Ok, enough about me, let's talk about you.
January 31, 2013 8:57 AM   Subscribe

I've always been lousy at small talk, but have made great improvements in this area over the years. There's one aspect of it, though, that's currently bugging me.

I've (finally) learned the basics of making small talk: ask the other person about their family, children, hobbies, etc. But I've noticed that there is a certain group of people at work who do nothing but reflect the topic back to me, and I find myself talking about my own life more than I'm comfortable with.


Me: "How was your weekend?"

Them: "Fine, how was yours?"

M: "Oh, I did this and that and..."


M: I heard you went to New York City for vacation! How was it?"

T: "Fine. Have you ever been there? Tell me about the times you went there!"

This bugs me, for several reasons.
  • It feel like I'm being interrogated. It feels slightly violating, for some reason.
  • I feel like I have no control over the direction of the conversation;
  • I feel like they're just using me to forget about their own lives temporarily, and live vicariously through me. (Most, not all, of these people are married with children, and love hearing about my childless existence. But at the same time, as I'm unhappily single, I want to live vicariously through them!);
  • It feels like they aren't interested enough in me emotionally to share a part of themselves; they just want to take and not give.
It triggers memories of when I was a teenager too (probably what's causing the feelings of violation): the popular kids would come up to me and ask a perfectly innocent question, such as "what's your favorite band?" I would give a non-weird answer, and they would run away giggling. To this day, I haven't figured out what that was about.

But what really annoys me is the practical aspect of it all: it gives them the upper hand with the small talk! I want to further my networking with these people, but I can't call across the room "how was your child's clarinet concert?" because they don't volunteer that information. But they can easily say to me, "Have you finished knitting the sweater yet?" because they know everything about me. So, I'm back to my original problem with small talk: not being able to think of anything to say. And I hate that.

Any ideas on how to even the playing field a little bit here? I suppose I could say "you know, I'm tired of talking about myself, I wish you'd stop turning the conversation around the moment it starts," but that seems heavy handed or something. I suppose instead of saying "oh, I did this and that and.." I could just repeat the one-word answer, "fine." But then the conversation would just die, and the whole point of this is to make small talk.


(MetaChat rant from a few years ago about my issues with small talk)
posted by Melismata to Human Relations (29 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Can you respond to "Fine, how was your weekend?" with a similar, "It was fine. Say, did you [see popular television program / hear new song by popular musical artist / read latest bestseller / witness extreme weather event]?" to find a less personal topic? Small talk doesn't have to be about sharing our lives. It can be about neutral stuff.
posted by BrashTech at 9:03 AM on January 31, 2013 [4 favorites]

It feel like I'm being interrogated.

You're not. In that first example, they perhaps either had a weekend that was too boring to talk about ("I cleaned the toilet, went food shopping and watched Doctor Who." Scintillating!) or that they're not comfortable enough with you to talk about ("Oh, we went down to the nude beach like we always do.") They're trying to keep the conversation going despite this. Truth be told, they probably don't actually care what you did either, they'd just rather not talk about what they did. So if you're in the same boat you say "oh, nothing much" and then just talk about something else.

I feel like I have no control over the direction of the conversation

Of course you do. You can answer any question with a vague deflection (i.e. "Fine, and you?")

I feel like they're just using me to forget about their own lives temporarily, and live vicariously through me.

I can almost guarantee you are not so exciting that they would be vicariously living through you, although you're aware of that too. More like, "oh, Melismata did a fun thing. I like hearing about fun things, and I like hearing about friends having fun."

It feels like they aren't interested enough in me emotionally to share a part of themselves...

Small talk isn't about people being emotionally invested or interested in you. It is about little bullshit things to pass the time (or whatever reason.) Don't judge these conversations by the same metrics you would a good, deep conversation with a friend, as they are not it. You can have a perfectly nice conversation with someone you do not care a whit about and vice versa.
posted by griphus at 9:08 AM on January 31, 2013 [17 favorites]

Best answer: If you don't want to get too personal, just respond with the same sort of non-committal answers as the people you're talking to. You don't have to completely shutdown the conversation by simply saying "fine" and leaving it at that, but you don't need to go into great detail, either.

For example:
You: "How was your weekend?"

Them: "Fine, what about you?"

You: "Mine was good, too; did you do anything interesting?"

Them: "No, I mostly just relaxed. You?"

