Tag Archives: Manners
Posted on Thursday, October 9th, 2014
I was two cups of coffee in to the Sunday Denver Post when I noticed this picture ofBob Beauprez fist-bumping his son. At first I didn’t realize it was his son; I was just momentarily mesmerized by the fist-bump. A fist-bump?
When I realized it was Beauprez’s son, I was a bit mollified (though I will admit I think a hug makes more sense, but it’s not my business and I mean that in all sincerity and without sarcasm because they are father and son and it’s their fist-bump, and at least they communicate and that’s always a good thing), but still pondering the fist-bump. When did this replace the handshake? And why?
A recent study in Germany touts the health benefits of the fist-bump. Yes, someone in Germany studied the benefits of the fist-bump versus the handshake versus the high five. The fist-bump won for least amount of germ transmittal. Researchers dipped a gloved hand into a vat of E-coli matter and then proceeded to shake, bump and high-five the participants. And you thought your job was bad.
I have asked a handful (pun intended) of adults why they fist-bump and most of the time the response is something along the lines of: Well, it seems to be the trend. AHA! This is not a good reason to forgo the time-honored handshake! By continuing to fist-bump you are only encouraging it. It’s like feeding a whiney toddler a lollipop or getting a tattoo in Vegas because the rest of the wedding party did. Just because everyone is doing it does not make it a ‘do!’
The handshake, at least in America, is still a ‘do.’ It’s still considered the most professional yet personal form of greeting. When should you shake?
• When introducing yourself to anyone (including your parole officer)
• At the beginning and end of a job interview
• When you meet the president of just about anything
• When greeting a colleague or client you haven’t seen in a significant amount of time
• When you’ve been introduced to someone by another friend or colleague
• When meeting your potential father-in-law (or parole officer)
• When acting as host or hostess to a business meeting or event
• When saying goodbye to a colleague, client, friend (or parole officer)
• When you need to indicate the end of an interaction or conversation and your impending exit
• Really any other time that seems obvious: when someone saves you from a careening bus,
when someone kills the mice infestation living under your stairs, when the guy in front of you tosses your 9 year-old the foul ball he just caught at the baseball game. You know when it feels right. Right? (In all of the above instances a hug is probably also warranted, especially in the mice instance.)
Wondering how to master the fine art of the handshake? It’s easy:
• Make eye contact
• State your name (if necessary) while extending your right hand: Hi, I’m Debra Fine
• Lean slightly in, grasp the other person’s hand firmly for a mere 2-3 seconds
That’s it. Really! So, don’t overthink it. And avoid the following:
• Dead Fish Hand: This limp, lifeless creature belongs in the grocery case, not in the handshake.
• Lady Fingers: The handshake involves the HAND, not just the fingers. Even Princess Kate does not daintily offer her royal fingers in that awkward way that makes it seem like you’re hiding a microphone in your palm. And she’s a princess.
• The “Make Mine a Double”: No need to cover the successful handshake with your other hand. Don’t ruin a good thing. The handshake is a singles match, not a doubles tourney. One and done.
• Be cognizant when greeting guests from other cultural backgrounds, as the rules may differ. If you are the guest, take your cues from the host to show your willingness to be flexible and respectful.
Handshakes are like parenting: Extend yourself. Be straightforward. Be firm. Smile even when you don’t feel like it. Practice what your preach.
On that note, teaching children the fine art of the handshake is a gift. After all, we teach our dogs to “shake” not “fist-bump” – shouldn’t we do the same for the little humans in our lives? Agree? Let’s shake on it.
Posted on Tuesday, August 12th, 2014
It’s here! The school year is back! Some parents may be jumping for joy, especially those dealing with an eye-rolling teen or a bored 8-year-old. And some are white-knuckling it through the emotional turmoil of prepping a college-bound young adult (when did THAT happen — didn’t he just lose his baby teeth and learn how to tie his shoes?) for departure. Speaking from experience, that’s a rough one. Survivable, but rough.
Because the summer usually offers many freedoms — later nights, lazier mornings and space in between to just be a kid — the structure of a fall schedule can be a bit jarring for the under-20 crowd.
And while I am no David Letterman (love you, Dave!), I love a good Top 10 List, so below are the Top 10 Ways to Avoid Flunking the Fall.
