Friday, November 21, 2008

How do you talk to people?

Whenever I meet a new person, there are standard things that are discussed: jobs, school, hobbies, pets, etc. The ubiquitous "get to know the person" questions. In theory, after these questions and topics have been discussed, I can find areas of common interest and let the conversation evolve from there. Like this:

This cat hates its owner

Me: "So what do you do in your free time?"
Them: "I
like to dress my cats up as 15th century explorers and re-enact the discovery of the New World by the West."
Me: "
I like cats."

Most often with guys, video games are a pretty good common ground. With girls it's a bit more varied, but I cook and know about fashion, so the generic girly things can be discussed with some proficiency. It's not foolproof, but it's rare I find someone in which I have absolutely nothing in common with.

Of course, this is simply the introduction of meeting someone. After I've met them I'm then expected to be able to talk with them again. Often I can find something to talk

Wrong uniform; I don't care

about from mutual interests or personal anecdotes, despite how small of a comment it may be it is as least something. The downside is that I am limited in my personal anecdotes and mutual interests aren't always as mutually interesting; just because someone else plays video games doesn't mean they play the same games I do. I have no interest in talking with someone about Madden 2009 and how much they screwed up by putting Brett Favre in the Packers uniform instead of the Jets. Seriously, I don't care.

Talking with someone for a month or two, it's entirely possible that I've told them many of the interesting stories I have
that relate to their interests. Where do we go from there? If I've shared as many of my personal stories as I'm willing to share, and they've done the same, and our topics of common interest have been tapped, what's left for discussion?

It seems only logical at this point that I should just admit that I have nothing to talk about with the person, wish them a good day,

Google recommended 'dinglehopper'

and move on to doing something else. Sitting around staring at someone all day gets very boring. Such boredom is what caused the creation of the snarfblat. That's neither here nor there. The point is that if conversation isn't able to continue the friendship will most likely become strained and suffer.


I have what I have found to be about a two month window with new friends in which to develop topics to talk about beyond personal histories/anecdotes. After two months most initial topics have been mined completely and unless there's something currently relevant to discuss, I find conversations start to become lacking. As stated, it seems logical at this point to admit I don't have anything to talk about and move on. It's not often that simple, however, particularly if I like talking with the person, or, in the case of a female, actually like her. I want something to talk with her about. I want to be able to talk with her for hours so we can laugh and have her fall madly in love with me. More often than not I end up stumbling over trying to find topics to discuss and feigning interest in things I think she's interested in to find common ground. It doesn't usually end well.

There are times when conversation flows naturally based on daily or recent events and those are often the people I end up making friends with. People I can talk to with little effort in finding a topic of conversation and with whom opinions and thoughts are discussed and usually mocked as well.

I'm always fascinated at how conversations evolve and adapt. Have you ever tried to follow the topics of a conversation? Years ago I had a conversation once go from botany to Transformers to stomach acid to Star Wars vs. Star Trek to fishing, all within about two hours. Having common interests allows topic changes while maintaining momentum. I'm not sure what to do when topics of conversations stop. When I say 'hello' to someone because I want to talk to them, only to realize that I have nothing else to say, I feel somewhat stupid. Unless you've got a long standing repertoire with someone, saying 'hello' to someone generally means you've got something you wish to speak with them about; when you don't, it's awkward.

There are actually books written on the subject of how to talk with someone, usually focusing on how to get a date with them or get what you want. That's not really an issue with me. I can ask girls out. It's not hard: go up to girl, introduce myself, invite her to join me for dinner/opera/nude sun bathing on a certain day, listen to answer, go from there. I don't really play games; I don't see the point. Astrology, palm reading, pick-up lines and other such frivolities don't interest me and I like to think most girls realize that such

Really, how hard is it?

things are nothing more than pathetic attempts by guys who don't have the confidence to extend their hand and say "Hi, my name is (insert name here)." It's the next step that I have issues with - what to talk about while on the date; more generally, what to talk about after all introductory topics are covered.

Is there a trick to avoiding the two-month pitfall with friends and keeping conversations going after you've covered relevant backgrounds and histories? If there is, it'd be nice to know about.

1 comment:

--jeff * said...

ward prayer is starting to feel like that.

the thing is, there are some people who are masterful at talking about nothing with others for lengths.

i have no interest in that.