A Psychologist’s Take on Why Many of Us Would Rather Walk Than Small Talk in an Uber

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Uber is trying to make small talk in your ride a thing of the past, and honestly, praise be. The feature—called Uber Quiet Mode, currently only available for high-rolling Uber Black and Uber Black SUV users—lets your driver know that you're not trying to engage in conversation. And, really, when you're hopping into a car at 3 a.m. to catch an early-morning flight to Florida, can you think of anything you'd want to do less than engage in low-stakes pleasantries?

Thing is, some people—the ones for whom we invent such mute-button-esque functions in the first place—certainly can. Why do some people lean hard on, dare I say even enjoy, small talk while others like me would rather walk all the way to Universal Studios than be asked about what I do for a living? You know, besides the whole, "we're all shy, social introverts now" thing.

Several reasons, it turns out—with the first being simple personal taste. "Similar to the preference of chocolate versus vanilla, many people strongly feel one way or the other about small talk, whether in an Uber or at a work meeting," says psychotherapist Jennifer Silvershein, LCSW. "While some individuals feel that small talk allows us to get comfortable and potentially 'warm up' for more intensive or important conversations, others may find it absolutely distracting and a waste of time."

"Similar to the preference of chocolate versus vanilla, many people strongly feel one way or the other about small talk, whether in an Uber or at a work meeting." —psychotherapist Jennifer Silvershein, LCSW

There's a third category though: the opportunist small talkers who will only engage if there's something to gain from feigning a bond. "Others may find small talk valuable in some scenarios potentially when you're trying to make a sale to someone and want to create a sense of closeness," Silvershein adds.

Again: small talk is the worst, and that last tidbit reinforces my stance on why its especially useless in a ride-sharing setting. "In an Uber ride or among people that you're never going to see again…it may not be of value," she continues. "It's also important to note that some people may feel anxious and pressured to keep the conversation going which can cause unnecessary stress."

So much yes to that last point—and I certainly don't need any extra needless stress in my daily routine. The good news? If you can sense small talk kindling starting to ignite, you can feel free to run away, and fast—the kind way.

"I always encourage individuals to share a preference or expectation. If you enter a car, or you're about to enter a meeting and need to prep something, there is no shame in letting the person know you hate to seem rude or disinterested but you've got a few quick things you need the handle," Silvershein says. "Better to be upfront with preferences than feel uncomfortable or as though you owe someone a conversation."

So next time you need to get a ride and don't feel like spending a fortune, know that you can probably shut down the small talk by saying you need to answer your work emails. You know. "Work emails."

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