You: "About the same. Did you hear that story about X on the radio this morning?"
posted by asnider at 9:09 AM on January 31, 2013 [9 favorites]

I've found success with trying to re-hook at the end of my exposition:

Me: "How was your weekend?"

Them: "Fine, how was yours?"

M: "Oh, I did X and Y and Z; I really like Z, have you ever Z'd?
posted by Jon_Evil at 9:15 AM on January 31, 2013

As someone who is married with a child, I try not to talk too much about my kid to single childless people - I don't want to come off as someone who drones on and on about children to those that aren't interested. (Also, I work with several people who are struggling to conceive, so I know it can be painful for them to hear about my baby.) So, maybe you could specifically ask questions about these people's kids/families? If someone asks me directly about the baby, I'll talk and talk... I just don't want to hurt/bore those that don't want to hear that stuff.
posted by barnoley at 9:18 AM on January 31, 2013 [5 favorites]

I do this, but my life is boring. I don't go on vacation, I rarely go out with friends or hang out with family. I just don't have anything to tell you.

Or sometimes I just don't want to tell you. You may have indicated at some point that you disapprove of some activity that I like to partake in. If not you specifically, maybe the culture of the group has taught me that my hobby is shunned.

example in my life: I play video games. I easily spend 3 hours a day playing them. My coworker/carpooler thinks that you're "suppose to grow out of that phase of your life" around 12 years old. When she asks me what I did over the weekend, and I spent it playing video games, I'll often respond with "Eh, not much. Did some laundry. How about you?"
posted by royalsong at 9:21 AM on January 31, 2013 [9 favorites]

asnider has it - this is conversational tennis and can be just as fun as that game :) you can just keep batting the ball back to their court if you want, or you can try and make your shots interesting... it doesn't matter really, it's just taking part that matters!
posted by greenish at 9:25 AM on January 31, 2013 [3 favorites]

I've (finally) learned the basics of making small talk: ask the other person about their family, children, hobbies, etc. But I've noticed that there is a certain group of people at work who do nothing but reflect the topic back to me, and I find myself talking about my own life more than I'm comfortable with.

Have you considered that maybe these people are also uncomfortable talking about their personal lives with you? I hate telling co-workers about my personal life unless I'm really close to them. At a recent job (where I actually really liked most of the people), I was there about 2 years before any of them even knew I was in a serious relationship, I'm that private at work. Just make a mental note of who responds to you this way, and ask them about other topics -- work, current events, etc.
posted by jabes at 9:37 AM on January 31, 2013 [4 favorites]

When I do this, it's because I, too, am lousy at small talk. I don't mean to interrogate you, I just am flustered because you're small-talking at me and I don't know what to do. I'm not comfortable talking at myself, and you're not either, so we could go back and forth forever being vague and uncommunicative! It would help a bit, if you think this might be the case with some of your people, to steer the conversation to less personal matters. Maybe one of us saw a movie and that could lead to a more general discussion of movies, or places to go for dinner, or whatever.

Sometimes I suspect the sight of two bad-at-small-talk people trying valiantly to make small talk must be really funny for the casual onlooker.
posted by Stacey at 9:42 AM on January 31, 2013 [5 favorites]

I'm with royalsong: I do this because I'm (a)pretty boring, and (b) fairly reserved, so I just really don't enjoy talking about my daily activities. I'll happily ask other people about their weekends, because I assume they do like to talk about it, and because it's an easy topic. But I would not be offended in the least if they softballed the question and then immediately segued into some other, less personal subject. ("Ehhh, just grocery shopping. I went to that new Whole Foods, though, and geez, was that place crowded. I wonder if that'll hurt the other local stores....", and bam, you're talking local economy instead everybody's weekend).
posted by Bardolph at 9:43 AM on January 31, 2013

You're framing this small-talk thing into a big "games people play" dynamic, with talk of power and control and eee, such the anxiety!

I recently lost a bunch of my social skills because of a couple of changes in my epilepsy meds. The first change took away my ability to form sentences of more than a few words. The second change restored my cognitive ability but dulled both my response time and my sense of what is and isn't great dinner conversation, so instead of responding to normal small-talky things in my regular fashion, I respond briefly and boringly and realize a few minutes later what I really wanted to say. I am very self-conscious about this.

