I'm tired of dreading large social gatherings where I am bored/bore people. How do I step up my game and engage people in conversation such that it is enjoyable and interesting for all involved? I want to avoid small talk. Please give me tips, tricks, mantras to make it better!
I'm gearing up this week to see lots of people I only see sporadically, and I'd like to get over the boredom hump. I often find solace in cooking or taking care of stuff because it means I don't have to sit on the couch and nod with a fake smile and pretend to be paying attention. I do listen more than talk, and try to ask questions but I guess I need better questions?
The problems I see it are:
1 - Small talk gets old fast. I would like to be able to steer this type of conversation into something more sustainable.
2 - What are good, non-superficial topics that aren't no-go areas? I know we can't talk politics or religion (and probably not most of pop-culture), but what's left if not the weather? I've tried probing questions like, "Why?" or "Please elaborate" to find something to connect to, but I seem to weird people out or make it seem like I'm trying to start an argument.
3 - How do I gracefully nuke conversations that seem to want to pick a fight or sort of insult me? This is why I try to avoid pop-culture conversations. I've had too many people try to talk about something like a new band they like or a TV show they think I should watch, but when I tell them I don't like it that much, they try to tell me why I'm wrong. I don't tell them their taste sucks or anything, and sort of make fun of myself and my preferences, but short of lying (which works but is tiring) what else can I do?
4 - My expectations are too high and that I should just sit through these gatherings and accept it is what it is. The thing is, I know I've got non-mainstream tastes and can be quite a bore. I purposefully do not bring up my hobbies because they're dull, especially to my family. I feel like Eric Olthwaite
, so I try to avoid anorak city.
These people are unavoidable because they're family (or very good friends of family). Short of cutting people off because it's intermindably dull, how can I make it better?