1. Back Up Bedtime:
No matter what age your child is, chances are the bedtime hour has vacillated a bit over the past three months. Use these weeks before school to start transitioning into an earlier bedtime and a more structured wake-up routine. Ever try to wake a 15-year-old boy at 6:30 a.m. after a summer of sleeping until lunch? Exactly.
2. Collaborate on Calendars:
Add school and sports events to your calendar now, and share that information with your spouse and any other important people in your life. If your child is old enough to carry a smartphone or iPad, have him update his own calendar. This will encourage him to be responsible for his activities and can be a useful tool for tracking homework deadlines and social engagements. If your child is younger, discuss what each week will look like and create a chart that will help him understand his schedule. If your child can’t read, use stickers (a sticker of a soccer ball on Wednesday, for example).
If your child is leaving for college, talk through their class load, asking open-ended questions on how they foresee accomplishing schoolwork, any part-time work, sports, social and volunteer responsibilities. By talking with your child about prioritizing their time, you are setting them up for success and showing them that accomplishing a myriad of tasks doesn’t happen well without a plan in place.
3. Manage Medical Mayhem:
Make sure your child — no matter what his age — is up-to-date on vaccinations and physical exams. It’s easier to accomplish this task now rather than wait until the day before football practice starts. I speak from experience here. Also, if your child has late starts and early dismissals during the school year (this is a standard in some Colorado districts), schedule future appointments for those chunks of time. It’s much easier to squeeze in a teeth cleaning or eye appointment on those short days than try to do maneuver kids and teens after school when offices are busier and kids are over-booked.
4. Communicate About Communication:
Do you want your college freshman to connect with you daily? Weekly? Via phone? Via text? Via email? Clarify your expectations around this issue now to save headaches and heartaches later. Remember that your college freshman is, for the first time, out on his own. Maybe he doesn’t want to check in with you daily; or fill you in on every last detail of his day and night. Maybe you DO, in fact, want to hear his actual voice once or twice a week and would rather not find out about his life on Facebook. Communicating about communication will alleviate future confusion.
If you are parenting a younger child, carve out time at the end of each day to talk. Avoid asking: “How was school?” unless you are ok with getting a “Fine” in response. “Tell me during your science lab” or “What was the funniest thing that happened today” will get your child talking.
5. Role Play Reality:
Help your child, regardless of age, practice his social graces. Role-play introductions to friends, teachers and parents. Discuss the benefits of a firm handshake, a smile, eye contact and decent posture. Remind him that social media is forever, so think long and hard before posting anything that he wouldn’t want his grandmother or boss to see. Talk about ways to avoid peer pressure when it comes to drinking, drugs, sex, cheating, bullying and gossip.
Help younger children deal with playground issues by teaching them about walking away or stating clearly: “I don’t like it when you push me.” Remind kids of all ages that they have what it takes to handle tricky situations, but they can always come to you or another trusted adult if needed.
6. Find a Friend:
Taking your child to college? Make some inroads with the parents of their dorm-mate or floor resident advisor so you have another contact should you need it. Make conversation with other incoming freshmen and their parents without overdoing it; it’s not a popularity contest but it is a chance to make some connections for both you and your child.
For younger children, invite a classmate over to play before school starts and don’t skip on Meet the Teacher night, even if your child has been going to the same school for years. Having familiar faces to search out is so helpful, no matter your age. Let’s be honest, even adults look for someone they know when walking into a party or business function. Give this gift to your child and alleviate a bit of stress for everyone.
7. Navigate the Necessities:
Handle haircuts, new shoes, lunch boxes, school supplies, clothes and toiletries now. Let your child have a say in what he wants to wear on a regular basis and pick your rules sparingly. Forcing a kid to wear collared shirts and khakis while the rest of the pack is in sport shorts and sweatshirts are, um, mean. Agree that you have final say on special occasions (picture day, school plays, etc.). Don’t micro-manage things like coats and gloves. Kids figure out pretty quickly that standing at the bus stop in a t-shirt is pretty miserable when it 14 degrees outside.
For the college-bound, stores likeBed Bath & Beyond will allow you to shop for items in your home state and pick them up in another state, making packing the car that much easier. As for clothes, remind your child that less is more in a tiny space — and that you can always send needed items if necessary. Or use this as a way to entice them home more often…all’s fair in love and empty nesting.
8. Make It Personal:
For the shorter set, add notes to their lunch boxes or color on their breakfast napkins — anything that lets them know you miss them and think about them and encourage them. I’ve seen blogs about cutting sandwiches and fruit into fun shapes to make little kids smile. And while that’s such a cute idea, we both know it won’t happen for long. But a quick “Good luck with spelling” on a sticky will do the trick.
