How can I keep conversations fun/ stop being so serious all the time?
March 16, 2016 5:33 PM   Subscribe

For awhile now I've noticed that I have a hard time having fun, light conversation when in one-on-one conversations. When in a small group (3-4) of people joking around, I can contribute. (In a large group I mostly just stay quiet and I'm fine with that.) But when hanging out with people one-on-one, even with people who seem to be naturally jovial, the conversation tends to get really seriously and sometimes depressing.

People spill problems and deep feelings to me and while I'm flattered that people trust me with this stuff, sometimes it seems like I'm always in these heavy conversations. I'm not sure that people consider me much "fun" to be around because of this. I don't want to just be engaging in a lot of shallow small-talk, but there must be a balance between that and the super intense stuff.

I'm an introvert, and kinda prone to depression, so this might be a factor. Sometimes when I've dated other introverts it has been really bad: deep, serious conversation ALL THE TIME and our dates aren't much fun. (we don't laugh / flirt much, etc.)

How can I be more playful, and a little less intense, in conversation?
posted by seraph9 to Human Relations (9 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
I really recommend visiting your local library for books on the art of conversation. I can't remember any specific titles but I read a few as a refresh once. After a few years where I was also rather serious/a bit withdrawn, it give me a nice boost and I'm back on track! It may not be exactly what you're looking for but probably wouldn't hurt either!
posted by smorgasbord at 5:40 PM on March 16, 2016

If you are a good listener people find that very appealing for many reasons...if you notice, finding a good listener is not easy. To make a change since you are aware of this and want to step out of the role most likely you will do that over time, awareness of it is key to habit change. It may turn out that the people accustomed to you listening attentively to their problems may not like this and try to continue it but if you refocus the conversations to lighter subjects things will shift (or they will leave) and then new people will not have that expectation of you. Can you envision being more playful..what would you talk about? I am not great at small talk so I know about intense..., talking about cooking, music, outdoor activities, things not conducive to depth might help and so will laughter. I ask myself, how close to laughing do I feel right now? to keep my mind focused on the feelings I want to have and thus the conversation topics, (not heavy ones).
posted by RelaxingOne at 6:59 PM on March 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

- Show people funny videos on your phone.
- Tell jokes. Laugh. You can memorize some easy jokes ahead of time.
- Be more random and spontaneous, let topics that are wildly divergent come up without a logical lead in. Don't censor as much.
- Straight up admit, in a nice tone, "Oh gosh, look at me getting so serious when I meant to have a fun conversation."
- Interrupt early and start talking more yourself at first signs of the other person starting to monologue you with their Feelings. Mildly rude, but then so is monologuing about Feelings.
- Ad lib about things that are actually happening around you in the moment, in the room or wherever.
- Break it up with props, say a drink, or even a phone, or some random Cool Thing to show off. Basically, be doing something with your hands that makes it so you can't be 100% serious and focused only on your internal thoughts.
- Try to be positive, stick to positive topics, don't criticize anything if you can help it. Don't complain.
- Use excuses to exit or take a short break from the conversation if necessary.
posted by quincunx at 7:07 PM on March 16, 2016 [5 favorites]

There is a saying: the secret to comedy is always say yes. If there is a positive/accepting response along with a negative/challenging response to what someone is saying to you, try the positive response if you would ordinarily choose the negative. Think "what's the worst that could happen if I agree to explore this idea?"

For example.
posted by toodleydoodley at 8:33 PM on March 16, 2016

Have some conversation starters that will prompt people to reveal things they feel more positive about, but in an in-depth sort of way rather than fun. It's hard to go directly from deep serious revelations to fun in a way that will come off well.
posted by yohko at 11:26 PM on March 16, 2016

If all else fails, take a bathroom break and come back with a subject change: "hey, I just remembered this funny thing..."

If they persist with seriousness, say, "let's talk about more cheerful things." Ask them a question to engage them in a new topic, like: "Skeletor against Darth Vader, who's gonna win and why?" It's ok to be abrupt.
posted by Omnomnom at 12:40 AM on March 17, 2016

What I often do in these situations is say something like "On the plus side" -- and really MEAN it, and explore it. Not faking it at all, nor trying to fix it. Even if the best I can do is "...this terrible experience may reduce your future anger/fear/pain in similar situations." Maybe I suck at reading people, but it actually seems to lighten the mood. I hypothesize that it fulfills the desire for bonding that led the other person to get on this topic.

And of course, if I truly can't think of ANYthing "On the plus side," I don't say jack. I just let the dark tension hang in the air, which often leads the initiator of the heavy stuff to decide THEY'd better lighten the mood. (And I'm not even in the mood for the mood to be lightened, well, whatever. Like you, I talk about intense stuff, and I for one feel that sometimes we should. That's not necessarily being depressive or a "Debbie Downer," that's being brutally honest with ourselves. If somebody were to avoid me because they thought I was too intense/serious a conversationalist, that's probably somebody I'd struggle to hang out with anyway.)

And thank you for this thread. I gotta work on dates that aren't "deep, serious conversation ALL THE TIME" with my spouse! :)
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 5:55 AM on March 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

In what settings are these conversations happening? Sure it's possible to have light conversation over dinner or drinks, but it's harder to get out of conversational ruts when there's no built-in distraction of doing something.

So if a friend or date suggests getting coffee, perhaps you could say, "Oh, you know I've been hoping to start a little herb garden, and I'd love to have your company while I work on it. I'll make the coffee and you can join in or just chat while I fiddle."

This way you're not stuck in super-serious mode, and you can listen sympathetically but also break up the conversation and laugh about mistakes that happen with whatever you're doing during the conversation.

You can choose any activity really, even if the setting is a cafe or bar or restaurant. All you need is a small notebook and an idea, so you can say, "Hey, would brainstorm with me about Thing? I can look online, but it seems like you'd be good at it, and it might be fun!"

There's still room for other conversation, but there's a built in fallback for any Change The Subject moments.
posted by whoiam at 7:45 AM on March 17, 2016

Response by poster: To clarify, I don't mean I never want to have serious conversations or start telling jokes in the midst of my friends' sharing of their worries or feelings. If someone wants to talk about their recently deceased pet or whatever, I want to be there for them, but I feel like this is more of a habitual situation in which I always end up in negative conversations.

I think MoonOrb and CheesesOfBrazil may be onto what the problem is with me, in that I think it is about a positive vs. negative focus. If someone tells me about their week I may be automatically latching onto the most negative thing they said, and then asking them more about that. I'm trying to be more positive / optimistic in general, so maybe this is another area in which to try to focus on the positive!

toodleydoodley - it's interesting you mentioned comedy. I've been thinking of taking an improv class. Perhaps that would help me to be a little more spontaneous and playful when it's appropriate.

Thanks for all the suggestions!
posted by seraph9 at 3:21 PM on March 17, 2016

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