Grownup conversations aren’t easy to master. As I get older, I’m amazed at how many of us still need help simply being appropriate. I wanted Jacob and Zachary to be fairly comfortable making eye contact, discussing common topics with ease and relating to people they are both similar to and different from in social situations.
Without using their phones or awkward quotes from 1980s comedies.
Dive right in
They practiced shaking hands and introducing themselves every time we went out in public and met someone new. They would try to start conversations, but adults aren’t always comfortable talking with children. After middle school started, Jacob and Zachary got more practice actually talking to people.
It helps that they’re interested in sports and politics – those two topics cover just about anything.
They also practiced saying, “How are you?” and actually listening to the response.
Have you ever been asked a question, proceed to elaborate, only to be interrupted by someone who says, “I know what you mean” and then proceeds to talk about herself for the next ten minutes?
It can be awkward when you are asked your opinion about something, only to end up listening to what the other person thinks, even though you never asked.
Instead of bringing every topic back to themselves and being a serial one-upper, my boys learned these essential phrases.
“Really? How so?”
“Tell me more.”
“That’s great. What else?”
“That’s pretty cool.”
When someone tells us their opinion, experience, outlook or philosophy, we fight the urge to chime in with our own. A conversation shouldn’t be a competition.
Social situations can be a great time to learn about something we didn’t otherwise know. If we want to share our opinion, we can wait until someone asks us.
If no one asks? Start a website.
“Nice talking to you.”
“Keep me posted.”
What if a normal conversation turns into an argument?
As a Jewish woman of Irish descent, I enjoy a good row. Arguing, when done properly, is a wonderful way to learn. First, you make your point clearly and politely. Then you listen to the other side. Then you both pause for a moment and think.
Rinse and repeat.
Unfortunately, not everyone does this and sometimes voices are raised. Other times eyes are rolled and shoulders shrugged. Every once in a while someone curses or says “Whatever.” I’ve even heard of instances where names are called, doors are slammed and feelings get hurt.
But enough about raising teenagers.
My Uncle Joe has often said, “You can’t have a battle of the wits with someone who’s unarmed.”
If friends are tired and cranky, if relatives are getting older and no longer have filters, or if neighbors don’t care that you have to get up in the morning – here are ways that you can stop an argument in its track and without bloodshed.
“You may be right.”
This is for when there is absolutely no other way to end the conversation. Say it with a smile.
They hear “You are right” but we really mean “You’re so fucking wrong, it will take me all day to tell you how fucking wrong you are.”
Everyone wins and we part without being kicked out of another will.
“You make a very good point.”
It boosts the ego, they move on to discuss the Jet’s lineup this year, and everyone else can go back to reading their phones.
“I’m sorry for all my shortcomings.”
I can’t think of a better response to those folks who keep a running tab of every mistake we’ve made since third grade. Like my brother. He still harps about his bachelor party from 2005 when my husband and a couple of other guys made him get drunk and have a good time.
Yep. Totally their fault.
Or that time I cooked a meal for 14 people and forgot to also schedule a parade because his kids were in town.
Also, apparently I’m sarcastic.
So I had the above tshirt made and I wear it to every gathering when he is in attendance. Saves time and shit. At some point, I tell my kids, defending yourself sounds defensive. Just apologize and move on. Life is too short.
I’m not sure if all this will make Jacob and Zachary the kind of people you want to hang out with at a party. They might still get on your nerves. If you have any complaints, feel free to send them my way. You never know…you may be right.