I've started working on keeping a little mental coach going inside my head during social situations to remind myself of what I'm trying to achieve. In my case, it's to stay on top of things, to keep my brain in the moment. In your case, it might be to remind yourself that this isn't high school, to reassure yourself that people probably are not using their questions to gain an advantage over you, and to encourage you to "build tiny bridges" or "form tiny connections" or whatever small phrase your inner cheerleader would use.

So, a sample conversation for you might go like:

You: So, how was your weekend? Do anything interesting?
Jen in Accounting: It was fine; how was yours?
You: (INSIDE: TAKE JEN AT FACE VALUE. HER WEEKEND WAS NOTHING SPECIAL.) Enjoyed the weather! It was gorgeous in the city. Did you hear it's going to storm this week?

Just as you're not comfy sharing details of your personal life just now, your conversational partners might not be gung-ho about talking about Johnny Jr.'s cello concert right yet. Don't take that personally. It'll come, after 500 discussions of the weather.
posted by houseofdanie at 9:44 AM on January 31, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Have you considered that maybe these people are also uncomfortable talking about their personal lives with you?

Then, why do they keep asking me personal questions?

Small talk isn't about people being emotionally invested or interested in you. It is about little bullshit things to pass the time (or whatever reason.)

Right. But I want to keep on networking, maybe build it up to medium talk so that maybe they'll invite me out for drinks the way they do with other co-workers. But I can't do that when all they do is pester me about my life and refuse to talk about themselves.
posted by Melismata at 9:44 AM on January 31, 2013

As someone who is married with a child, I try not to talk too much about my kid to single childless people - I don't want to come off as someone who drones on and on about children to those that aren't interested.

I just wanted to say that I for one enjoy hearing about my co-workers' kids. They are interesting people, and their children sound interesting, too. I don't have kids, but I have nieces and take an active interest in their lives. (However, I do understand the commenter's sensitivity to the feelings of others who might be hurt by prattle about an experience they fear they might never be able to have.)

Anyways, OP, if your coworkers have kids, you might frame some very general questions around things they might be doing with them at a given time of the year: "Are your kids looking forward to the school year/Christmas/Halloween/etc.?" "Has your family managed to steer clear of all the bugs going around?" "So, beautiful weekend. Hope you got outside and did something fun!" Et cetera. (The risk is that you might get more information than you could possibly want, but, hey! the stilted conversation issue is eliminated.)
posted by tully_monster at 9:51 AM on January 31, 2013

They might be being polite. Often if I have a story I want to tell about my weekend, I can't just jump into "hey, my weekend was like this!" I need to be asked first (optimally). So I ask you how your weekend was, hoping for "fine, and yours?" so I have permission to tell my story. Maybe they think you are like me and are giving you permission.

Or, maybe NYC sucked or they fought with their spouse and are still upset or were really sick in a gross way or are embarrassed that they did nothing but snacking and doing jigsaw puzzles all weekend without even going outside (ahem).

But yes, this is conversational tennis. Pass the ball back to them.
posted by heatherann at 9:54 AM on January 31, 2013

Best answer: Say, "I asked you first," then point your finger and make plane diving and crashing sound as you spiral your finger down and touch them on the forehead. I'm bad at small talk.

Think of something you need their help with, something they know about, so that it's not even really small talk, just talk talk.

Or you can launch in with the you-statement then turn that towards them. "I had a really boring weekend, fucking christ how boring it was. How was yours?"
posted by fleacircus at 9:59 AM on January 31, 2013 [2 favorites]

Then, why do they keep asking me personal questions?

It's not a give and take, tit for tat sort of thing. They ask you because you asked them Or because it's something you're expected to ask. They're being polite.
posted by royalsong at 10:00 AM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Then, why do they keep asking me personal questions?

Or they're doing it to deflect the questions back to you. Being uncomfortable talking about one's own life doesn't mean they're uncomfortable asking others about their lives.
posted by jabes at 10:05 AM on January 31, 2013

Why do they keep asking you personal questions? Well, maybe because they've learned the same things you have: I've (finally) learned the basics of making small talk: ask the other person about their family, children, hobbies, etc.

