July 30, 2005
Art of Conversing

Not many people will guess that I’m a shy person. I’ve learned how to hide my insecurity when I converse and many people believe I am an extravert. Let me tell you how I do it, because these three pointers can help anyone go from wallflower to halfway-decent-conversationalist.

Return the Question
People often ask start a conversation by asking about a topic they want to talk about. Save yourself from having to talk too much and give them a chance to take the lead. When someone asks you a question, you should answer, then ask them back the same question. You can rephrase it or not, as you desire.

“Have you read any good books lately?”
“No, I haven’t had the time. What have you been reading?”

“Did you like the movie?”
“I liked the special effects a lot. What did you think?”

“What did you do at work today?”
“I finished a report and took a long lunch. What did you do at work today?”

Use a Detail
When you’re asked a general question such as “How are you?” or “What did you do today?” you’ll find that an answer like “Fine” doesn’t get you very far. In fact, it usually kills the conversation. Try describing a detail that answers the question, instead. The other people in the conversation can use your answer to add their own story or ask another question.

“How was your day at school?”
“Not bad, but lunch was really strange. They served us this pink foamy stuff that tasted like ham. Nobody knew what it was supposed to be. It stuck to the ceiling well, though!”
“Pink ham-foam? Maybe it was aspic or ham mousse. We had chicken soup with vegetables for lunch. I counted only three vegetables, though: carrots, potatoes and more carrots.”

“Haven’t see you in a while, how are you?”
“I’m fine. Last week I went to see Kabuki for the first time when my mother came to visit. How are you?”

“What did you do at work today?”
“Ugh. Mr. Smithers sent an e-mail to everyone telling them to limit their bathroom breaks to 2 minutes, 30 seconds and to mark them on a sheet outside the toilet. What a fool.”
“At my last job, the boss had us call him before we went the the toilet. It felt like getting a hall pass in school. What is it with bosses and bathrooms?”

It isn’t really conversation, but a smile helps people feel good about talking to you. That goes a long way toward being a good conversationalist.

Posted by kuri at July 30, 2005 08:01 AM


A: Hello, How are you?

B: Fine.

(bell rings)

A: Hello, how are you?

B: Fine, thank you. You?

A: Fine.

(bell rings)

A: Hello, how are you?

B: Fine, and you?

A: Quite well. How do you like Crayola crayons?

B: Why I love Crayola crayons! I am one! See? Cobalt Blue. Old school.

A: You are? How delightful. I’m a piece of paper. Together we can be a Wedgewood platter.

(bell rings)

A: Or a Penn State bumpersticker.

(bell rings)

A: Or the blue collar and white collar.

(bell rings)

A: Or the young and the restless.

(bell rings)

A: We could be the sky.

(many bells go off)

I’ve been reading a lot of David Ives lately, sorry! He explores the art of conversation in everything he writes.

Posted by: Jenn on July 31, 2005 11:53 PM

Would like to communicate with others interested in Crayola crayons

Posted by: color lady on August 4, 2005 09:45 AM

Heh. Well done.

I put up a similar but somewhat crankier post:


Posted by: mike on August 5, 2005 01:52 PM
Post a comment

Email Address (optional):

URL (optional):


Remember info?