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How to Always Have Something Better to Talk About Than the Weather

Coffee and rain

Six years ago, when I lived in a snowy mountain village and paid my bills by cleaning high-end sinks and toilets, someone said something that prompted me to confront an uncomfortable truth about myself.

A well-meaning coworker mentioned that she had been talking to another housekeeper about me.  Oh?

“She said, ‘David is a such great guy to work with, it’s just that he’s just so quiet.‘”

I don’t remember how I responded, but I assume I tried to disagree somehow, and went back to my work hoping nobody would ever say that to me again.

Quiet.  As if I have nothing to say.

I remember the rest of that day.  As I scrubbed luxury-suite shower stalls, I played out an imaginary rebuttal in my head:

“Maybe I don’t want to talk about what any of you want to talk about.  I have plenty to say, I just don’t want to talk about TV shows or how much I hate my job, like everyone else does.  Maybe all you people do is complain, and I don’t want to participate.  I’m a lot of things, but I’m not quiet.

My little internal rant echoed a common human pattern, though I didn’t see it at the time:

When people feel inadequate in some way, they tend to make up whatever prejudices or beliefs they need to feel okay about it.

Of course, nobody realizes it while they’re doing it.  Forming beliefs out of self-defense is very common behavior, and it’s probably the source of most of the erroneous and destructive beliefs people carry.  I knew my coworkers weren’t all complainers and ingrates.  They talked about things I was interested in too, but they did it much more freely and comfortably than I could, and I hated that.

Another typical example of a self-defense belief: a person feels like he doesn’t make as much money as he wants, so he forms the belief that highly-paid people are greedy or materialistic, to defend himself from feelings of inadequacy about his ability to earn.

I told myself that everyone else talked too much, so that I could spare myself the rotten feeling of recognizing that I was really bad at something I knew was important.  I was painfully shy and I knew it, but like so many other behavioral problems I had, I rationalized it away.  I argued to myself that I had every reason for speaking exactly as much or as little as I did.  That belief kept me slightly less uncomfortable, but also prevented me from ever fixing the problem.

The Black Hole of Social Anxiety

I suspect that most shy people are not hardwired to be that way.  They don’t lack any innate social talent, they just had one or two bad social incidents early on, and in an effort to avoid further social pain they began to err on the side of silence.  Where last time they said something and regretted it, the next time they said nothing, and did not regret it.

Unbeknownst to them, this seemingly innocent little lesson is actually the seed of a devastating habit.  Every shy person knows that the safest thing to say is nothing. Once a person chooses this safe approach a few times in a row, an insidious snowball begins to pick up speed.

The default approach to conversation soon becomes minimalism.  Say what is necessary, but don’t volunteer anything extra.  Anything you say is a liability.  Every statement makes you a target for scrutiny.  Every question you ask reveals your ignorance.  Every passion you confess opens you up to ridicule.  Better to say nothing.

Silence seems to quickly become the smartest policy.  And in the short term, it is.  Humiliation happens far less often.

But the long-term consequences are brutal.

You always look to someone beside you to address questions asked of your group.  You slow down your pace when you enter a restaurant so another member of your party will reach the maître d first.  One easily sinks into the habit of deferring social responsibility in this manner, and that dynamic begins to influence other aspects of life, such as work and family roles.  You never feel like a leader, and that’s because you’ve always avoided leading.  To lead is to be responsible.  And shyness, at its heart, is about avoiding responsibility for what you say.

Shyness is so devastating to a personality because its effects compound so quickly, creating an outward personality that does not match the person, and an anemic social skillset that makes it difficult to ever recover.

First you begin to avoid conversation, because it presents risk.  This reluctance becomes habitual.  Then, because saying nothing is the standard approach, the prospect of speaking up becomes scarier, which only makes you avoid it more.  The thought of humiliation becomes a looming, stalking monster, who can only be thwarted by keeping your mouth firmly shut.  The more you avoid disapproval, the scarier it gets.