For those heading out of the house for college, send a care package! Then send another one! And another one! Kids love getting mail and treats, no matter how cool they are. I would jump for joy if I opened my mailbox and found a box filled with cookies, new magazines and a $20 bill, wouldn’t you?
9. Make It Easy:
Hoping your freshman will send letters to you? His grandparents? His siblings? Provide him with a stack of funny cards and other various stationary along with a book of stamps and a list of addresses — and then just hope for the best. Offer a gentle reminder about how HAPPY his grandparents would be to receive a handwritten note from him. Remind him that his grandparents have been putting money in his college fund since birth.
10. Read My Book or Have Your Teen Read My Book or Read My Book Out Loud to Your Teen:
I’m kidding on the last one – do not read this book out loud to your teen because then your teen will hate us both.
This is not even a plug for you to BUY the book. I swear. I don’t care if you get it from the library or page through it at the bookstore. Really. But Beyond Texting: The Fine Art of Face-to-Face Communication for Teenagers was written for a reason – to help children and young adults navigate human interaction, balance real life in a digital world, and use technology as a tool instead of a crutch.
Posted on Friday, March 28th, 2014
Technology is a such a blessing… Until it becomes a curse. Or a crutch. Maybe it’s all three, actually, when you really stop to think about it. After all, it’s lovely to text a friend, letting her know you are running late for a get-together but being constantly tethered to a device and the never-ending beeping and ringing can be exhausting. Blessing vs. curse.
But it’s the crutch part that resonated with me to such a level that I wrote my third book, Beyond Texting: The Fine Art of Face-to-Face Communication for Teenagers. I didn’t go willingly, as they say.
The book was a result of being asked by my publishers, friends, and colleagues to please write a book for the younger generation. I didn’t want to do it. I texted and emailed and FaceTimed my publisher over and over again refusing. But by then my brain had been tuned into the teenagers and 20-somethings I encountered everywhere I went, and after watching so many of them, including my own, relying on their devices to make it in the world, I relented.
Seeing teenagers constantly head down, earbuds in and hunched over their smartphones really made a mark on me. I first considered going to chiropractic school, knowing that the future generation is going to have loads of neck problems (for all of you entrepreneurs out there, may I suggest considering this line of work because surely there is money to be made) but I am no spring chicken, and small talk is my gig.
So, the book and the blogs and the talks begin now. Not to blow my own horn, but I am basically singlehandedly saving the world. I know, I know — it’s a big job. But without face-to-face communication skills, the next generation will be unable to make conversation, ask for a date, propose to a mate and, thus, create the next generation. The entire human race could die off if we don’t start teaching our teens how to communicate! I don’t know about you, but I’d like some grandchildren one day. And someone to serve me tapioca in the home — when and if the time comes.
How do you teach your teen the proper way to build relationships and interact with others? While my book offers an in-depth approach, these three tips will help you both get started:
It’s normal to feel nervous and overwhelmed when entering an unfamiliar situation. Take a deep breath and relax. Can’t? Well, fake it if you can, and remind yourself that everybody else is feeling the same way. Put away your phone and look at others in the eye, smile and extend a firm handshake. It will feel awkward at first, and you will be itching to reach for your device as a way to curb your panic, but force yourself to engage on a human level because it gets easier. I promise. By appearing energetic, interested, engaged and friendly, people will be drawn to you, making the vibe in the room even more inviting and comfortable for you and others.
Break the Ice:
Initiating a conversation with a stranger is a gift that keeps on giving — to both you and the your conversation partner. Even after all these years of small talk, I always enter a room with at least three topics to talk about. Always. So, here are some conversation starters that work:
• How’d you do on the test? The essay part was the toughest for me!
• Have you met the new science teacher?
• Biology is killing me — can we study together?
• I was behind you at the assembly this morning. What did you think about the presentation?
• I love your (band) shirt. Did you know they are playing here this summer?
There is no ‘perfect’ conversation starter, but there is always an ‘A’ for effort, so saying hello first will earn you credit. Sure, you’re going to get rejected sometimes and that’s life. But by trying, and by being kind and genuine, you have a better shot of starting a meaningful exchange.
