Why do people talk about the weather?

I’m sure we’ve all noticed that “the weather” is the classic go-to conversation starter if you’re in need of small-talk, especially if you’re with a stranger and have nothing to say. It’s always a wonderful candidate for speaking-about-nothing because it’s universally (there’s weather everywhere), it affects everyone, and it’s a fairly objective, neutral topic.

I think that people discuss the weather for these good reasons:

  1. It is a safe topic that we all have in common and we can talk about. You can compare experiences with similar weather with your neighbour; you can discuss differences with someone living on the other side of the earth. You can discuss the weather with a stranger.  Universally, the weather is probably the safest ice-breaker to avoid conversation droughts. Talking about the weather is about more than making small talk. It’s also about being polite, finding shared interests, getting closer to others and creating trust before asking for cooperation.
  2. The weather is something that has a large impact on daily life. Weather feeds us but can also kill us. From an evolutionary perspective, weather was probably the single largest killer of humans. Without modern conveniences, hot weather would kill through dehydration, rainfall meant searching for food was easier. Too much rain causes flooding and kills also. The weather has probably been a popular topic of interest for humans for 10,000 years.
  3. It’s socially acceptable to talk about the weather in general. Yet, conversations start to heat up when topics like global warming and climate change are introduced. This changes weather talks from safe conversations to ones where personal ethics and opinions come into play. Therefore, not all-weather chat is impersonal and socially safe.
  4. Humans like to complain about the weather, we jump at the chance to complain about a hot summers day or a freezing winters night gives people a chance to express themselves, their moods and how they are feeling.

Yet, Oscar Wilde said: “Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative.”

Mars on Life.