Being shy just kills self-esteem.  People begin to treat you like you have nothing to say.  It’s not even that they’re trying to marginalize you.  It’s just that when you consistently contribute little or nothing to the conversation, they can’t help but assume you have nothing to contribute.  And if everyone seems to be treating you like that, you begin to believe it.  You begin to play out the role that is expected of you, even if it isn’t who you are or who you want to be.

Does any of this sound familiar?:

  • People you’ve already met introduce themselves to you multiple times.  They don’t remember you because you didn’t say anything.
  • People know they’ve met you, but forget your name every time.
  • Somebody speaking to your party always looks to someone else for a response, never you.
  • You often hope someone else in the group will say something, to kill the silence.
  • You get nervous, or even resentful, when your friend departs to the restroom, leaving you with someone you don’t know well.

To make things worse, the consistent lack of practice prevents you from getting any better at conversing.  So when you do find yourself wanting to speak up, it’s because you’re in a situation where it’s crucial to do so, such as at a job interview.  Your underdeveloped conversation muscles make you much less likely to succeed in these high-pressure situations, which only creates more bad results and feeds the fear that much more.

This cycle is a big, slippery black hole, and once a person slides too far, they may never get out.  Many come to a point where they give up on ever being comfortable socially.  I wonder if this is what happened to Eleanor Rigby .

Public speaking still outranks death as most people’s greatest fear.  No wonder.

Recovering From Shyness

I’ve spent a lot of time in online forums discussing ‘recovering from shyness’ with other people, and it’s comforting to know so many people have been in the same place I was in.

There are two primary pieces of advice I received, and now give.  The first is watch how more skillful people do it. There are always opportunities to watch people interact.  How do they begin conversations?  How do they end them?  How do they change topics?  Even watching bad conversations can give you a great idea of what to do instead.  Just watching people can give you a short go-to list of ways to open and close conversations.  Make conversation-watching a habit.

The other piece of advice is, of course, to practice speaking up. And practice always means allowing yourself do something badly until you can do it not so badly. It means making habit of doing things that are uncomfortable at first.  So when it comes to overcoming shyness, that means speaking more than you feel like speaking. If you’ve established a habit of leaving most of the speech to others, it will feel unnatural to open up.  That’s good, do it anyway.  Discomfort indicates growth.  Always say a little bit more than you’re used to.

Everyone eventually recognizes that social muscles will atrophy if they are never exercised, so there is no salvation from social discomfort that does not include deliberately making conversation.

That was a huge sticking point for me: I hated the idea of making conversation. I thought it was phony to try to force something to happen like that.  If there was something meaningful to be said, it would be said, right?  Unfortunately that just isn’t true; it’s another false belief created for self-defense.  I see now that making conversation is one of the most important life skills.

The bottom line, when it comes to overcoming fear of anything, is this:

Whenever you give in to a fear, it grows.  Whenever you act in spite of it, it shrinks.

Luckily, it tends to shrink fast once you start opening up.  You’ll find people have an easier time opening up to you.  Uncomfortable people tend to make others uncomfortable, and open people tend to make others open.

However, when it comes to creating the habit of being un-shy, there is a roadblock almost everyone seems to encounter, even after the anxiety of speaking up begins to wane.

The problem almost everyone seems to have is that they simply don’t know what to say. They may be no longer afraid to speak up, but they just can’t think of a place to start.  Those who have been social butterflies their whole lives probably have an entire arsenal of conversation starters at the ready — an inevitable byproduct of experience.  But for the rest of us, it is often a struggle to find something to say that isn’t either trite or self-absorbed.

The Three Stooges of Conversation: Weather, Work and Current Events

Making conversation is uncomfortable for many people, because “made” conversations so often turn out to be contrived exchanges about the weather.  I heard it’s supposed to be nice tomorrow. Yeah, but I think they changed the forecast.  Might be cloudy.  Oh, that’s too bad.  Yeah, it is…

Awful.  Why did we create this banal monster?  Surely silence would have been preferable.

The reason the weather turns up as a topic so often is because we know that it’s something that is relevant to the other person’s life. In that sense it’s somewhat ‘safe’ territory.  But wouldn’t it be nice if we could think of something (anything!) else that might be a little more… engaging?

