I’ve noticed recently that the number of occasions when people flee from my company as I begin talking to them is roughly down to single figures for each day, so I now consider myself to have the gift of the gab. Yes, I am one of those tremendously fortuitous individuals who can simply open up a conversation with practically anyone and they will stand there, rigid with admiration, unable to speak due to my fascinating insights and gesturing frantically to passers-by, so they can join them and also enjoy my words. My abilities and techniques have been slowly assembled over many years and I am finally ready to share them with you lucky, lucky people. So sit back, pour yourself a Lucozade and prepare to learn my trade secrets of polite, enthralling conversation.
This is always the most difficult gambit when initiating a conversation with someone. Do you try the traditional ‘hello’? The more relaxed ‘hi’? Or something more unorthodox like ‘ZAPPY PAPPY ZAPPY PAPPY’ screamed at quite a high register. Well, even novices like yourselves will realise that it should be this last one. You only have a few microseconds to make an impression and allow this person to understand that you are someone worth conversing with. A loud and confusing personal greeting is the perfect conversation starter. They will usually respond with something like ‘what did you say’, ‘why did you say that’ or ‘why are you talking to me’? All are great leaping off points.
One of the questions I hear the most, other than the three quoted in the previous passage, is ‘what should I talk about?’ I could answer this with another question, namely ‘what shouldn’t you talk about?’ But I won’t as this would take too much time. Instead, a great place to start is someone’s physical appearance. This shows that you are paying close attention to their face and body and have already formulated an opinion about it, which is always nice to hear. Questions along the line of ‘why is your hair like that?’, ‘are you doing that thing with your eyes on purpose?’ or ‘what’s wrong with your legs?’ will launch you into some interesting conversational waters. If they do start to cry, as can happen during any conventional dialogue, perhaps shift the topic to a recent natural disaster or just run away.
DIFFERENCES OF OPINION
This can be a thorny one, as obviously we all like to talk to people who agree with us about everything, but occasionally we will come across an individual who has ‘different’ or ‘bad’ views about something. Remember, don’t immediately use physical force. This should only be employed as a last resort when you realise they aren’t going to change their mind. One technique I often embark upon is mumbling the word ‘wrong’ repeatedly as they are speaking their noxious truths. Violently shaking your head or bouts of loud, sarcastic laughter can also shift the conversation more in your direction. I often keep a selection of hand puppets on my person when I think I might be having a conversation during that day. These can be quickly accessed and used to mock or confuse your combatant, especially if you are good at accents.
If you ask Parky, Graham Norton or any of the great 20th Century chatters, they will tell you that body language is a vital component to any successful attempt at small talk. The main thing to remember is eye contact. Never break eye contact. I have spent hours and hours training myself not to blink. I can now go four minutes or more without blinking. So when I’m talking to someone, I can fix them with a fierce unblinking gaze. If they begin to turn their head or look elsewhere, don’t break that eye contact whatever you do. Move your body and items of furniture if you have to. I find that light swaying of the upper body is quite effective at keeping your compatriot at ease, providing a distinct hypnotic effect. Sudden involuntary movements, such as impulsive hand gestures and swift lurches are also a good way to keep them on their toes and instil them with maximum concentration.
THINGS TO AVOID
I try to never have a conversation with anyone younger than me. No good can come of it. So before we get going in any major way, I will ask ‘how old are you?’ If they are beneath me in years or they refuse to answer, I will terminate the conversation immediately. It seems dramatic but believe me it saves time in the long run. I also try to avoid talking to anyone in authority, hat wearers, members of the opposite sex, obvious car owners and people from abroad. I just don’t have the gumption to pull it off. I prefer to converse inside, within a well ventilated room containing obvious exits. I never speak while seated and I don’t like to have eaten for at least twelve hours before or after the conversation, just to keep me sharp. Most of my chats rarely go over the thirty second mark, so this is never much of a problem.
Ending a conversation would appear to be the easiest thing in the world. Simply by walking away, sobbing or slapping their face, you’ll make your feelings about termination crystal clear. But sometimes it can be more difficult. Very often the person I’m conversing with will demand either an apology or an explanation for some of my more forthright views. If you don’t wish to implicate yourself further, especially if they’ve begun to jot things down, one technique I have often used is very slowly flapping your arms, as if you are a bird. Quicken the pace of the flapping and begin to make a ‘SCHUM SCHUM’ sound with your mouth. Then, while still doing this, slowly back away from the person and out of the room. Once you are out of the area and safely at the bus stop you can cease. Voila! A simple and effective way to end any conversation.