Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Beyond the Weather: How to Meet New People without Boring Them

Image courtesy of [photostock] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
When I was in elementary school, I didn't sit by the aisle on the school bus, flipping baseball cards and chatting with friends. I was by the window, looking at the the hundreds of suburban homes along the route, and dreaming of what it would be like to live in them. At synagogue on Saturday morning, I would stay inside to listen to the Rabbi's sermon, and in the afternoon I'd spend hours in debates with my father, playing devil's advocate. 

Needless to say, I was shy and lacked the skills needed to meet new people and make new friends. So when I saw Elizabeth Bernstein's column in today's Wall Street Journal about How to Become a Better Conversationalist, I was intrigued. In the column, Shyness Expert Bernardo J. Carducci outlines five steps for a successful conversation. I won't list them all, but they begin with commenting on something you and the person you're meeting are both experiencing. It could be something like "Boy, it is pouring out there! I don't know if we've seen rain this heavy since last summer", or "Hey, this is a beautiful restaurant we're hobnobbing in. What are you drinking?"

Once you're in the conversation, you should focus on asking questions, because most people like to talk about themselves and will be flattered by your interest. But don't overdo it. If all you ask too many questions, you may sound annoying or creepy. 

And what do you do at the end? Say you have to go to the bathroom, need a drink, or greet someone you know? I think most people know that conversations can't last forever. But however you end it, whether it was nice to meet you, here's my card, or I'll find you on Facebook, make sure that you do what you say. Following through is what separates the talkers from the doers.

As for me, I've gotten better over the years at introducing myself, in part because I needed to as a reporter at a daily newspaper after college. Some people even think I'm funny. But I still have plenty of room for improvement. So if you meet me at a social event, feel free to praise my shirt, or comment on the food. But whatever you do, don't talk about the weather.

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