Lots of people have heard somewhere along the line that they're supposed to ask questions of other people. You're not doing it to interrogate them or live vicariously through them, but rather just to fulfill the expectations of small talk, right? It's probably safe to assume that the same is the case with them.
posted by DingoMutt at 10:11 AM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The thing with small-talk for networking purposes is, it gets really hard to get past topics like "how was your weekend", "man, this weather sucks/is awesome" or "what are your plans for the weekend" unless the person doing the asking is willing to volunteer some information. Otherwise, it's just someone being polite.

There's a lady at work who schmoozes with practically every high-level person who walks in the door. The thing with her is, she always has some tidbit of something to share, even if it's not at all personal.

If they have nothing to volunteer, no tidbit of something you can grab onto (like the child's clarinet recital of your example), then they're either intensely private, as in rich recluse levels of private, or they're just on conversational autopilot.

At that point, you have a few options open to you:
1) Decide they aren't worth talking to. Based on your question, this might no be the best option.
2) Ask them a direct and specific question, like "I was out doing X on the weekend, do you like X?" Try and tease out of them some tidbit.
3) Do an end-run around them. Ask another co-worker (someone you trust!) about the person you're having problems with, and see if you can get some info about them. Then bring up that tidbit in conversation the next time you see them.
4) Turn the conversation to something work related that you both share and experience.
posted by LN at 10:12 AM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

But I want to keep on networking, maybe build it up to medium talk so that maybe they'll invite me out for drinks the way they do with other co-workers. But I can't do that when all they do is pester me about my life and refuse to talk about themselves.

You don't sound like you really like these people, or talking to them. So maybe they can pick up on that and this is why they're not giving you a very substantive answer to anything. Personally, I ask people a lot of questions when I chat with them because I am interested in them, and because more people than you'd think LOVE to talk about themselves. But chatting with someone, in general, isn't about control, or advancing to the next level of social interaction, or interrogations, or whatever.

You might have better luck with these conversations if you go into them with less of an agenda and with only the goal of having a brief, enjoyable chat with a coworker. I'm chatty as hell, but I promise you when I say, "my weekend was fine, how was yours?" it doesn't mean I am deflecting your serious question and prying into your personal life. Countless people have that exchange every Monday morning, it's basically the same thing as "Hello" in an office. You're allowed to say, "mine was fun!" or whatever, and move onto something more specific.

The other thing is, though, you are not going to hit it off with everyone, especially in an office environment. I am a pretty social person and when I worked in an office, there were plenty of people I kept it very surface-level (but always polite and cordial) with, because we just didn't have the chemistry you need to have with a person you are actual work-friends with, rather than just co-workers. And that is okay. It sounds like there are people in your office with whom you DO have an easier go of it with, chatting-wise -- personally, I'd focus on improving relationships with the people who I already feel a little sympatico with. You will be more sincere, and in the long run, more successful.

Good luck!
posted by Countess Sandwich at 10:17 AM on January 31, 2013 [2 favorites]

(If it makes you feel any better, those of us who are only doing the "small talk with coworkers/acquaintances" thing sort of by rote probably aren't too interested in your answers anyway, and may or may not even be listening all that attentively - sometimes you just have to check that box next to "Did I interact with the humans the way I'm supposed to?" on your to-do list for the day. You might find it interesting to read about phatic communication ...)
posted by DingoMutt at 10:18 AM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'll throw in 2 cent suggestions for this, mainly because I am horrible a small talk and really struggled with shyness/introversion in the past.

First, I am someone who deflects back (and I have sensed that people get uncomfortable if I lob too many questions back). For me, I'm not talking about my life because...I don't know the other person, I don't feel comfortable with them, so I certainly don't want to talk about my life. This is anecdotal, but I am hoping the other person gives something back ...info that helps connect. If I hear it, then over time I may volunteer more.

That aside, though, here are some other ways you could respond to what they are doing to you at the time (I've done these things, worked well for me, YMMV):

• Person doesn't talk about NYC vacation but lobs question back. Still take note that the person went on vacation to NYC (or whatever other chit chat info you glean).Now at a future point, before you go to NYC, go ask for recommendations/suggestions for places to go. When you come back, do gush about the place you went and why you liked it if you used the rec.

• Do they mention other things they are interested in? Keep note of it in your head --if something crosses your path (article, something you hear) -- send it to the person (link to the article). I only do this for people that I really want to connect to but it shows you listen.

• If your real goal is networking - are there any things that you want to learn from these people work wise? How they got where they did? Do they have skills that you want to learn? Then approach them with those questions. If they did something that you want to do in the future career wise, then you ask them to go to lunch and talk about it more.

