Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Is this a party, or is it a group of people ignoring each other?

I believe that we all crave connection. I've had some great conversations since starting this journey and I believe it's possible to have real connections every day. I still struggle with how to make it happen.

Let's take an example - a kid's birthday party. Just a group of kids and parents getting together over good food and a nice day; it could have been a social event, instead it turned out to be a total dud.


I was there for my daughter, but I knew I might be seeing some other adults and we might have real adult conversations, so I was looking forward to it. It was a beautiful day, the kind where you turn your face to the sun just to feel the warmth.

I arrived at the same time as a bunch of the other parents, put on my smiley-face and shook hands. Hi, nice to meet you, oh, which kid is yours? Oh, right, that one. Uh-huh.

The food was laid out and the kids got to serious playtime. The grown-ups? We just stood around. Ignoring each other. Picking at the guacamole. Sure, there was a little small talk like, "Oh, is that the cheese platter?" and "Is this imported spam?" but not a lot in the way of of real 'getting to know you' conversation.

I walked up to one of the other moms and opened with some simple 'how are you' questions, and commenting on the nice day. Real easy stuff, I thought, but she didn't respond. I thought, "Okay, maybe she's just not in the mood to talk." So I tried again, with one of the grandparents. I asked her "What do you do?' and she glared at me. "Well, I'm in the middle of a big project at work right now....". She told me about her job, but she didn't sound like she liked her job, it was more like, 'well, I have to do SOMETHING so here's what I do..' .

I realized later that by asking her about work I completely fell into one of my known conversation traps. I should never, ever ask what someone does for their job. If they like what they do, they'll bring it up and talk about it without any prompting from me. If they don't it's a conversation killer.


Later that same weekend I was listening to Car Talk on the radio. These guys are funny, and part of their radio personality is to quickly start conversations with people they don't know. Their method is to learn where someone is from, and then ask, "What do you do for fun on a Saturday in (town name)?"

So I decided to try it. The next day, we ran into a family from that same party, having lunch. My husband and I joined them, and I started right in with the Car Talk question, "So, where are you from again? And what do you do for fun on a Saturday afternoon in your town?"

It was amazing! They opened up right away and got very excited to talk about their town, restaurants, playgrounds, life. They were immediately comfortable and chatty. We moved from 'awkward' to 'casual friends hanging out' in a span of 3 minutes.


What I want is for people to talk about things that make them happy, so I can get to know them and how incredible they all are. I think this works because for most people I meet, where they live makes them happy. They have chosen to live where they do. They feel good about it, so they have lots of things to talk about. If they don't like where they live, this is an opener for them to say what they do on a weekend somewhere else. It's an open question with lots of possible answers.


So - what do you do for fun on a Saturday afternoon, in your town? :)


No comments: