odd sensory experiences at least once in their life, with 75% of people surveyed admitting that they have heard, seen or experienced an impossible phenomena that fits in to the Hearing Voices description at least once. Many people get this phenomena when they are at the edge of falling asleep or waking from sleep, or when they are in a very stressful situation. One anecdote I recall talking to a client about was when they were in a horrid situation where their child was in terrible danger after a motor vehicle accident. My client heard the distinct external voice that told them to get up and keep going, that they had to save their child and gave them some fairly good instructions on what to do to do it. My client, an atheist (someone who has no belief in gods or the supernatural) could see how people could mistake that kind of commanding external voice as the voice of god.

While Hearing a Voice at some point in your life is common, most people do not have a frequent Hearing Voice experience. Depending on the study, as little as 3% and as much as 10% of the world’s population experience frequent Hearing Voices regularly. That is as many as 1 in 30 to 1 in 10 people.

For some, the experience of Hearing Voices is nice. The presences they experience are peaceful, empowering and helpful. Warnings that do come are frequently right, and advice given is helpful. One client explained to me that their good voice helps them with fashion advice, but is absolutely awful at mathematics, so no good in an exam.

For some, the presences are a mixed bag of good and bad. A client as telling me that when they smell a particular flower sent (in the absence of those flowers or perfumes being present), then they know to expect that someone close to them has died. While the sensory manifestation isn’t benevolent or malicious, it does herald an upcoming bad time, which they have learned to use as a warning to be prepared.

Girl holding book with friendly dragon on shoulder, fending off shadows whispering in the background.
Fending off the shadows with a friendly dragon

Some just get the awful ones. One client has a number of presences that are not very pleasant. Multiple senses are involved in the entities existences. Some are just vocal, some are vocal and visual, some incorporate smell as well. Most of their entities are non-coherent in sound (noises, animal or demonic utterances), and those who are coherent in words are not very intelligent (like a very limited chatbot you find in “online help” or worse) except that they use lots of swear words and personal insults. The few who can form real sentences and can seem to know what is going on in the real world, when examined are just occasionally lucky.

[Read more]

Over Thinking

Over thinking is a part of anxiety, generally long term rather than recent.

A brief on anxiety: Some anxiety is caused by over expecting past bad things to happen again. Some anxiety is caused by past compensating behaviours being poor for a stable environment. Some anxiety is caused by situational problems that may need addressing. Most long term anxiety is caused by biology, most commonly your neurotransmitters aren’t well balanced, leading to your brain misinforming you.

Graphic text says:

"If you're happy and you know it, overthink.
If you're happy and you know it, overthink.
If you're happy and you know it,
give your brain a chance to blow it.
If you're happy and you know it, overthink."

Graphic picture shows a renaissance female with a hand on her face looking like she is "over it".

Back to overthinking.


Over thinking can be a behavioural response to uncertainty

– The easy fix is to make a decision on the thing you are thinking about, then when you think again about it chant to yourself “nope, solved that <insert 1 sentence fix/decision>”

– If you go on to think “but what if”, respond with “I’ll solve that if it comes up”; unless it is highly likely to come up. First do a “likelihood of occurring” assessment (is it really likely, or just scary?), and if it is, make a decision now about what will likely work.

– Remember, you’ve survived this long, your emergency decisions have always succeeded at keeping you alive. You can fix an imperfect survival decision’s consequences later if you have to.

Toxic Environment

Over thinking can be a response to the most common condition I come across that should be in the DSM and ICD, but isn’t: “surrounded by A holes, but not knowing it/not knowing what to do about it”

– Sorting this out takes some specific knowledge about your situation and advice to get out of it, and how to change your thinking pattern.

– There are articles on our website regarding toxic and abusive people as a primer

Biochemically driven

– Our brain has 1 primary goal “keep us alive”. It does this by trying to predict what is likely to happen that could be a problem and solving that ahead of time. It should only work on the most presenting risk in the near future. The further away the risk thing is, the bigger it has to actually be in order to spend valuable “now” resources to solve.

– If our brain’s neurochemistry is out, it misreports what threats are, or threatening they are, and how much resource should be spent on resolving them

– Take a look at how other people are responding to the same issues. If most people (perhaps 80%) are not worried about them, or only a bit concerned and have a basic plan of what to do, then you are indeed overthinking it. If you only occasionally sink lots of resources into a single problem, then perhaps you’ve seen something they haven’t – but if you often do this, then you are likely over reacting to risk.

– If using the above “I’ve got an answer” isn’t working and your brain keeps coming up with new problems, or ignoring your solution, you likely have a neurochemical problem. Biological problems require biological solutions.

= That means antidepressants. They start at modifying Serotonin, which works for about 1/3 of people. When that doesn’t work, it is important to look at the adrenalin system, often norepinephrine, which could be high, low or over-reactive. There are further explorations after that, but at this level you need an expert.

= You may also be experiencing anxiety and over thinking secondary to something else, like poorly managed Autism and or ADHD etc. This needs to be factored into your management of this too.

= Medication is generally only a part of the solution, addressing how you think is very important too.

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