• Organize your own lunch/go out to drink and ask another person/small group of people/everyone. Over time they will extend invitations back.
posted by Wolfster at 10:24 AM on January 31, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You need to learn to pivot the conversation topic from the personal (and kind of limited) to the collective (and virtually limitless.) Like...this:

You: So, how was your weekend?
Coworker: Oh, fine. What about you, what did you get up to?
You: I went to this cool event at the library on Friday. [AND PIVOT!] I really like how they're trying to reach out to an underserved demographic. They're concentrating on young professionals, and at the event they had a bunch of vendors from the area, including that new brewery nearby.
Coworker: Oh man, I love that brewery. Did you hear that they're buying a bigger place?
Coworker: I didn't know that they did that. What kind of event was it?
Coworker: You're right - they do concentrate on children. My kids go to a great Italian conversation group there every Saturday.
Coworker: I like how they're trying to involve local vendors. Isn't there a handmade craft fair nearby in February?

The conversation can go so many ways depending on what you say in the pivot, but basically you give the other person a bunch of things that aren't about you that they can sort of pick up as a topic of conversation.

So, go from the personal to the general. Also, don't discount that it's not you, it's them. Some people are just bad at playing the game of catch that is conversation.
posted by punchtothehead at 10:45 AM on January 31, 2013 [8 favorites]

I'm terrible at small talk, but my partner is like the rain man of starting conversations with anybody anywhere. And you know, I never really noticed it until now, he almost NEVER gets very personal. He keeps the topic on things he's interested in, not HIM.

One thing he's so good at is noticing things about people...like a sticker for a band on a water bottle, or a nice jacket, or something he heard them casually mention in another conversation. And then he takes a genuine interest in whatever that thing is. Aaaaand, he REMEMBERS it. Like, he'll briefly meet someone, not see them for six months, and still remember that band sticker on the water bottle (or whatever...that never actually happened) and be like "Hey, I saw the Water Bottle Band came out with a new album, how is it?" After witnessing this so many times, I've tried to become more deliberate about remembering details about people and following up with them.

It kind of seems to me like he kind of treats everyone like a resource. He finds out what people are interested in and knowledgeable about. Even if he doesn't really *like* the person, he always keeps a friendly relationship, and takes an interest in what *is* cool about them. People are flattered when you ask them for advice about something they're interested in. His skill for this is amazing, finding the good in otherwise fairly shitty people, and getting them to do nice things for him. Incredible. And he always knows who to go to when he needs input on a certain topic.

The other interesting thing I've seen him do, is to poll people endlessly about a topic. If he's not sure how to feel about something, he'll bring it up to different people...over and over...and he usually feigns complete ignorance on the topic, pretending to be a little ball of clay, ripe for their molding. This tactic works well, as it makes people feel suddenly very knowledgeable, and they'll be really open about their exact views. It does lead to a fair amount of condescension from people, which bothers me, but it doesn't faze him because he's focused on the main goal: obtaining their untainted viewpoint. I wish I could be more like that.
posted by hannahelastic at 11:13 AM on January 31, 2013 [8 favorites]

At my last job, people of my age (early-mid twenties) were expected to have been going wild and partying all weekend; I had one coworker of my age who, after I mentioned reading as one of my hobbies, literally said: "Reading? I wonder if [Boss] knows he hired someone who reads in his spare time."

So being the type to stay at home and read books all weekend, when asked an innocent question like "How was your weekend", I would often give a short or non-descriptive response, or immediately deflect it back like "It was good, how was yours?" This isn't to say I didn't like the person asking, but more so that I felt uncomfortable discussing my personal life with them (for any number of reasons, including the perception that I would be criticized or looked down upon if I were to be honest about my lack of "fun" activities on the weekend). Reflecting the question allowed me to continue the conversation rather than abruptly ending it with "Oh, fine" and coming off as not wanting to engage in small talk.

If this is the case, then my suggestion would be to make small talk about some shared experience (e.g. some project you are working on, your boss, some news story, etc.) or some topic the other person has previously expressed interest in, rather than directly asking them questions about themselves.
posted by pravit at 11:23 AM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

I feel like I have no control over the direction of the conversation

In your examples, you are doing most of the talking and have the most control over the conversation.

