Beware: There are small talk criminals lurking everywhere. The coffee shop, your kids’ school, the gym, the office, the dinner party. These brazen bullies strike quickly and without warning – and they don’t care who gets hurt. My ongoing series, Talk Tyrants, serves two purposes: it allows you the chance to escape the attack of such a villainous creature and it guarantees that you will never fall into a life of small talk crime. Here we go:
The Interrogater peppers his victims with so many questions he might as well work the room with a hot light and the folding chair in tow: What do you do? Where do you live? Married? Are you lactose intolerant? Have you ever herded sheep?
The Interrogater assaults his captive with a constant peppering of questions. There is no time for a confession. No time to request a lawyer. Certainly no precious phone call. The victim answers quickly and without thought, silently praying for an end to the torment. It’s only when another suspect appears that The Interrogater dumps his current prey for a new target.
How to spot The Interrogater:
- Asks closed-ended questions: Where are you from?
- Settles for one-word answers (instead of digging deeper): Chicago
- Nervously makes some inane comment: Ah, Chi-town!
- Anxiously asks another, typically irrelevant question: You like orange juice?
How to deal with The Interrogater:
- Help The Interrogater by taking control and asking him an open-ended question: You’ve got to give me the inside scoop on Al Capone, Chicago’s most famous mobster! What do you know?
- Add a follow-up question: Gosh, I’d never heard that! How did you learn those details?
- Continue to use your fabulous small talk skills to keep the conversation going at a safe, but smart pace: Al Capone just makes me think of Italian food; you must miss the restaurants in Chicago. Have you found any Italian food stands here that are up to your Chicago taste buds?
Stay calm with The Interrogater. After all, he is just trying to do his job as a conversationalist, but his life of small talk crime has left him empty and probably alone and confused more often than not. Remember, even the worst small talk delinquents can be rehabilitated with a little love and attention.
Stay tuned for the next installment: The One-Upper.