I like to chat. I chat first thing in the morning about any problems I faced in the night. Then I chat at lunch about events of the morning, and I chat in the evening about the rest of the day.
There is so much to chat about – some small disturbance in the local supermarket, family news from my children, problems with the computer, the characters in the book I am reading, a programme seen on TV. The list goes on and on.
Chatting seems so inconsequential, you might well ask how anyone could even think of writing about it. Yet have you ever stopped to think about how important it is?
I chat a lot with my husband, but also with other family members and friends, not to mention neighbours. Chatting is the glue that holds people together.
We live with someone or a set of other people, we live near neighbours and we keep in touch with a much wider circle of friends and family. What makes us feel a part of one another is chatting, talking about everyday mundane matters. It’s probably one of the more intimate things we do, aside from the obvious.
Spending such apparently inconsequential time with close friends and family allows us to keep abreast of the texture of their lives – what they are thinking about, excited about or, indeed, worrying about. We also get to tell them about ourselves. It is a key way of creating connections.
Even a brief moment talking to a neighbour over the proverbial garden fence can lead to a cup of tea, the discovery of shared interests, and, eventually, the possibility of helping each other in some way.
Chatting can take place over the phone or Skype or even texting, I suppose, although I don’t text except for sorting out plans. It may be at the dinner table, lying on a sofa or even in bed. Those early morning chats, before even getting up, are a lovely way to start the day.
Of course, we have much more significant discussions with people we are close to. You can call such discussions chat or not. I probably wouldn’t, on their own. But, in the course of such conversations, we move quickly from issues which are important to ones that are less important and back again.
In some circles, the concept of chatting has a rather bad press. It can be seen as synonymous with ‘gossip,’ ‘chatter,’ ‘jabber,’ ‘babble’ or the like. And we all know people who tend to go on and on until we want to scream.
But it is quite wrong, in my view, to conflate these concepts. Chatting is, above all, talking and creating a sense of connectedness to other people.
The opposite of chatting is having no one to talk to, or, in a word, loneliness. I don’t need to tell you how difficult that is. A recently widowed friend told me how the day-to-day chat about matters of no great significance was what she missed most in life on her own.
You can be lonely because you live on your own and never see anyone. But you can also be lonely when you live with one or more people who won’t – or don’t want to – talk to you. Whatever the reasons, it leads to a terrible sense of isolation.
And then there are the couples you see everywhere these days, sitting at a table over a coffee or a drink, each glued to their own telephone.
For years, loneliness was seen as something to be ashamed of, and few people were willing to admit to it. It is now slowly coming out of the closet as an issue to be taken seriously, with growing media attention and efforts to overcome it. Long may they thrive.
There is a need for more chatting in the world.
Do you like to chat? Who do you chat to? Do you wish you had more people to chat with? What do you like to chat about? Let’s have a chat!