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Small Talk Gets Me Every Time

via Emily McDowell

 

Alternate title: 10 things to say when you’re not sure what to say.

Are you ever unsure of what to say? I am. And now, I’ve become acutely aware of when others have no idea what to say.

So, when you’re not sure exactly what a person is going through (trauma, strife, personal problems), here’s my advice on what to say (or not say.) Because talking to people is hard. And sometimes, we’re not all that good at it.

So, I say, don’t start with questions that you could probably guess the answer to. (i.e. “how are you?”)

Don’t start with the obvious questions you want to ask. (i.e. “what happened?”)

Don’t start with the statements that are only going to make the conversation more strained.

Do start with one of these 10 things to say when you’re not sure what to say.

  1. Say something boring. Like “how about this weather?” Or “Monday already?” “Gas prices have dropped, huh?”
  2. Ask about the latest and greatest. “How was your (insert most recent holiday/event)?”
  3. Start with a something superfluous. “Great shirt/necklace/tie. Where’s it from?”
  4. How about a recommendation? “Know where I can find a plumber/a dog/a great croissant?”
  5. Just be there. “Let me know if you want to grab lunch/coffee/a drink?”
  6. Talk about you. Tell the person a story, what you ate for lunch, how much you hate water polo. Something. Anything.
  7. Simply acknowledge the person is there. “Good to see you.” and then just walk away. Sometimes, less is more.
  8. Ask for that person’s expertise. “Can you help me with x/y/z?” Make that person feel useful.
  9. Talk about the place you are/activity you are doing. It could be work, the gym, the playground.
  10. Nothing at all. Perhaps mom’s rule about “having nothing nice to say” also applies when you’re unsure what to say.

Now go, say something, or nothing, to the person who might need to hear from you right about now.