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Monday, June 22, 2009

Ettiquette Monday: How to Start a Conversation

Nothing is more awkward than an awkward moment.

Whatever. You get the point. You know? When you meet someone new and shake hands, and then stare at each other awkwardly? Or when you're in the middle of a conversation and everyone laughs heartily, and the laughing dies down and you all stare at each other awkwardly? Or when you're at the dinner table and someone says something that shouldn't have been said and you stare at each other awkwardly?

Fortunately, FCN has the cure. In what follows, we'll give you a non-comprehensive catalog of nifty conversation starters. Just pick one that suits the situation and run with it until the conversation sputters, then grab another and keep going.

The Empathy Volcano

Suddenly shout: "I'm bored!" This will capture what everyone else is feeling and make it clear that you are in touch with the group. In addition, many people respond to this outburst by volunteering things to do that will curtail the boredom.

The Free Shrink

Open up the conversation by confiding your deepest, darkest secret. Ask your conversation partner (CP) for advice and opinions. Ask if you're a terrible person. It's okay to cry a little.

The Free Shrink (Canadian Variant)

Ask your CP what's bothering him or her. Don't take no for an answer. Insist that you can tell something is wrong and you won't let up until you hear all about it. Offer tissues and a shoulder to cry on. Say things like: "It's okay to be vulnerable sometimes," and "There, there."

The Human Cookbook

Everyone appreciates some new information. Talk about a gourmet recipe or an unimportant tidbit of news. Your CP will appreciate your efforts to expand and educate.

The Cold Shoulder

Ignore your CP or make a few rude comments. This will create mystery in you; your CP will be fascinated and begin casting about for ways to keep the conversation going in order to learn more about you.

The Warm Shoulder

Sigh and nod your head slowly, as if to say: "We're really great friends who don't have to say anything; we just hang out for hours and hours listening to the wind." Eventually someone will think of something to say.

The Hot Shoulder

Burst into emphatic expressions of affection for your CP. Make sure there's no doubt in anyone's mind how happy you are to be present in this conversation. This should loosen everyone up and make them feel more comfortable and open.

The Fountain of Advice

Tell your CP about various ways you've noticed that he or she is "doing it wrong." Chide the CP for throwing his or her life away and offer a bulleted list of ways to improve.

The Deflector

Stare at your CP and raise your eyebrows, indicating that it's up to him or her to make the next move.

The Amusing Deformity

Comment on an odd feature on your CP's face. Ask if it's natural or the result of a childhood accident. Talk about how much your CP must have been ridiculed by the other kids at school.

Got any conversation starters to add? Comment with your suggestions! And while you're at it, we accept requests for future Etiquette Mondays.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I had one of those moments at church and was just wishing someone would write a book "101 Conversation Starters", with the sequel being "101 Ways to Keep Your Conversation Going"!! :)