I’m finding that so many people are having a hard time having normal conversations in this day and age. Here is my list that aims to help those conversationally challenged avoid the traps and struggles that I have personally encountered before I learned how to talk “normally” to other humans, often of the opposite sex. Good luck, in advance, in your pursuit of normality. It’s nice and warm there.
1. To start, always look the person you are talking to in the eyes as looking at their right ear or left knee may be considered strange. Don’t look them in the eyes too intensely or for too long without speaking, as you may frighten them away. Think of each potential talking companion as a small squirrel, mostly for the added humour. Also remember to blink occasionally if, for nothing else, to maintain proper levels of moistness for your eyeballs.
2. Say “hi” or “hello” or “howdy” or any other regularly accepted word of greeting and avoid opening with anything too personal or confrontational or Klingon. Try to keep it short as you don’t want to dominate the conversation early on. It’s not a war or a chess game, and instead, more of a collaborative effort like if the two of you are trying to free yourself from a single straight jacket that you somehow found yourself inside of. By the way, if that happens, you can skip the initial pleasantries.
3. If asked “how are you?” keep your answer to five words or less that in no way addresses the actual question in any real or honest fashion. The reality of how terrible or horrible or mythical your feelings or existence actually are do not matter to anyone else at all. Remember to ask the other how they are, and try to find a proper level of interest in their response so you don’t come across as either extreme: bored or creepy. If you are the rare person who is able to nail being both bored and creepy at the same time, save it for your loved ones. Now is not the time.
4. Engage in small talk which does not mean that you need to curl up into the smallest ball you can or to crouch down next to something tall thus giving yourself the appearance of smallness. Instead, it means to talk about insignificant things while at the same time acting like they are of huge importance. Or to talk dismissively and peripherally of important things as if they are insignificant. Practice in front of the mirror ahead of time if you must. Remember to feign interest during this stage of small talk even if it feels like a small part of your soul is being vacuumed through your ears.
5. Your goal, in case you have forgotten, is to appear normal at all times regardless of the cost, while also making the other person feel smart, funny and, if possible, young and attractive, or at least younger and more attractive than they already feel or else they may not be interested in continuing this conversation. It it’s helpful, try thinking of yourself as a plastic surgeon. I’m not sure at all why that would help you, but if it does, then use it!
6. Important! If talk of the weather comes up, and it will, you must avoid all sarcasm and eye-rolling, and instead, act like you love discussing the weather and couldn’t imagine doing anything better at the current time. Don’t worry, if all goes well and either a friendship or relationship is forged between the two of you, there will be countless future opportunities for sarcasm and eye rolling.
7. Questions of the other person are okay, but remember this isn’t an interrogation! Keep the questions purposely vague and impersonal almost to the point where no one, including yourself, knows exactly what you are asking. Experiment with adding a questioning inflection to non-questions and vice versa. Another great idea is to speak entirely in hypotheticals or to ask questions that at first appear rhetorical, but in the end neither of you are sure if they require an answer. A good time will be had by all. It is almost impossible to ask too many questions, as the other person will invariably remember they had to wash their hair before you reach the saturation point.
8. If asked about yourself don’t forget your goal is to appear normal at all costs. Now is not the time or the place to share your bordering-on-wacko ideas about alien invasions or government conspiracies or aliens and the government colluding to conspire to invade the country you invented that you are both King and supreme leader of. Share enough to pique their interest and keep them coming back for more. One suggestion is to start sentences off with a bang and then abruptly get distracted and never finish the sentence. You want to appear worldly, without seeming other-worldly, and you want to come across as sharp and witty, without sounding like a loser and a know-it-all.
9. If the conversation slows down, don’t be afraid of the silence, but also don’t embrace it. A little dead air is fine, but actually trying to hug it will look really odd.
10. Jokes are great! Normal people tell jokes of their own and laugh at attempts to be funny from others. Keep the jokes “clean”, medium-brow and tasteful and, if you must laugh, keep your own reaction somewhat muted so as not to sound too much like a farm animal. Resist any desire to tickle the other person, or to slap their back while laughing. If physical contact is meant to be a part of your future together allow it to develop organically, and by that I do not mean among organic vegetables, although there are no rules against that either.
11. When and if you need to leave by all means do not curtsy or sing a song or do the worm unless the other person has done one first, and even then remember, it may be a trap to expose you as weird.
12. If you have no interest in ever seeing this person ever again for any reason, make non-committal plans to meet again keeping the details as convoluted and hard to decipher as possible without dulling the interest you must feign. Think of your words of commitment like breadcrumbs dropped on a path in the woods that birds will most likely eat shortly after they are dropped making it impossible for your father to save you from the witch who plans to eat you. If you are unable to let the other know directly of your non-interest, weakly use an out-of-order phone number or an obviously made-up-off-the-top-of-your-head email address.
13. If you feel something odd in your stomach as you are about to leave it is most likely either food poisoning or love, or a combination of the two. If it is love, tread lightly and do not appear too desperate. Take the other person’s temperature, but not literally, or at least not literally at this stage in your possibly blossoming relationship. Baby steps. Ask for a phone number or see if they want to grab a coffee. See if they want to be social media friends, but try to give yourself time to race home and delete anything too weird from your account first. Whatever you do, make sure you keep a level head and do not get carried away and suggest anything bizarre like melting cheese as art or reading books to the raccoons under your deck or violating those archaic patent infringement regulations that have always annoyed you to no end. If it was food poisoning all along, return home and drink lots of fluids.
14. Similarly to #12, if your companion shows interest in you, but you don’t share those feelings let them down as softly as you can while making sure that they got it. Pretend the shoe is on the other foot, but please do not actually try your shoe on the other foot. Not normal! Remember they are a human being with feelings and act accordingly.
15. Finally, it is time to leave and regardless of how this conversation is ending and what, if anything, is happening next do not skip, preemptively remove your wig or high five yourself while leaving unless you are a whole lot cooler than me, which is definitely within the realm of possibility.