I'm not a big fan of small talk. For one thing, it's how people who barely know each other kill time during interpersonal interactions at work, school, or the grocery store without having to go to the trouble of getting to know each other better.
For another, some people's brains are on autopilot when they engage in small talk. For some, the opposite of talking isn't listening, it's waiting and thinking about what they're going to say next.
Another good reason to examine small talk is to take an honest look at how much negativity gets thrown around in casual discussions.
Examine your own conversational habits. How much of what you say to fill up space is a complaint? Complaints about the boss, about the hours, about the kids, about the weather?
The weather, that's always a popular topic to bitch about. Where I live, winter has settled in. Complaining about the weather is a "safe" topic that people can use to drum up some contrived camaraderie.
But what's the point? The weather is what it is, whether you like it or not. I remind myself of what Milton wrote, that "The mind is its own place and in itself, can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven." Winter's here, and it's not going to disrupt my serenity. I dress warm, drive safely, and enjoy the life I've made for myself, indoors or out.
-30 with the windchill doesn't impinge on my personal happiness, so why whine about it?
Why whine about anything, really?
I acknowledge that small talk is socially necessary. The checkout line at the grocery store is no place for an in-depth discussion of anything. Regardless, every time you speak with another person, you have an opportunity to be a positive influence, even in the smallest ways.
If what you feed grows, why would you foster negativity? Think about what you have to say, and be positive.