And... uh... what's your name again?
October 22, 2009 3:49 AM Subscribe
What kinds of generic questions are good to use in social situations (groups, parties, etc) when there are awkward silences?
posted by forza to Human Relations (21 answers total) 68 users marked this as a favorite
I don't exactly have stellar social skills -- I mean, they're not hideous or anything, but I do way better at one-on-one interactions with close friends than anything else. Yet life seems to keep throwing me in situations in which I must talk socially with people, and I feel like I could improve my skills in this area.
One thing I have noticed that I do badly happens when there are awkward silences. I become uncomfortable and babble. Very often I will leap in with some funny / self-deprecating story, which often works, but fails if you do it too much - and I don't like feeling like I'm talking about myself too much. Or I will "mock" insult other people (targeted to people who I know won't be bothered), but again, this only really works in small doses, and only if such people are around.
The advice often given on MetaFilter in this situation is to ask questions to other people and get them talking, but this is where I fail miserably. What questions?!? Very often these are people I sort of know, or it's in group situations, so "how many siblings do you have again?" type things are awkward and strange (or I already know the answer). I know nothing about fashion, so questions like "where did you buy that necklace/scarf/etc" die a painful death once they answer, because I don't know how to respond. I recently moved to Australia from the US so I don't understand most of the major sports, nor do I have a favourite team, so general sports-related questions don't work either. (I'm trying to cultivate an interest in at least one of them but this will take a while).
When I ask people in real life for advice most people say to ask about whatever I am truly interested in -- but the problem is that most of the time I am interested in things that aren't conducive to general social chit-chat: I'm an enormous geek so I will be thinking things like "I wonder how you could capture the social dynamics of this scenario with an agent-based system" or whatever. Unless you're in a very specialised crowd, these sorts of thoughts are not the kind of thing that leads to good questions (and I don't have as much problem when I'm with that sort of crowd).
I was hoping people could give me examples of generic questions that I could memorise and have to hand when in these situations. Non-intrusive, friendly, useful in a variety of contexts, and just aimed to be conversational filler and polite chit-chat. I know this may seem like a silly request, but pretend I am an alien from outer space and need everything spelled out in detail. Bonus points if you can kind of sketch out how to deal with the sort of answers these questions often get.
And just to clarify: I'm not asking for questions that work with people you have just met. I'm asking for questions appropriate for people you kinda-sorta know, and are friendly-ish with, but are not close friends nor probably will never be; e.g. at work-related social situations, or talking to a friend of a friend at the bar while the friend goes off to get drinks.