Even with good friends, I’ve often found myself scrounging for conversation fodder, offering up such winners as: “So how’s work?”  “Man is it windy today.”  “So what did you do yesterday?”

Sometimes these tired offerings do get the words flowing, but so often the conversation limps along on topics neither person really wants to talk about.  Most people I know aren’t especially excited to spend their leisure time talking about their jobs, or spending today talking about what they did yesterday.  We dutifully play out these dead-weight conversations because it seems to be more wholesome than a conspicuous, lingering silence.  I agree that it is marginally better, but it sure is refreshing when someone offers up something specific to us as a topic.

When you bring up something the other person genuinely cares about, enthusiasm begins to flow.  A sense of collaboration emerges, and bonds form.

Best friends usually have an easier time getting a meaningful conversation going, because they know each other so well.  They each know what the other wants to talk about.  With acquaintances or ‘second-tier’ friends, it is more difficult to peg a particular topic as a good one, and so we lean on the old standards: weather, news and work.

It really comes down to making the habit of discovering what other people value. You can connect with anyone, if you know what is important to them, and if you give them an opportunity to talk about it.  Just ask about their boat/kids/trip to Mexico/new motorcycle/squash club/kitten/sustainable household/homemade jam.

People are so grateful to get a chance to gush about their pet topics.  They’ll remember the conversation, and they’ll certainly remember you.  And that’s because you gave them a tremendous gift: you gave them a chance to be themselves with you. You rescued them from the slow agony of a dead-end work or weather conversation, and you let them feel good about being who they are.  Don’t underestimate how profound an effect this has on a person.  You can be the best part of a party for a lot of people.

It doesn’t really matter if you’re not interested in the topic.  Just become interested in their interest.  We all know what it’s like to be in our element, subject-wise.  Help them to get there.  Once the enthusiasm gets flowing, there is usually such openness and understanding that it becomes easy to work in virtually any topic you like.  Then you can be in your element, if you want.

When you’re in a conversation with somebody, (or better yet, when you’re just watching a conversation) see if you can pick out what you think they really want to talk about.  Everyone has their own pet topics that excite them  What makes their eyes light up?  Here’s a quick hint: all parents love to talk about their kids.  And they’re so impressed when you remember what sport they play or what university they go to.

It’s not such a terrible idea just to sit down and write a list of friends and acquaintances, and for each, a few things you know they’d be happy to talk about.  Then there you have it: starting points for any conversation you might find yourself in.  If you can’t think of anything, make a point of finding out next time you speak with them.

Now I don’t suggest getting creepy with this, creating folders and pie charts about what the people in your life are interested in, but there certainly is something to be said for just being aware of what is important to other people.  When you’re going to some kind of get-together, and you know certain people are going to be there, can you think of one or two topics each person might like to talk about?  Again, not to get too stalker-y, but Facebook is a great resource for this if they’ve added you as a ‘friend.’

In any case, generally avoid asking about people’s jobs.  It’s just too easy, and it almost guarantees a dull conversation.  They will remember their encounter with you as dull and typical, and that’s the type of emotion the will associate with you.

If you do sit down and brainstorm what people in your life get excited about, you may realize there are people you don’t really know at all.  You may know how they get paid, but if you don’t know what makes them smile, you don’t really know them.  So find out.

I am far from a brilliant conversationalist, but there is no fear in it for me anymore.  It did take consistent effort to get comfortable, and I still feel a bit behind where I’d like to be in terms of beginning and steering conversations, but I feel like I’ve got the most important part down: Learn what others get excited about, and give them a chance to get excited whenever they speak to you.

So next time you find yourself looking to the Stooges to save you, ask yourself “What excites this person?”  If you don’t know, then you know what to ask.

Photo by Deapeajay

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Candida September 28, 2010 at 9:54 am

Good post – even for those of us who usually don’t have much of a problem in social situations. One thing that I’ve always found handy is remembering this piece of advice that I’ve read somewhere:

Be a listener – not a problem solver.

