Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Art of Conversation

conversationIn What’s the first thing you say to me? from The Home of Peter Shankman -, Peter Shankman says,

“What’s the first thing you say to someone when you’re introduced? How do you say hi and not bore them? How do you do it without becoming a douche? Without making it all about you you you?

Have something to say! What’s your ten second intro? This isn’t a pitch. It’s not a life story, and it’s not a business plan. It’s a ten second intro. It gives me just enough information to want to follow up. You want to leave me wanting more. It’s our first date.”

I have to admit that when I meet someone new, I get all tongue tied. It could be someone famous or someone I read about on the internet or just someone that someone else knows. I start to think about how stupid I probably sound and that I have nothing interesting to say and I feel paralyzed with fear. So, if you ever meet me, please take pity on me and excuse my awkwardness because I really want to talk to you and sound somewhat intelligent and normal.

This whole topic reminds me of the neurological class next to my classroom. The students (most of them were labeled autistic) in the class had obviously been working on the art of conversation. Now, you ask, “How do I know this?” So, I will try to recapture my interaction with one of the students early in the morning before classes began.

Me: Good Morning S.

S.: Good morning Mrs. H.

(I begin to open my door with the key.)

S.: Now it’s your turn.

Me: Excuse me?

S.: Now it is your turn. You said something and then I said something. Now it is your turn.

Me: Oh. Well. How are you today?

S.: Good. How are you?

Me: I’m doing great.

(I turn back to my door…)

S.: It’s your turn again.

Me.: Ummm. Okay…

S.: I asked a question and then you answered. Now you have to ask a question back again. That is what they call a conversation.

Me: Oh. Did you have a good evening last night?

S.: No, it was boring. Did you?

Me: Yes I did. But I really have to end the conversation now because I need to get in my classroom and get ready for the day. Okay?

S. : Okay.

Later I told his teacher about this and she said that they had been working on the Art of Conversation so obviously he remembered a lot. She was pretty excited about this because he seemed to generalize the skills they practiced in class.

I still get nervous when I meet people who know me through other people we know in common. I guess I have gone up to this attorney way too many times and reminded him that he knows me through his former secretary who is a good friend of mine. I usually get flustered and say, “Hi Brad! I’m Pat and I don’t know if you remember me but I’m a friend of Sandy’s.” The other day I met him in a parking lot and started to say my usual phrase, when he interrupted me, smiled and said, “Hi Pat. Yes, I know you are a friend of Sandy’s. How are you?” I have been saying the same thing for the past 10 years every time I saw him!

I think we need to prepare our students for these kinds of situations too. I can’t tell you how many times I cringe when I see former students who come up to me in the store and say, “Hi Mrs. H! Do you remember me?” and then continue talking without ever mentioning their name. I have taught in the public school for 30 years and then on the college level. These classes have been in 2 different counties and four different schools. I also have attended many community activities over these years. So, I don’t know where I know you or when but I usually can recognize your face. Please remind me who you are so that I don’t rack my brains trying to figure it out! Then not only tell me who you are but remind me how I know you.

Now if you are going up to someone new, try to find out something that you have in common. Talk about the place you are at or something you know that they are involved in. Ask questions of the other person and while they are talking, it will help you calm down so that maybe you can feel more normal instead of awkward.

Now, if I can only remember this when I am in that situation! Do you have tricks that you could suggest to help the art of conversation? Please share!

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'elephant talk' by: Gina

1 comment:

Sioux Roslawski said...

I don't have any tips because I'm usually a goofball when it comes to conversation. I once met one of my favorite authors, and the first thing I said to him was, "You know, you really make me angry," and then quickly explained that I swore I was not going to buy any books at this particular conference but was compelled to buy his book (based on the excerpt he read to us at dinner the night before). So, I'm not necessarily the one to give advice...

I sometimes forget the first (or the last) name of kids I had the year before...After two years have passed, the chances I remember their whole name have decreased exponentially. I then rely on "Sweetie."