Confessions of Social Novice

from "that quiet girl"

Order of Operations: How to Begin and Not Feel Awkward

on December 20, 2011

Sometimes I’ve wanted to visit someone or approach someone to hang out or chat but didn’t know what to say or how to begin.

What really worked is this:  Get a notebook and write down possible topics daily.  Anything you would willingly remember goes here (human interest stories you read or see, anything humorous and even slightly out of the ordinary).

Next,  locate your natural circle and stop feeling self-conscious.   These can be anyone close to your age you see weekly or daily.    You are expected to talk to these people anyway.  They are probably wondering what your problem is if you don’t.

Now where to start:

The immediate situation  –  This is setting the table and sitting down to the meal

After the” how are you?” the other person might actually answer.  If not just comment on what is most current and common to both of you.  (So I am definitely not looking forward to getting up an hour early to go to the employee meeting tomorrow, but definitely looking forward to a doughnut.)

Move to a piece of light information or humor – This is so important!  You need to establish that talking to you is fun and brightens the other person’s day.  Don’t start with complaints or whiny comments or pretentious statements (So I was reading Moby Dick the other night…Have you heard of it?)

Humor –  Find some small piece of humor to share.  This should be a quick story about something that happened to you or something you saw.  Think  5-6 sentences.  It CAN be gossipy!  Go ahead if it is not mean spirited.  Example:  I might mention sneaking a cup of chocolate when someone we have in common is not looking and then noticing that the chocolate was removed later.  Here is how I would tell it.

(Lead in/hook) So you know that hot chocolate they always have in the lobby?

(Story) Well I took my cup up there one day and got some  (Make sure to animate.  Use facial expressions.  What are you feeling?  Show people how to react by reacting that way yourself.  Smile if you want them to smile.  Laugh if you want them to laugh).    I just kind of snuck in there.  I didn’t think it would be a big deal, but I noticed the other day that they aren’t putting it out there anymore!

(Close) I think it’s been moved to a secure location!  (Hopefully now you’ll get a laugh!)

Daily Life –   Enjoying my new Kindle  . . .  My dog is starting obedience school  . . . My son is singing a solo in the church choir tonight. . . . Finally got my exam back and didn’t bomb, etc.  You will chat about these things for awhile, asking questions and giving more detail.

Common Interests/Recent News (even if you aren’t sure, throw it out there)  Did you see the game?  Here about that lion that they found wandering around outside the zoo last week?

Plan – The other side to all of that is that it helps to be ready for what others will talk about.  If you take a few minutes to think before you seek someone out for a chat, you can usually map out how the conversation will go and plan how you’ll respond.  I knew a person who often tried to chat with me (squeezing juice from a turnip!), who would always start by asking if I had seen a show we both liked.  After several awkward moments of “Yes!” (silence. . .chuckle), I started pre-thinking some comments or questions as follow up.  Then when I got that down, I took it up a level and discovered that if I noticed quirky things, if I didn’t comment on the obvious but shed light on the odd, I could actually be funny.

~ Good Luck


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