Introduce (and then Re-Introduce) Yourself:
This is so basic – but so often overlooked! Sometimes you’ve managed to actually start and carry on a great conversation and you walk away realizing that you have no idea what someone’s name is and they have no idea what yours is! Give someone the gift of your name, even if you think they may know you already:
John (to a professor): I was so happy with the B on the final
Professor: Yes, good work.
John: I’m John Smith – I am in your Tuesday/Thursday class and am registering for your course next semester.
Professor: Great, John. I’ll look forward to seeing you in class.
John: Thanks Professor Green; have a good summer.
John re-introduced himself to his professor and established a connection. Next semester, if John needs some additional help or is looking for a reference, he’s already set himself apart from the other hundreds of students Professor Green sees every week. One small exchange can result in big things.
When I look back on my teen years, I shudder at the memories. My hands shook during presentations. My mouth went dry when a boy talked to me. My heart pounded when I walked into a party alone. The tips I shared here — and the others in my book — are not earth-shattering but oh so necessary. Social media may be killing all of of our social skills. But by teaching our teens the basics, and helping them embrace face-to-face communication, we are saving the world! And we have a greater chance of having successful, self-supporting adult children! And grandchildren! And tapioca!
Posted on Monday, January 13th, 2014
Most of us are out there in there in the world giving it our all. Looking good, working hard, being a true friend, an attentive parent, a dedicated employee and a contributing member to society takes a lot time and energy. I mean, just drying my hair takes a solid 43 minutes. It’s not easy being me, you know? And wouldn’t it be nice if just once, someone noticed?
Yet when someone DOES notice, and they do, many of us either freeze up or immediately disregard the kind words coming at us. Why?
According to Robin Abrahams, columnist for the Boston Globe, people feel that when they acknowledge a compliment, they are validating it and, thus, patting themselves on the back. “Gosh, yes, drying my hair DOES take in inordinate amount of time and upper body strength!” seems, oh I don’t know, ridiculous.
But, according to Abrahams, deflecting a compliment is not modest or unpretentious; it’s actually a bit rude. After all, someone has taken the time to not only notice you and your efforts, but has gone a step further and actually acknowledged it. That’s nice, right?
You’d think hearing nice things about yourself would be easy, but in fact negativity weighs heavy. Aaron Ben-Zeev, a Ph.D quoted in Psychology Today, simplifies it: “To sum up, negative emotions are more noticeable than positive ones since attending to negative events is more important for our survival than attending to positive events.”
Is that why accepting a compliment is tough, because we are built with the fight or flight mechanism that saves us from something scary and, therefore, we are gravitate toward something negative versus positive? To put it simply: Is running from a bear easier than accepting a heartfelt compliment?
Let’s hope not. I’ve never run from a bear, but that sounds sort of hard.
Here’s the good news: I do know the secret to accepting a compliment. Are you ready? Here it comes:
Say “Thank you.”
Yep, that’s it. Just say thank you. Resist the urge to discount yourself and, in doing so, the complimenter (let’s pretend that’s a real word just for today, okay?). Resist the “Oh, this old head of hair?! I’ve had it forever! It’s nothing, really,” comeback and be a gracious complimentee (let’s pretend that’s another word, just for today).
Here are some responses to get your through what should be a great small talk exchange but could, in fact, cause you to panic as if you are, well, running from a bear. Remember, you can accept a compliment and still gently lead the conversation in another direction which is the sign of the true small talk pro that you are — here’s how:
Is that a new car? I like the color!
Thank you! I’ve never had a red car before and I am enjoying it.
I loved your speech.
Thank you. I am so glad you liked it.
Dinner was delicious.
Thank you. My sister made it years ago and it’s become a family favorite. What’s your go-to recipe?
Your children are so polite.
Thank you. That’s a really lovely thing to say.
Your new book is great!
Thank you; hearing that makes the hard work worth it. What else are you reading these days?
I can tell you worked hard on that report.
Thank you. It’s nice of you to notice.
Your hair looks fabulous.
Thank you. Now, check out my arms!
Posted on Thursday, December 5th, 2013
My partner and I travel often for work and pleasure, and while we are great traveling companions, we disagree on how to converse with the people we meet. When traveling internationally, specifically to poorer countries, is it condescending not to ask your taxi driver if he’s ever been to the U.S. (thus assuming that he does not have the financial means to travel?) — or is it worse to pose the question, when clearly the driver’s financial story seems obvious?
