Wednesday, August 30, 2006

On Socializing a Blogger

I recently ran across this excerpt from a fellow blogger:

This is where I could use some specific answers to questions I've had for a while:

- What kind of stuff can you talk about with someone you've never met once you're past the basic "where are you from, what's your major, etc." crap?

- What's a good non-awkward way to break an awkward silence?

- Is there some specific gesture or voice inflection that most people use when they're about to finish talking and want you to reply? This has baffled me all my life and is the source of most of my interruptions, since I have no [snip] idea when the other person is going to stop talking, and if I wait for a pause, it usually turns out that they were just gathering steam for something else, and I end up cutting them off.

- Is it a good idea to try and reciprocate in conversation as much as possible? For example, if someone asks how your classes are going, are you expected to answer and then add a "how about you?" or something, or is that considered rude since they didn't bring it up? Sorry I can't think of a better example, but you get the idea.

Any other conversational advice would be appreciated.

Well, you've asked some good questions. In my experiences, I've noticed that with certain people conversations flow while with others, it is like running into a brick wall after you get their name. I honestly don't know what makes some conversations work and others fall to pieces. The other night we had a movie on the drill field. Since I generally have a high level of situational awareness and I was fairly bored with the movie (imagine that), I started to people watch. Well, someone caught my eye. My buddy kept badgering me to go talk to her so I finally gave in. I grabbed two sodas and headed down by her. I squatted down next to her blanket, and as I held out the drink, basically said, "Would you like a soda? I'm Crispy, how are you?" The conversation took off from there and we were talking until the end of the movie.

As for your first question: What can you talk about with someone you've never met?
The shortest answer: ANYTHING! The technique that I use is to attempt to find out as much about the other person as possible. Some call it charisma. Let's face it, most people enjoy talking about themselves. Asking questions about the other person also indicates your own interest in them. Dan Reiland, the VP of Leadership Development at INJOY says this, "How can you have charisma? Be more concerned about making others feel good about themselves than you are making them feel good about you." In short, be a good listener. Bits of information that I like to try to find out include where people have traveled, where they would like to travel to, what their parents do, where they have lived in the past, where they want to move to once they get out of college and what they want to do, how many brothers and sisters and their ages, pets, what hall the person lives in and who their RA is, and anything else that comes up.

Your next question was: What's a good way to break an awkward silence?
Ask a question. Talk about how much the food at the dining facility sucks and make fun of it.

As to voice inflections and expressions, I can't possible type a reasonable answer for you. My best advice is to become a people watcher and train your eye to pick up on the slightest facial expression changes. A general rule of thumb, and seemingly obvious answer is that when a question is asked (to include, "Ya know?"), they want an answer.

Regarding reciprocating questions, I always turn questions back to the other person after I've responded to their inquiry. As you develop your social skills, you will get to the point where you can manage to avoid their question but find out how their classes are going, if you don't want to answer them for some reason, but we'll address that at a future date.

If I may be so bold as to recommend one more book for you to read: "The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader" by John C. Maxwell. Of all the leadership-based books that I've read, this is one of the best and one that I continue to relate to.

As for remembering people's names, try to find something that it rhymes with or take note of a unique feature about the person. If you find a better method, let me know!

I hope at least some of this will be helpful. If you have any questions, feel free to send them my way.