By doing this you’re offering people both attention and comfort, which can really improve your relationship in the long run…

David September 28, 2010 at 7:59 pm

Be a listener – not a problem solver.

I think that’s a great mantra. I will try to remember it.

Daily Success Place October 5, 2010 at 3:26 pm

Man, this post really has a ton of useful information!

I too had similar feelings you felt at the beginning of your story. I used to be very shy and have to fight those feelings from time to time.

It’s so freeing to know that many of those feelings we have are only misbeliefs and that we can be free from them. When we become free on unhealthy beliefs, we become more happy, fulfilled and even successful.

Donald October 15, 2010 at 12:26 am

Just want to let you know that ive read this blog many many times, and each time i feel confident about myself as a person. what makes me feel good is that i can connect with all the stories and points that you talk about.

whenever i feel lost ill come to this page and build myself back up. im starting to get used to not being shy around people and im also starting to speak up more, but i still have to get used to getting a conversation flowing and having something to talk about.

i cant thank you enough for writing this blog and i enjoy reading your other blogs as well. i wouldve never found this site if it wasnt for stumbledupon lol.

Fistfootface December 29, 2010 at 8:49 pm

Excellent article. I really enjoy your writing style. Thank you!

Edmund-B January 5, 2011 at 1:10 am

Dear david,

i like the way you analyzed this phenomena. i enjoyed learning how i could bring my self out of it, and “when asking people questions” how to bring bring people out of it. win-win method.

never the less, what attracted me more to continue reading this long post is your excellent writing style; something that most books lack these days sadly. considering writing a book? =)

David January 5, 2011 at 6:57 am

Thanks Edmund.

I’ll write a book sooner or later.

8run0n January 27, 2011 at 8:49 am

i’m somewhere in the middle of the process you described and it worked for me very much the way it worked for you.

IMO fighting shyness is also related to working on assertiveness. one of the rules of being assertive is observation and absorption of info about other people. it’s about looking for people’s ‘pet topics’ but also about watching out for things they may not enjoy talking about that much. what works for one may not be so interesting for another, even though both may enjoy mountain biking.

effectively, you’re supposed ensure anyone you speak to feel comfortable in your presence, or better yet, love to talk to you coz you’re ‘such a nice and open-minded personality’.

my point is, you may also wish to find out about assertiveness in your quest for your brave new personality. it may give you hints on how to deal with abusive, exploitative and negative people in a productive way.

Will February 11, 2011 at 4:59 am

Excellent article, I found myself thinking, “me too” at pretty much everything you said. I’ve recently come out of my shell a more, and I think there’s another part of shy people that makes them think that it’s not OK to be shy – that is, that one might feel ashamed, or guilty that they have nothing to say. This was especially the case in my situation, where I went through several years of turbulent low self-esteem and confidence, culminating in several panic attacks, which is what forced me to re-think my entire approach. I think one important thing for shy people to consider is that they might just naturally be less prone to making conversation – or in other words, an introvert – and coming to terms with that.

Once you do, it then becomes easier to feel comfortable in all situations. I’ve taken this on board myself, and I readily admit to people that, yes, I am quiet, but it doesn’t make me any less of a person. In my mind, it makes what I say even more valuable because I have taken the time to say it, even though some people may not always appreciate that. But then that’s another part of the acceptance – some people will react in a way that you weren’t expecting, so you have to learn to brush it off and carry on without dwelling on it.

Again, brilliant article! Thank you.

James February 11, 2011 at 7:14 pm

Hey man, great article. It reminded me a lot of this post on reddit, if you have 5 minutes it might interest you: http://www.reddit.com/r/offbeat/comments/esk68/for_those_of_reddit_who_are_socially_awkward_how/

You seem to think in a similar way. Keep up the perceptiveness!

