phatic communion : Language used more for the purpose of establishing an atmosphere or maintaining social contact than for exchanging information or ideas: in speech, informal comments on the weather (Nice day again, isn’t it?) or an enquiry about health at the beginning of a conversation or when passing someone in the street (How’s it going? Leg better?); in writing, the conventions for opening or closing a letter (All the best, Yours faithfully).
Something I’ve been thinking about quite a lot recently is the idea of phatic conversations – that is, talk whose whole purpose is the talk itself, and not to a larger end (find something out from a colleague, accomplish a shared goal, communicate time away from work.)
Simon, by the way, is one of the many highly empathic and insightful folks I’m lucky enough to work with.
Definition from Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language (via encyclopedia.com)