Opinion: Superficial conversations


“Hey, how are you?”

“Good, how are you?”

“Good, just working and going to school.”

“Cool, well I’ll see you around.”

I’ve heard and talked through this conversation more times than I can count. It’s a simple dialogue that demonstrates our need to connect with other human beings. But here’s the sad truth: it means nothing. This poor excuse for a conversation is so superficial, we never actually make a connection.

As a communications major, I’ve learned that human connection is crucial to understanding, growth and experiencing real, lasting love. However, I think many of us, myself included, never get past this casual phase of conversation. Why? Because it’s easy and safe. I’ll even get anxious about having an actual conversation with my life-long friends and back into my safely guarded corner of superficial questions. But I’ve come to learn that breaking out of this casual phase is essential to forming real and lasting relationships.

Dating is hard. But it’s supposed to be. Relationships are difficult to form and maintain because they require effort beyond the superficial. Every date I’d been on started out the same way: Where was I from? What was I studying in school? What was my favorite food? What music did I listen to? My first date with my husband was different.

Kimberly and her husband on a date picking out facial hair. (Kimberly Petersen)

I remember sitting across from him at Village Inn, that cute and funny kid from class who I met in a high school one-act play. He didn’t ask me what my favorite food was. Instead, he asked about my hopes and dreams for the future. He asked me what I believed in. He asked what was going on in my life. In that moment, I was shocked; yet I felt completely comfortable sharing the deeper things about myself as he shared about himself.

Now hold on and relax! I’m not saying to necessarily have those deep, meaningful conversations on a first date; some things are private and special or even sacred to you! But try to delve a little deeper once you’ve gotten those outer-shell questions out of the way. After asking where they work, ask them where they really want to work, and why. After asking them their favorite food, ask them why they love that food and if they’d ever want to travel to the country where that food originated. Think deeper people!

Dating and relationships become so much more rich and enjoyable when we really get to know a person. And the more we get to know them, oftentimes, the more we care about them and genuinely want to ask, “Hey, how are you doing today?”

Making friends is hard. Again, it’s supposed to be. During my Sophomore year in college, I sat next to a girl in my World Religions class. Every day I complimented something she was wearing and asked how she was doing. Everyday she said she was fine and complimented me back. I couldn’t remember her name, but I thought we were pretty good friends who knew a lot about what makes an outfit cute. One day I noticed she was upset, so I actually took the time to ask about it. That conversation went from the classroom to her house where we discussed depression and suicide. As it turned out, my life experiences were able to help her and her life experiences helped me as well. We talked, we laughed and I re-learned her name. We actually became friends and actually influenced each other’s lives.

Kimberly (forward middle) and friends celebrating life in Tahiti. This could be you! (Calvin Petersen)

So, if we’re all swimming in over our heads with school, work, family and relationship struggles, why don’t we talk about them? If we all have meaningful things to share, why don’t we share them? Why don’t we take the time to listen more?

Superficial conversations are useless in making connections. So let’s try to move past “how are ya” and “doing fine thanks” and actually get to know someone. 

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