Here's how I see it now, a year later.
We - and by "we" I mean people concerned with ideas - are different "beasts" than most people. We care about what we say and we scrutinize what we listen to, sometimes heavily (I'm not going to say 'too much', because I don't think there's such a thing as "overthinking".) This is different from the policies most other people employ, one common of which is "say something so you don't appear unsociable", so what you get is ... what's that word .... bromides. Most people you deal with in your everyday life don't have integrated (or largely integrated) minds, just a random, compartmentalized collection of ideas they picked up along the course of their lives. 'Random' isn't exactly the right word - sometimes a second-hander's ideas are not "picked up" at random - sometimes the principle is to uphold some emotion - but you get the point. I like the term 'hollow imitators' - it serves to bring the point home.
Cultivating the virtue of pride helps a lot in dealing with people you encounter in everyday life. It's important to identify when (and if) the person is 'gone' - when you can no longer reach them, when they're past the point of no return, when dealing with them is a waste of your time. And you need to have the necessary self-respect and the respect of your own time to know to cut yourself off from the conversation or even from the relationship (if there was one at all).
But the flipside is just as important. You need to "keep your eyes open" for people who are good, who are concerned with ideas, who do care about what's right and what's wrong, who do try to live according to what they believe in. So go out to that dinner if perchance you meet such people - don't cut yourself off from potential new relationships that might be of benefit to you, but don't go to dinner if your sole reason is to appear sociable.
Small talk is that "testing ground" - the place where two people start assessing each other. "Small" is a misnomer - it's actually 'big' in terms of social importance to both of the participants, because it can either lead into a stronger relationship or the opposite. For example, observe how people who take smoke breaks develop stronger relationships with each other.
Those are the general principles. It's your job to develop the 'social algorithm' that fits you and your values. And it doesn't happen overnight.