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A category of conversations that is extremely useful is small talk:

Small talk (phatic communication) is an idiomatic expression which denotes informal discourse not covering any functional topics of conversation or any transactions that need to be addressed. Such talk serves two primary functions. The first is to fill in the gaps during awkward silences during conversations. The second function is to generate interest in having a conversation and start engaging the other party in order to start a deeper level of conversation.

Small talk helps to strengthen socially bonds. But it is also widely perceived to be a valuable pastime.

I bring this up because I suspect that people here are already pretty good at having functional conversations relative to their proficiency level of starting conversations.

Hi, I found this place because of that Guardian article. Do you know who authored http://lesswrong.com/lw/21b/ugh_fields? It only reads [deleted], was the account of the author suspended for some reason? I might cite that article on a future occasion and want to give due credit. Thanks.