Please know that I am not a snob, nor am I typically a person who just assumes the life experience of those around me, I simply want to do the right thing. Do we appear like two wealthy, disconnected Americans living the high life, or do we level the playing field by asking this question? Interested to hear your take — thank you.
First, I applaud you both for making small talk while traveling. And, I applaud you for traveling, period, as it opens up a new way of looking at the world.
I understand your dilemma, and I believe there is a balance. Instead of asking a specific question, such as: “Have you ever been to the U.S.?,” try approaching it from the angle of getting to know more about the person, rather than his or her specific vacations. Open-ended questions are the quickest and kindest way to achieve a positive end result.
Saying the cliché: “How are you today?,” is appropriate as long as you really mean it, and are planning to follow-up with a more engaging conversation. For example, jumping into a cab in Chicago and saying: “How are you today?,” is really just you saying hello, a form of greeting. When traveling internationally, asking “How are you?” is an actual question, one that will likely get a response. So, if you are hoping for a conversation in Chicago, “How are you?” won’t work — but if you are shooting for a meaningful exchange in another part of the world, you are in luck.
The key to keeping a conversation going is to dig a little deeper with your phrases and make the exchange about the other person. Open-ended questions that might work for you and your partner while traveling could include:
• “We are so excited to be in Bali — what brought you here?”
• “What is your favorite thing about living in Bali?”
• “If we were to sample one new dish while in the country, what do you recommend and why?”
• “What advice would you give first-time visitors to this part of the country?”
• “How did you get started in this kind of work?”
• “Tell me about your family.”
• “Describe your definition of the perfect day in Bali.”
I, too, travel a lot for work and pleasure. Striking up a conversation has allowed me new experiences and lasting memories. Because of exchanges between myself and a local, I have discovered the best hole-in-the-wall restaurants, engaged in expeditions that are not listed in any guidebook and learned more about the city I am visiting than I ever imagined. And I’ve made many friends across the world. Real friends who ask, “How are you?” — and mean it. Happy travels.
Posted on Wednesday, October 9th, 2013
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 they hurt. My ongoing series, Talk Tyrants, serves two purposes: it allows you the chance to escape the attack of THESE villainous creatures and it guarantees that YOU will never fall into a life of small talk crime. Here we go:
The Interrupter is everywhere and can use his power to yield what is commonly known as “brain freeze” – that feeling of forgetting where you were in a sentence and why, exactly, you were talking in the first place. Rest assured, you are not suffering from memory loss. Instead, The Interrupter is so focused on his or her point that your train of thought is, well, interrupted and therefore you are rendered frozen.
How to Spot The interrupter:
The Interrupter probably had a rough childhood. No, no – not rough like foraging for food or knitting mittens, but a childhood void of the ability to finish a sentence. Maybe The Interrupter comes from a large family where siblings were all vying for attention. Maybe The Interrupter simply likes the sound of his voice. It doesn’t really matter. You don’t need any real skills to spot The Interrupter; this small talk criminal will make his presence known immediately. If you are making a point that does not sit well with The Interrupter, he will jump in immediately. The Interrupter assumes he knows what you are going to say next, so instead of waiting for you to complete your thought, The Interrupter beats you to the punch. Or The Interrupter things you are incorrect or incompetent in your views and, therefore, feels justified in pointing out your flaws by stopping you in your tracks. The Interrupter typically has very little patience for others.
How to Deal with The interrupter:
Interruptions sabotage a good conversation, but changing The Interrupter’s ways in nearly impossible. You can try a soft push-back like: “Oh Jack, I will lose my train of thought if I don’t finish my sentence,” but chances are it won’t help. You can also excuse yourself, but sometimes that’s not possible. Like President Obama. So, my advice is to not BE The Interrupter. Remember there are only a few good reasons to interrupt:
- You need to exit immediately
- You cannot bear the topic of conversation
- You are with The Monopolizer who refuses to give you a break in the conversation
- Something is on fire
My father is a pediatrician and I recall him asking parents if their children were talking in complete sentences – it was one of the milestones dictated by the AMA. That said, children interrupting an adult conversation was never allowed. Now, I remind myself that everyone deserves the chance to “talk in a complete sentence” when I am anxious to interrupt someone (like my husband). Because finishing someone’s sentence for them, even if you can, is not necessarily a good thing. Or so I’ve been told. By my husband.
