How to Talk to People

I have friends who worry that they are incapable of making new friends. Or they fret that they’ll have absolutely nothing to talk about when they go on dates. They believe themselves to be awkward and dull, with nothing to offer of interest.

I am far from an extrovert, but what I do have is endless amounts of curiosity. I want to know the insides of people’s minds, the fluctuations of their hearts, the secrets in their souls. I’ve probably quoted this before, but I absolutely love this Neil Gaiman quote:

“Everybody has a secret world inside of them. I mean everybody. All of the people in the whole world, I mean everybody — no matter how dull and boring they are on the outside. Inside them they’ve all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds… Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands, maybe.” 

Being a journalism major was such an amazing thing for me, because it meant I always had an excuse or reason to go out and talk to people, and prod at their brains. (Not literally, of course, for that I would’ve had to be pre-med).

So, for you awkward special snowflakes, I present the “Gaby Way to Talk to Anyone and Absolutely Everyone”.

Dressing wacky? Also a good conversation starter. Or a way to scare people off. You choose.

Do you dress wacky? Also a good conversation starter. Or a way to scare people off. You choose.

Ask random questions
There are a few questions in my arsenal that I’m always curious to know. What is your desert island meal, the things you would eat if you could only have one meal for the rest of your life? What would your super power be? And of course, because I’m a nerd, what is one of your favorite books?

Seek out their knowledge
Never believe you are the smartest person in a room. There is almost always something to learn from the people around you. They are an expert on something. What is it? Underwater basket weaving? Did they go through a crazy childhood as a circus nomad? Meet a celebrity and have a completely unexpected experience? Find out. Talk about it. Ask about it.

And share your own experiences and knowledge! Keep that dialogue going.

Explore mutual interests
You may have found out some of these through your random questions. Even if you seem like total and complete opposites, there’s probably something shared between you two. Pro-tip, people like complaining. Commiserate over the terrible winter we just had. It did suck, didn’t it? (See, it works!)

Know your current events
So, this actually requires you to be interested in the world too. Find out what’s going on. Even if it’s just about Brangelina adopting another child, know something current and relevant. Read the news or watch an unbiased source. Then ask people what they think. What’s their opinion? People want to be heard more than anything.

At the crux of all this advice, the main points are to be genuine and curious. It’s not about you. That sounds harsh. I mean, if all goes well, they’ll be interested in knowing more about you too, but view each person as an infinite universe and you’re Spaceman Spiff, Captain Kirk, the Doctor, Luke Skywalker, etc etc.

I’ll leave you with one more quote, because I am addicted to words. Just keep this attitude and you’ll be fine:

Do you know, in nine hundred years of time and space, I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t important before?” – the Doctor

Love always,
Gabriele

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5 thoughts on “How to Talk to People

  1. I LOVE this!! I feel like I’m a really awkward person and sometimes I literally cannot think of a single thing to ask someone, even though there are a million questions out there. I just get so worried about sounding interesting that I blank! It’s horrible! I’m so glad you taught me your ways! I love the idea of talking to someone to “seek out their knowledge.” Very cool!
    ~Sara

  2. Great post! I used to be one of those people who worried about what to say and awkward silences and sometimes I still do. But I realized with meeting the au pairs now, I am always the one starting the questions and asking about others. However, I still won’t willingly go up to someone I don’t know and start a conversation. But I love your questions!

      • That is true, I’ve noticed more and more that not only am I educating myself more on different kinds of people and how different things work, but also there’s a lot of self discovery happening, especially with leading a situation when necessary and meeting others

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