Wanted: A seasoned small talker experienced in conversing with all sorts of people in all sorts of settings. Must be proficient at telling good jokes and must have familiarity with popular culture, including but not limited to: music, sports, TV shows, movies, and books. Charismatic personality and charming demeanor a plus. Ability to begin and carry on extended conversations with strangers a plus. Must look like me and be willing to be pose as me in various social situations in which I find myself utterly unable to make small talk.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve attended several volleyball games as the team Steven coaches progressed to regionals, sub-state tournament, and then state tournament. I know all the volleyball parents probably think I’m a stuck-up wench, because I steer clear of them and keep to myself. Here’s why: I’m afraid they’ll start talking volleyball to me, and I don’t speak volleyball. I don’t speak sports at all. While I’ve learned more about volleyball since Steven started coaching it, I still can only talk about it at a minimal level.
Two weeks ago, I was hanging out with some of my writer friends at the Southern Festival of Books waiting for our event to start. At first, everybody hugged and greeted each other and exchanged the generic “how are yous” and “doing greats.” And then I felt like there was this awkward silence in which I was desperately searching for something remotely interesting to say. It was crazy, because these people are my friends, but honestly, this happens to me fairly often.
I’m not good at small talk. I know some of the tricks: Ask about their life, or something they’re interested in to get them talking. I can do that, but if the conversation turns to something I’m not familiar with, I can’t sustain it. I always hate those moments when someone asks if I know a certain song or movie or writer, and if I don’t, I have to decide if I’m going to say no and look stupid, or nod my head and play along like I know what they’re talking about.
I’d rather ask deeper-but-slightly-uncomfortable questions like, “What book changed your life?” or “What are your hopes and dreams?” or “How do you think the Information Age is shaping our generation?” Not small talk options, I know. Lately I’ve had a lot of reminders of how un-confident I can be sometimes. Thus, the need to hire a Small Talk Stand In for Future Potentially Awkward Situations. Know anybody?
***After the positive responses to my last Wanted Ad, I decided to try another one to see how it is received. If you have a Wanted Ad you want to pitch on my blog, send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.