Do You Dread Small Talk At School Pick-up? 5 Ways To Ditch MeaningLESS conversation for MeaningFUL Conversation

meaningful conversation

By Lucy Higgins, ICF accredited Life & Mindset Coach

The dreaded school gates. I don’t know one parent who looks forward to school drop off or pick up. The morning battles of breakfasting, tooth brushing and bag packing are bad enough without being forced into polite conversation. It’s exhausting. Who knew I’d actually be grateful to add a mask to my shouty “No I’m not here!” shades?

Small talk makes me anxious. My heart sinks when someone asks me how I am without really meaning it or worse still, mentions the weather. So why do we insist on engaging in meaningless chit-chat?

I remember when my eldest started school, a friend with older children advised me that small talk at the school gates was simply a necessary evil. “Yes it’s exhausting but for the sake of your child, it’s really important to get on with the parents of the kids in their class– just be polite to everyone and don’t get too close in case your kids fall out”. 

Give me strength.

The Disease to Please

I think of the school gates like a little Lego representation of what goes on in wider society. 

Our primal brains are hardwired to survive and if we do not belong to the group, we will die. So we learn to people please.  We start to build emotional armour in childhood, gradually becoming less of who we really are, morphing into what our parents, caregivers, teachers, friends, family, employer, media and society expects of us – in order to connect with and be loved by others.

The irony is, it takes courage to be ourselves. 

Having been an addict of the “disease to please” for over 40 years, I got the push I needed to change when I stumbled across the book “Regrets of the Dying” by palliative nurse Bronnie Ware. The most common regret was:  

“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me”. 

So it really is a choice. We are not cavemen - we no longer need to be liked by everyone to survive. We are “good enough” just as we are. And we will connect to others once we connect to ourselves.


school drop off

5 ways to attract more meaningful conversation into your life:  

Discover your Core Values and Beliefs 

These are the basis of our character and they drive the way we think, feel and behave. They also determine our attitude toward ourselves and the world around us. Once you develop a deep sense of who you truly are and what’s important to you and why, you are less likely to betray yourself by pleasing others. 

Practice presence 

Connect with the present moment. The more present you are, the deeper you will connect to yourself and others.  A simple but effective grounding technique I use with my clients and my children is:

Take 3 deep breaths and acknowledge:

  • FIVE things you see around you. It could be a tree, a steering wheel, a spot on the ceiling, anything in your surroundings
  • FOUR things you can touch around you
  • THREE things you can hear
  • TWO things you can smell
  • ONE thing you can taste.

Then set a simple intention eg “If I engage in a conversation at the school gates, I will breathe, be curious, and actively listen”. 

Be brave, show vulnerability 

Researcher Dr Brene Brown believes “Vulnerability is the only bridge to build connection”. By showing others who we are and how we feel, we give them permission to do the same. She says: “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. We love seeing raw truth and openness in other people but we’re afraid to let them see it in us. We’re afraid our truth isn’t enough – that what we have to offer isn’t enough without the bells and whistles, without editing and impressing.” 


Say No

Society rewards those who put other people’s needs before their own. Women in particular have been conditioned to believe saying no is rude, ungrateful or unkind. But I believe setting boundaries is a gamechanger. They help you conserve energy, feel less overwhelmed, and more confident. The more you do it, the more empowered you’ll feel as you reap the benefits. You will notice that relationships deepen and conversations will start to hold more meaning. Friends will begin to trust you more because they know your RSVP acceptance is not driven by FOMO but it means you genuinely want to be in their company.


Get support

Neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to change and rewire itself) tells us that the more we repeat a new behaviour, the quicker it will become automatic. Surround yourself with authentic people and emulate their behaviour – this will normalise it and maximise the opportunities to practice and experience what you want to feel - authentic connection. 

If you would like 1-1 support to help you discover your authentic self, stop people pleasing and improve the quality of your relationships, I’d love to hear from you. Go to Instagram @bigtalkformums and click on the link in the bio to book a free 60 minute session with me to see if we are a good fit.