Breezy February 13, 2011 at 8:33 pm

I would like to thank you very much for this article. It felt as if you wrote it just for me! After every paragraph, I was nodding away thinking ‘yes, this is me, this is how i feel, this is my life, this is EXACTLY how all my social encounters go’. I am definitely going to try much harder these days to push my self to speak up, and not maintain being the ‘shy one’ or the ‘quiet one’. Because I do notice that whenever I am with a group of people, even with my closer friends, the person usually speaking never looks to me for a response. Or if they do, out of politeness or pity for me. I always feel like people will only talk to me or put effort to take some interest in me when they feel sorry for me because I am all alone or too quiet or cowardly to take the initiative to put some effort in myself. And YES. I have suffered MAJOR self-esteem and depression issues because of this. I always used to tell myself i’m too stupid, dumb, boring and passive. I hated myself as a consequence of these social encounters. They never made me feel good, so i opted for the next best thing to spare me of the humiliation and dread as you mentioned – quietness and shyness. Which of course, in turn, never made me feel good either. I hated it so much – because I know deep down i’m not a shy and quiet person, I’ve just gone through so many awkward, painful and consistently horrible experiences to become like this. I’m starting university soon so this should be a new, fresh start for me and my social encounters. I am extremely worried of course that I won’t make any new friends or that I will blow it eventually with people thinking I am too boring, shy, or quiet for them due to my past encounters – but- I will most certainly keep your article and all your points in mind.
Thanks :)

Ian Anderson February 16, 2011 at 3:16 pm

I haven’t made it away yet, too much good stuff to read!

As an English man I always feel shy next to ANY American lol!, where do (most of) you guys get all that confidence from?

I started to make it a habit to say “how are you?” to just about everyone. It is so unusual these days that checkout girls get a bit freaked out! They all love it though and I love it when their head comes up to see who it is that can actually see them as a person and not part of the checkout machinery.

I am still shy, but I can at least switch it off when I need to.

Stay well

David February 21, 2011 at 9:56 am

Hi Ian. I’m actually Canadian so I can’t really say for sure, but I suppose the American dream surrounds the idea of the “self-made person” so there isn’t so much bashfulness about saying “this is who I am and what I do.”

You want to see a culture of confidence, go to Australia :)

Bob Leedom February 22, 2011 at 8:08 pm

Re: Getting a conversation going by discovering what the other person is interested in

On Monday morning, when anyone asks me, “How was your weekend?”, it doesn’t matter if I re-arranged my socks or climbed Mt Everest on Saturday — I will say, “Great! How was yours?” Nearly always, they were only asking because they were bursting to tell me about their own weekend.

That may sound cynical, but I can tell you that I’ve spent many useless breaths answering the opening question, only to realize that the asker is simply waiting for me to finish so he can get to his story.

The exceptions: Good and true friends, who really are interested in me. I’m interested in them, too, so we both enjoy each others’ answers.

Kristi T February 28, 2011 at 7:16 pm

I love reading your blog. I just finished reading the post about shyness. Consider that you might be an introvert. I am. It’s a different way of looking at the situation and for me, was very clarifying.


bg May 4, 2011 at 7:41 pm

Great article! This really resonated with me in a lot of ways. I too am very shy and have trouble making conversation with people. I think you have some excellent tips here that I will try. I’m glad I found this blog. I have it bookmarked and plan to explore it more. Thanks!

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GD June 3, 2011 at 11:17 pm

This is probably the most comprehensive article I’ve ever read about overcoming shyness! The posts that follow are great as well. As I saw myself in many of the examples, it dawned on me that my problem is worse than I thought. People have told me that I’m ‘quiet’ yet I can also talk quite a bit depending on the circumstances. In the last couple of years I’ve been a part of a singles group and we get together about once a week. One or two people usually have control of or outtalk most of us. I often find myself trying to say something, or only get part of my point across before being interrupted by something, someone or their phone. It’s so annoying that I give up and just let others talk and just sit there and listen until they actually ask me something. But it’s hard to stay silent sometimes. What do you do when people always interrupt or talk over you without saying something catty or mean?

gary July 29, 2011 at 11:34 pm

Great post David, probably one of THE best I have read over the years I have spent looking for self-help. Something about it made me realize fully why it is such a disadvantage to be shy or quiet. Naturally my ego activates a self-defence mechanism, saying that people who small-talk lack insight or have nothing more important to talk about. But it is those views that have caused me plenty of social anxiety, awkwardness. Some people just seem to have the ability to have great conversations almost about nothing at all. I often find myself having to resort to asking some question and hopefully getting enough information to continue, but that hasn’t worked that well for me. Sometimes you just lack knowledge about someone else’s interest and can’t ask the right questions to make them start talking. Sometimes people don’t want to open up about what they really want to talk about. And of course, no one really is excited to talk about plain old work or school.

