Friday, January 18, 2008

Solutions to Small Talk

How does one improve their everyday conversations if they are bored of empty chatting? Starlee Kine proposes her method, "the Rundown", to replace small talk by pursuing the most interesting part of a conversation. (Part of This American Life (Episode 231)

Kine plays a recording where she chats with someone about breakfast and ends up having them describe their first sexual experience. She has four rules:

1. "Small talk is the conversation you are supposed to be having. The rundown is the conversation you want to have."
2. Why chew the fat when you can chew the meat?
3. If you can think it you can ask it.
4. Failsafe interesting question: How many virgins have you had sex with?

This was an interesting a lighthearted look on a topic that I love: communication. I've been having a string of wonderful conversations. I think Kine is right, you have to push the envelope with personal questions but there's always the risk that the person you're speaking with will not feel comfortable. I guess you can write them off a this point but I like to think that I contribute to someone's comfort level. Here's my advice on how to make someone feel comfortable in order to lead into a great conversation.

1. Remember. Deep down, we're all convinced that no one really cares what we say. It is an honour for someone to pay attention (especially to details), memorize our stories, and quote us. Starting a conversation by mentioning a tiny detail from a previous encounter is instantly endearing.

2. Asexual flirting. Regular flirting involves sexual innuendo and casual touching; I don't do these in my great conversations, fun games but too distracting. However, I do flirt constantly because I crush easily. I begin to imagine whoever I'm talking to and I in a really fun relationship. But I take that excited, (potentially sexual), and creative energy and transform it into enthusiasm to hear more about that person. Thus I hope to leave people knowing that I'm madly in love with them but in such a way that they're not anxiously thinking about drawing a line.

3. Match willingness. Show that you'll answer any question that you would dare ask (but don't ask questions for the sole purpose of answering them yourself)

4. Insecurities. Be open about your insecurities when they're touched upon. I like to explain to people that I'm not reacting to them but to my own fears and desires. It's usually a nice segue so that they can do the same. For instance, if I snap at someone for criticizing a decision I made I like to point out that my snapping happened only because their criticism echoes my own doubts about my choices. Like when my friend was talking about how I neglected to think of alternative ways to handle that lost dog. I snapped at her because I was embarassed by the outcome of that situation -she made a good point.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

I love TAL, and haven't listened to that episode. My curiosity is piqued, and I'll get on that right now!