Since You Asked…

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Dear Caroline,

I hate small talk. I was always told that asking questions and being a good listener was the way to go. Yet still, sometimes I feel I’m a social flop. Thoughts?

…Simply Pamela

Dear Simply,

Yes, while being interested in others and listening attentively to what they say matters, you can’t truly be socially adept if your Number One skill is being “Ms. Ears.”

Nothing is easier than asking a question. Meanwhile, answering a question takes work — even more so if the question comes from a lazy place, meaning it’s broad and vague.

Questions also often make people uncomfortable, particularly if they’re invasive or are obviously being used as conversation fodder instead of expressions of sincere interest.

Also, if your “active listening” is a canned show of superficial indicators instead of an expression of real attention and comprehension, be prepared to flop.

It is best to enter every conversation with as much spontaneity and desire to respectfully share information and opinions as possible.

One way to keep the conversational ball rolling is to ask for nonprofessional advice.

For example, if you’re speaking to a well-dressed person, ask advice about fashion trends of the current season or about a particular place to shop for a certain garment.

You get the idea.

Finally, the best conversations aren’t “correct.” Instead, they involve a dash of daring vulnerability. So once you’ve broken the ice and the chitchat is underway, don’t be afraid to adopt a strong, warm, take-it-or-leave-it attitude and let the other person get a glimpse of what’s inside your head.

As my father used to say: Now you’re talking!


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