Schwätzen means to gab or chat about topics of low relevance and in a thoughtless manner which has no value. The Germans speak of dummes Geschwätz – dumm is stupid, dumb, idiotic, asinine, foolish.
Geschwätz from the verb schwätzen – when people in public spaces blab out loud, when students gab during classes, or colleagues do the same during meetings. A Schwätzer is not shunned, but disliked, and not respected. A Schwätzer talks too much and does too little.
Germans believe that if a person does not have anything valuable to offer in a given discussion then it is better that they say nothing at all – die Klappe halten.
Klappe is a cover, lid, flap. Halten is to hold or keep shut. Germans do not consider it to be impolite if in a discussion one or more people say little or nothing. Seldom do they ask, prompt or summon those who are silent to participate.
To “talk about the weather” in the German context means to talk about nothing of importance, to have a meaningless conversation, to be superficial. It is a signal to both parties that they have nothing to say to each other. It‘s embarrassing for both.
Books in Germany about Small Talk
Amazon Germany lists 196 books with ‘small talk’ in their title. The best sellers are Small Talk für Dummies, Small Talk – Nie Wieder Sprachlos (Never Again Speechless) and Small Talk – Die Besten Themen (The Best Topics).
The typical table of contents reads: What is small talk? What purpose does small talk serve? In what situations do you use small talk? When can small talk be dangerous or uncalled for? When do you need small talk? What topics are appropriate in small talk? Which topics are dangerous in small talk? Small talk and body language. How to react to small talk? How to deal with small talk in difficult situations?
Nearly two hundred books. What does this tell us about small talk in Germany?
Reasons for Small Talk
If you type into Google „reasons for small talk“ or „why small talk“ or „purpose of small talk“, it will respond with numerous links to people – experts and amateurs – who typically state anywhere between five and ten reasons.
Small talk: Signals the mood of the other person; finds topics of common ground; fills in a communication vacuum; establishes trust; is a possible introduction to big talk topics; identifies issues which might be too sensitive to address; can communicate interest, care, even affection; allows one to overcome their own shyness.
But what about introverts, those who prefer to discuss topics of substance?
Books in USA about Small Talk
On Amazon.com, there are 125,927 search results for books involving “small talk”. On BarnesandNoble.com, thee are 328 books found under “small talk”. Titles include The Fine Art of Small Talk: How to Start a Conversation, Keep it Going, Build Networking Skills—and Leave a Positive Impression by Debra Fine and Turn Small Talk into Big Deals: Using 4 Key Conversation Styles to Customize Your Networking Approach, Build Relationships, and Win More Clients by Don Gabor.