You want the person to talk about what they did in New York? Don't just talk on and on about your own times there, say something and ask them a question. "Oh, the xyz neighborhood is wonderful, what neighborhoods/museums/parks/etc did you visit? What was your favorite? What was your child's favorite?"

It sounds like you are giving very long answers to the same question the other person answered with "fine" -- they may be getting the impression you dominate the conversation and don't give them the floor. There's a middle ground between that and just saying "fine" back -- think of it as a little ritual the same as "How are you?", and then ask them if their kids had any events that weekend, or if they went to any museums, or mention your favorite attraction and ask about which ones they liked.
posted by yohko at 3:42 PM on January 31, 2013

Best answer: I think it's batted around in self-help / 'how to smalltalk' / 'building rapport' books that if you can get other people to talk about their opinions and experiences, you'll be remembered as interesting, engaging, yadda yadda yadda on the assumption that people love to talk about themselves.

So that might be what they're doing: they might feel like they're gaining a lot of social capital and being remembered by you as 'interesting.' (It might work for some people who do like talking about themselves!)

I like the examples of how to pivot conversations: if two people are both playing the "getting the other to talk" game, then you have the appearance of a good conversation (whether either party is deriving pleasure for it is another story).

Finally, if I can guess at the popular kids and their mysterious question-ask-laugh sequence: probably trying to strengthen their own bonds by establishing you as part of the outgroup. They agree that one person is going to ask you a question and run away giggling and then they're all going to giggle, and this agreement makes their group stronger because there is existence of someone who is not in on the secret!
posted by batter_my_heart at 6:40 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

It seems like you have a lot of anxiety built up about this...relax, it's just small talk. Being wound up, thinking about controlling the conversation and getting defensive of being asked personal questions is all going to come across in your speech and demeanor. Also the questions you are asking "How was your weekend?" and "How was your trip to NYC?" are too broad. Go for more questions like "The weather Saturday afternoon was great. Unfortunately, I was stuck inside doing a bunch of boring chores. Did you do anything fun?" "What was your favorite restaurant in NYC?" "The last time I was in NYC, I went by that awesome Brooklyn Brewery. Did you get to drink any nice beers?"

Hannahelastic has some great advice. People LOVE it when you genuinely compliment them on something that you like about them and they especially love it when you remember small details. I've been bartending for over a decade and I can tell that is what people like the most. I also have a crazy good memory for these things which really helps in my line of work.

Today a man came in wearing a mint green shirt button up shirt. Mint green just so happens to be one of my favorite colors so as soon as he sat down I told him that I loved the color of his shirt. He immediately lit up and told me how he bought it over the weekend and how he liked it too but the guys back at the office were ribbing him a bit over it. And then I talked about how it was a great color and that it's cropping up everywhere this season (it is). I told him about the mint green purse I bought over the weekend and even though he's not into purses, we had this bond over a shared color and it was a great conversation and we both had a great moment. But it would have never have happened if I tried to give him a disingenuous compliment.

Another key to small talk is to be able to read others. Sometimes people just don't want to talk about themselves (too tired, too distracted, whatever) and sometimes you have to bear the burden of the conversation. Also, most people love to hear about things you're interested in.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 9:58 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I actually have felt this way. Like, "Why does this guy always ask me what I did every weekend? I have no life and I never do anything. I always tell him I didn't do anything." It really made me self-conscious. I just got so fed up that I started just lying - I'd think of something I did at one point in my life that was interesting and just pretended it happened that weekend. Probably not a good solution, and got awkward a time or two when follow-up questions (again, feeling interrogated) got too specific. Maybe the easier sort of lie would be, "Not much. Finally saw x on Netflix, have you seen it?" That of course would require you've seen the movie, then you could try to branch off to discussing movie genres, actors, etc. I don't think lying is the answer. But I struggle with anxiety about small talk so I've resorted to it.

I think in making small talk, if you want it to go a certain way, you have to accept that sometimes you're putting more effort into it, because you're the one with anxiety if it's awkward and it's likely the other person doesn't give a shit (or they are just awkward). Sometimes you have to kind of volunteer information that seems unnecessary or think aloud. At least that's what I observe people seeming to do. And when you do that, turn it into a question so the other person get to talk and feels like you're interested in them. Practice makes perfect in this area. Could even see a therapist if your anxiety is problematic.
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:32 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

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