Tuesday, January 5, 2010

What to Say (Conversational Skills, Part 5)

So you’ve asked some questions of your conversational partner, but now it’s time for you to do some of the talking. What do you say and how do you prepare?

Just to be sure, a few words of warning:

Do not call her a ‘girl’ because she can’t do certain things (every woman likes to think she’s capable of anything) or similar sexist comments, even if you’re “joking.”

Do not refer to a woman (not just her, but any woman) as a ‘girl.’

If this is your first conversation with her, do not talk about sex--unless she brings it up.

Do not comment on how good looking someone else is (even a movie star) unless you’re referring to a man.

Okay, now on to preparation!

First, you need to be prepared to answer boring and/or embarrassing questions. Most people do not know how to ask questions, so you will often be faced with those vague, generalized questions that I’ve told you not to ask (at least not to ask without an interesting follow up question). So decide beforehand what you will say if someone asks you any of those questions that you hate answering or don’t have a good answer for.

Do normal people pre-plan their answers for social occasions? Likely not. But then most of them are also boring. Don’t let your judgment about how pathetic, stupid, contrived, etc. it is to pre-plan answers get in your way of pre-planning answers! More conversations would be more interesting if people did pre-plan.

What are the questions that get you stuck for an answer or only ever elicit answers that no one listens to or cares about?

Here are some examples:

What have you been up to? What’s new? (or other derivations thereof)

What do you do?

When was your last relationship? (or other derivations thereof)

Now add your own questions to this list. Write out three possible answers to each of these questions that stymie you. Look over your answers. Are they interesting? Do you want to know more? Do they show passion? Do they express an opinion? Do they avoid embarrassing yourself but are still true?

Up on Friday: How to Tell an Anecdote

1 comment:

  1. "Do not refer to a woman (not just her, but any woman) as a ‘girl.’"

    It's surprising how hard a habit this is to break. I think in part it's because I can refer to men as "guys" and that's okay, it's not seen as demeaning. But the equivalent diminutive for women would be something like "chicks" or "girls", and unfortunately it's not neutral like "guys" is, because women are treated dismissively and demeaningly far more often. I say unfortunate only because sometimes using "woman" sounds overly formal and stilted—the same as "man" would in similar context—but being respectful is more important than being casual.