Editors note: Have fun with this. Satire is needed in our lives!
Here is a typical boring conversation you have probably engaged at a cocktail party:
Scott: “Hi Cynthia. How are you?
Cynthia: “Fine thanks!”
Scott: “That’s just great. And how are your kids.”
Cynthia: “Thanks for asking. They are great too.”
Scott: “Are you still working at the law firm?”
Cynthia: “Yes. still chugging along after 10-12 years (notice the 10-12 usage)? How are you, Scott?”
Scott: “Just fine, thank you. I wish the weather was a little warmer though.”
Cynthia: “I know. I am tired of winter.”
Scott: “Um……..um…….Ok, Great seeing you and lets stay in touch (Translation…NO INTENTION EVER to attempt to speak again if at all possible).”
How did that conversation really make you feel? Was it far from the feeling of root canal without Novacaine? How about a stubbed pinky toe against the living room chair while walking up to bed in the dark?
Why do we go through life with the same, weak, small talk pleasantries with people we do not really share mutual interests? Why do we lie to people we barely know about and engage in such meaningless conversations.? Isn’t it transparent that both sides are being totally phony? Isn’t the awkwardness of trying to come up with the next generic line excruciating? Why do we feel that we need to make a connection when the end result is that you do not really care much about those particular people.
So do you think I am mean? Am I anti-social? Perhaps that is one way to look at it. Another way to look at it is that I value meaningful conversation with fewer people who I know share common interests and values. How comforting to know that when you are really engaging with someone, it is natural and substantive. Isn’t that a good thing? Aren’t I being respectful not engaging someone I do not share an interest with from the pain and discomfort of a shallow and uninteresting conversation?
To address the “mean” part, if that is your position, let me give you another option in how to deal with small talk pleasantries without hurting someone’s feelings. I am not looking to insult anyone. I am simply trying to be real and honest and save both sides from that awkward small talk. Here are 3 easy steps you can take:
- As you are walking towards your uninterested subject, Say “hi” and make eye contact. This shows a level of respect.
- Nod your head once up and then once down in a 45 degree angle. Give a medium smile. Too much teeth will show you are full of crap. on the other hand, a small smirk will look sarcastic and portray you being above it all. The correct facial gesture represents respect for others and a silent acknowledgment that you both do not have anything to really talk about, so you will spare them in starting a meaningless small talk conversation. Look at the relief of that person after your gesture.
- This last point is critical in finishing the small talk avoidance transaction with due respect for others. You must continue walking. Do not stop for anything. Just keep walking even if it is to nowhere.
Ah, the relief! You can check that off your list of people that you now do not have to engage again during the cocktail party without at all looking rude. In fact, I think you will get even more respect from them (especially if they are real people) because you were magnanimous and made the first move to not engage in the most polite manner possible.
By this time, you have navigated the room, skillfully and respectfully avoiding 80% of the guests. No harm, no foul. You and your significant other are walking with a skip to your step, as if you were mimicking the 1970’s dance, “Do The Hustle?” You are now ready to engage “meaningful talk” with people you really like.
Here is an example of meaningful talk that you truly enjoy:
Scott: “Hey Steve, Hey Julia! What is going onnnnnnnnn!” Notice the inflection in tone is natural and sincere.
Jim and Julia: “You and your girlfriend look great! My god! Did you get a haircut, Scott?”
Scott: “Very impressive Julia! You have an uncanny knack for details. Speaking of details, Your boobs are looking a little different? Did you get a lift or implant?”
Julia: “I really love your directness, Scott! You do not beat around the bush.” (No…not that bush wise asses out there)!
My girlfriend: “Oh you know Scott…That’s his way of being flattering…and by the way (while she is pinching me as she continues), Which plastic surgeon did you use Julia? I have been thinking about it with my size A’s!”
Jim: “Hey man, what up with those Mets? Will we see another World Series in our lifetime?”
Girlfriend (interrupting my repy now because a positive and comfortable conversation flow has been established): “I don’t think so. The Mets are losers and I think Scott enjoys being tortured every night.”
Jim (wondering if that was a double entendre): “You meant the Mets of course!”
Scott: “Watch it Jim you dirty bastard. BTW, how much did those set of boobs cost you? (make sure your look is one of ‘poor fool’).”
Julia: (This is her specialty so she now interrupts and answers for Jim): “Nad anuf” (with a twinge of a Long Island accent that changed my attraction of Julia from an 8 to a 4 in a split second).
Scott: “No really Jim. I am sure you have s different perspective of the true cost. What did you get in return besides ‘thank you?’ Don’t get me wrong, I am sure you are deriving an indirect benefit in private, but what did she give you in return? (I am now purposely looking shallow, narcissistic and sexists just to stir up the conversation. They know I am not like this but I can live in a fantasy world once in a while, especially at a fancy cocktail party with 3 rock glasses of Woodford Reserve Double Oaked Bourbon. Remember, this is real talk. No inhibitions in the way. Spicy talk is encouraged as it is all in good sport).
Girlfriend: ‘We are going to get some Sushi. Can we bring you back any?”
Jim and Julia: “No thanks. We already ate half the allotment that was on the table. I hope there is some left!”
Scott (now giving a dig to his girlfriend): “You had to take your time with your make-up and now the only thing left is a chaffing dish of peppered steak with coagulated sauce – barely warm!”
So, the next time you go to a cocktail party and feeling that slight apprehension of meaningless small talk, bring your “A” game for both the people you want to avoid and the ones you want to engage. You will leave with more substance than when you arrived and less discomfort before you go.
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