What I still struggle a lot is with second-tier friends – you know them enough superficially, but trying to get the conversation flowing really requires something else. Truthfully, I just hate asking what someone’s been up to lately, or vice versa.

Bibiana October 25, 2011 at 10:59 pm

It’s a good thing this appeared today, I was feeling a bit depress because I have been studying in college for 5 month now, and haven’t really talk with anyone. I really need to improve my social skills.
oh! and my solution to be notice and kind of remember, is that I dye my hair in different color almost every month; and in a way it also helps as an icebreaker because people are curies about it haha but that doesn’t always work =/ so I need to find a way to be more sociable.
so thanks for the post, I’ll keep the tips you gave in mind.

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Nicole October 26, 2011 at 9:58 am

So enlightening! I don’t think I realized how much of an issue my shyness could be until I read this! So thank you for making me realize the things I need to work on! It really hit me when you said:

“Being shy just kills self-esteem. People begin to treat you like you have nothing to say. It’s not even that they’re trying to marginalize you. It’s just that when you consistently contribute little or nothing to the conversation, they can’t help but assume you have nothing to contribute. And if everyone seems to be treating you like that, you begin to believe it. You begin to play out the role that is expected of you, even if it isn’t who you are or who you want to be.”

That is an exact description of my issue, and so relevant to my life. Improving on this, starting NOW! :)

Cindyy December 8, 2011 at 5:38 pm

A lot of things you said are so true!! I had to cry really bad during reading it… hehe…
Last year I even told my friends I didn’t want to be friends anymore because they told me I don’t speak much, several times. I really hate it how they could talk freely about everything they like or dislike, I also wanted to talk about things I like. And I wanted a friend with the same interests as me… But! I really want to change and it’s difficult…
I decided to talk about this for my oral presentation!
What do you guys think? Wish me luck! (ÓAÒ)
I wanted to type some more but it’s late~ Bye!

Kira July 4, 2012 at 2:31 pm

I’ve been browsing around your site for a little while now, and this caught my eye because I work a customer service rut and every time I have to take an order from someone new, I dread the question I know I’ll ask, how about that weather…I guess in that little window of time there’s no way to not be a creeper. Unless they come with a kid strapped to them or a dog outside, asking about either seems highly unusual.

Still, I feel this kind of isolation because my conversations are almost exclusively with strangers I will most likely never see again, and my script feels imprisoned by the stooges. But I digress.

I really appreciate what you’ve said here. It’s important to remember that the people in your life are often there because you care about them, acquaintances, friends and even occasionally strangers. The more you invest in them, the less you have to worry about yourself.

Thank you for your blog, I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read so far.

DAN August 15, 2012 at 11:44 pm

This blog just made my day :)

DAN August 16, 2012 at 12:10 am

I have been suffering with this since being around 14 and am now 24. and has gotten to the stage was just feeling enough is enough. but since reading the blog and all the comments its made me feel soo refreshed! it feels like i got all your support thankyou so much. LISTEN TO PEOPLE AND OBSORB THEIR INTERESTS. keep the posts coming….

Shane September 7, 2012 at 7:26 am

Thank you for this article. I usually have the confidence to talk but I never know what to talk about. It’s good to know I’m not the only one suffering. I wish I had the gift of the gab but I don’t think I ever will. Does anyone have any other advice other than the list idea and the watching others’ conversations?

