Text and Images by Zinta Jaunitis, MA Illustration,
Camberwell College of Arts

Zinta Jauntis reports back on our recent Postgraduate Community Ambassador led event, ‘The Antidote to Small Talk’ – A Social for UAL Postgraduates on 30th November.  Organised by Elsa Fridman – Postgraduate Community Ambassador based at Central Saint Martins.

The end of small talk…

Postgraduate student, Elsa Fridman is doing an MA in Applied Imagination at Central Saint Martins. If like me, you are wondering what that is, it’s a course that invites students to apply their ideas in the real world. It encourages students to question and test ideas within the creative industries. For Elsa, she is interested in how we tell stories in a participatory way. How do you meaningfully bring people together and avoid ‘small talk’?

I googled “small talk” and the first definition that came up was: polite conversation about unimportant or uncontroversial matters, especially as engaged in on social occasions. Based on this Oxford dictionary definition, small talk seems pretty pointless to me. If you’re tired of talking endlessly about British weather what we need is a remedy, a kind of social experiment; The Antidote to Small Talk.

This event explored interpersonal closeness through a ‘lab’ environment – the lab being the Theatre platform bar at Central Saint Martins. With a background in Journalism it’s no surprise Elsa came up with a list of questions to facilitate meaningful conversations with complete strangers.

The questions were designed like a menu, leading you from the awkwardness of first moments, to honest exchanges about things that matter to you. Below is a taster (excuse the pun) of the menu;

  1. The Awkwardness (starter)

When was the last time you laughed uncontrollably? What happened?

  1. The moment (main course)

What do you fear and how do you manage your fear?

  1. The lighthouse (dessert)

What is your dream project? If you could work on anything with anyone in your field or beyond, what would you be doing?

As I was listening to the ‘dinner’ conversations, I heard people truly connecting with one another. Values were expressed, vulnerabilities were exposed, people found things in common, dreams and moments were shared – all those things that make us human. Very quickly I forgot that I was some kind of guinea pig and very quickly I was having a genuine and meaningful conversation with a complete stranger. From the outside, this did not look like a group of strangers. In fact, their body language suggested they had known each other for years and were engaging in conversation with ease.

On a cold evening this warming social for postgraduates made us ‘alive to the myriads of stories throbbing around us’. As one participant described it, ‘it was sincere’. It was clear that people are interested and want to connect with other people in meaningful ways, but perhaps are a little uncertain on how to do it.

As an antidote to small talk get a hold of these questions below, they’ll be sure to put an end to dull weather talk:

Above: Elsa Fridman’s Menu of Conversation designed for the PG Social evening 30 Nov 2017

If you want to learn more about the theories of Interpersonal closes look up Arthur Aron,

‘The Experimental Generation of Interpersonal Closeness’.

Postgraduate Community Ambassadors

UAL Postgraduate Community programme recruit Postgraduate Community Ambassadors, one for every college and this year for the first time a representative from the PhD student community.

The postgraduate students help to spread the word about the great opportunities available to MA and PhD students at UAL, helping to deliver and plan postgraduate student events and act as ambassadors and point of contact for the PG Community at each college.

Find out more