Posted on Monday, October 7th, 2013
I’ll say it again: email can be evil. Emailing in the heat of the moment is like taking four shots of whiskey and starting a bar fight – you think it’s a good idea until 30 seconds later when you are in way over your head and regretting your last move. And let’s not forget the raging headache the next day.
Check out yet another example of why you should count to ten about 8,000 times before emailing in the heat of the moment. If you have something to say, say it in person. If that doesn’t go well, at least there is no damning evidence! My mother always told me not to write anything down I didn’t want anyone to see. This included a nasty note I wrote in the 11th grade about who? My mother. In my family, that was what we called NG – aka: No Good. I felt bad, she felt bad, it was bad. I do give her credit for taking the opportunity to share a lifelong lesson with me. And for still kindly laundering my school sweater where the evidence was initially found. Motherhood, like email, can be used for good or evil.
Have a horrible email story? Share it with me on Facebook. I promise not to tell your mother.
Posted on Tuesday, September 17th, 2013
Evan Selinger’s recent piece, E-Etiquette in the Classroom, is not necessarily groundbreaking. After all, what is deemed appropriate or inappropriate in our new reality, namely the over-teched world where we try to electronically co-exist, has been a topic of conversation for a while now; and I’m guessing it will continue to be something we talk (or post or tweet or email or Facebook) about for years to come.
The great thing about Selinger’s article was that it simplified the so-called rules of using technology in the classroom. The basics: don’t cheat, always address an instructor in a formal manner and by all means, change what was once a funny personal email address to something more appropriate. As Selinger points out in regards to emailing a professor: “If you forget to include your name, you can expect a reply like” ‘Dear always-stoned@___.com, I guess we know the real reason you missed class.’” I laughed out loud after reading this. But using good tech for classroom evil is no laughing matter.
For those of you out there with college students, take a peek at the article here. Then you can forward it. Or link it on Facebook. Or forward my blog post. Or – gee – print out the WSJ article and send it to your favorite student in a care package. Remember care packages? The old fashioned box full of M&Ms, magazines, a new toothbrush, and maybe a little cash? Sometimes the tried and true methods – like scheduling a face-to-face with your college professor and opening a care package from your mother, still work best.
Posted on Friday, August 23rd, 2013
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 they hurt. My ongoing series, “Talk Tyrants,” serves two purposes: it equips you to artfully 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 Monopolizer is stealthy character, even managing to hide under cover as a shy introvert before striking. The Monopolizer commits his crime quickly and in full view, leaving victims too stunned to react with anything other than slack-jaw.
How to Spot The Monopolizer:
- Enters any group conversation with little regard to what the topic is and who is currently speaking. The Monopolizer typically uses self-disclosure to secure the spotlight: (the group is talking about building houses in Haiti) “We just redid our kitchen!”
- Believe they are keeping the conversation ball rolling, when in fact they are really just a ball-hog: (without ever taking a breath): “. . . The contractor was a nightmare, and then my bamboo floor order was held up and I can’t decide if I should keep the juicer on the counter, or in the pantry, and speaking of countertops we went with marble…”
- Once The Monopolizer is basking in the glow of his self-created spotlight, he refuses to move, never lobbing the conversation to anyone else: “After the kitchen is done, we are focusing on the mud room because, let me tell you, mud rooms are the trend right now.”
How to Deal with The Monopolizer:
- Surrender and listen – consider it a gift to The Monopolizer and your good deed for the day (or year, depending on the length and dullness of The Monopolizer’s story): “Hmmm mmm. Interesting. Marble, you say?”
- Bravely attempt a subject change or pull out a prepared and practiced question in hopes that The Monopolizer will get distracted and stop: “Kitchens always make me think of dinner – we just ate at that new restaurant on Vine.”
- If you are alone with The Monopolizer, throw the white flag, indicating time constraints: “Sounds like an amazing renovation. Before we get to the details on your kitchen drawer pulls, I must warn you that I have five minutes before I promised to help Judy with the cupcakes.”
- If you are in a group of three or more, act as host and make the interception. Once The Monopolizer’s five minutes have passed (this sounds short on paper, but it is very very very long in real life conversation), segue: “Paul, your projects sound fabulous. Jan, what is happening at your house these days?”
Remember that you are probably not going to change The Monopolizer, but with a little panache, you may be able to slow the conversation criminal down and include others in the conversation by asking a direct question. And even if there isn’t a Monopolizer in the group, remember to always pass the ball. That’s the only way to really score when it comes to the The Fine Art of Small Talk.