Del September 9, 2012 at 6:41 am

I read articles it a wonderful read, 40 male and alway shy person , come few year ago that i need to talk more than what i doing i have feel i have miss onlife, o

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Wolf September 13, 2012 at 12:23 am

Amazing, well-thought out advice, by the way.

Anyways, while not quite ready to tackle physical conversations, I took the online route and starting chatting to people online. Don’t worry, I gave no information of me nor my family.

Anyways, even here, I find myself beating myself up (sometime literally) because I either run myself into a hole or I say something stupid. I often get “freaked out” when talking to others and find myself, yet again, beating myself up (sometimes literally) because chatting is “new” and “strange” to me.

And is it strange to want to end a conversation? I find myself irritated if I have to listen to someone talk and them asking you numerous questions, usually over matters I don’t care about nor are interested in. I do this with my dad numerous times, where I’m practically at the door, patting my legs wanting to leave. It created a rift in us where he’s disappointed that we don’t talk about things like a father and son should.


Ash September 23, 2012 at 9:23 pm

I definitely can relate to this. Whenever i try to tell people that im really shy, they just wont believe me. I think that because in my jobs ive worked as some form of customer service provider, i can initiate conversations with people, but i often struggle to steer them to anything useful. Once ive blurted out the “safe” options, im usually stuck for anything else to talk about. I usually end up talking about something ive done, and just feel like im boring others with stories and ideas about me.

My question to you is this, how does one who works in a customer based environment, where you serve a hundred or more customers a day, keep conversation fresh and engaging for both parties?

David September 23, 2012 at 10:02 pm

A large part of having good conversations is finding people you can relate to. In a working situation, you don’t choose who to talk to and the conversation is usually going to be pretty distant and “business transactional.” It might not be possible for them to all be fresh and engaging. You can always comment on something related to the other person: where they’ve just been, what they’re wearing or carrying — if it’s appropriate for the kind of work you do.

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tigerlyly October 13, 2012 at 3:44 am

Love your comments… Although I am not what you consider a shy person, at least on the surface, and make friends pretty fast… i do not actually make them, I just go through the motion of talking about their interests, get bored pretty fast and start putting emotional and mind distance between me and them… and then have the same rants/full discussions in my mind in order to answer them when they say something that bugs me. I never seem to be the perfect poised, sophisticated image of myself when talking to other people… hate that since in my head I am.
So thanks for your article, helps knowing you are not exactly crazy and damaged somehow, just a little different.

Kenji October 23, 2012 at 12:32 pm

Hi David,

I come to Uk about 7 months ago and I find it hard to understand what my peers are saying and I find it difficult to tell what I want to tell. But most of the time I get what my teachers are saying.This always happen when my friends are having group conversation. I find it a lot easier to talk to one person at a time. Because my english isn’t very bad, my friends tend to think that I don’t talk because I’m quite person. Not because I don’t understand. Anyway Thanks for the help.

Claire March 17, 2013 at 7:33 am

Hi, thank you for a great post. I’m overcoming my shyness at the moment and your advice will go a long way towards helping me get there. It’s great that you are using your experience to help others :)


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Omoba Tonovercome July 13, 2013 at 7:27 am

This is really useful. Its about diversity and inclusiveness. Recognizing that we all cannot be the same. If what has been described is what is called shyness, why should it be a problem? That is simply who the person is. Okay, we all can make changes to make living better, so l grudgingly accept to make amend. Thanks for the advise

icat November 25, 2013 at 10:54 pm

so what are some tips for forcing yourself to talk with co-workers? the kind of thing where you walk into their office or cubicle for a chat? I’m the only one at work who doesn’t do this from the looks of it. The thought of doing this makes me cringe. Seriously – how do i break the ice and then just chat? I need specific ideas here. This is a topic that isn’t covered much, but a really important part of work. Everyone else is building bonds while I’m sitting out taking my chances waiting to bump into people in the lunchroom.

Terrance Moran March 19, 2014 at 8:11 am

I think in Earl Nightengales book “HOW TO win Friends and Influence People” that I learned that people would think I was a great conversationalist just by creating a space for them to talk about themselves. And it works

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