Throughout the years I've heard people saying - I hate small talk, I'm not good at it- and I've caught myself saying that same thing a few times. Coming from a retail background, I was having the same conversations over and over, every single day. Pointless talks about the weather, or an specific event going on at the time, would get monotonous and tiring very quick to the point that I'd come back home very exhausted as if all that small talk during the day with strangers had drained my energy somehow.
It wasn't until a few years later that I realised what a great gift that small talk really was to me. After being introduced to Buddhism practices of mindfulness, and having learnt their "Loving Kindness Meditation" I changed my perception towards small talk. Suddenly I could stand in front of people, look them in the eyes and ask -how are you?- like a meant it. Then listen to them, not with the intention of replying, but with my full attention, as a gesture of love, saying - I'm here for you, I'm listening. And Oh what a gift that was for me. The fulfillment you get out of gifting people your attention is worth the time it takes to stop and listen. And since you have to just give your time, and there is nothing you are getting in return, it becomes a big practice of selflessness. These are difficult concepts, mostly when we live in a society where "time is money" and we choose to stare down at our phones when walking down the street to avoid human interaction.
Listening without judgment is a big practice as well.Usually your mind if focused on what to reply, so every words is analysed, classified and processed, and your discriminative faculty decides whether you like the conversation or not; and even if you like that person at all. You create all these opinions in your head, that end up being more tiring and energy consuming than the conversation in the first place.
Next time you meet someone, either a stranger or and acquaintance; take the time to look them in the eyes, drop whatever is going on in your mind and in your life, and be fully present. Something will shift in you; sometimes it only takes a second of mindfulness to comprehend at a deeper experiential level, how powerful the opportunity of small talk really is.