Painting by Belynda Wilson Thomas
The happiest conversation is that of which nothing is distinctly remembered, but a general effect of pleasing impression. Samuel Jackson
Today is our neighbors to the South big day of celebration. I could easily have been American. Three of my four grandparents were American, only my Dad’s mother was born in Canada.
I am hearing that people get sick of being asked where are you from? Where I grew up many of the people were first-generation Canadians. Many of them moved to Canada after World War II. Did they mind being asked where they were from and what their story was?
I’ve been at Tim Horton’s and heard some well-meaning person strike up a conversation with the person at the cash asking them where are you from? It seems innocent enough until you think about that question being asked every hour, every day, for as long as they work there. Is there nothing else to use as a conversation starter? Is it better to not try and start a conversation?
At Toastmasters we are a very diverse group and people talk about where they are from, the challenges they’ve faced, the opportunities they’ve chased, and the difficulties they’ve overcome. If people don’t mind telling their story of where they’ve been or what they’ve seen, what is it that they do mind?
One of the things it seems to me is they feel they are made to feel they are an outsider. Which one of these things doesn’t belong, always seems to be them. I believe many of the people who ask people where they are from, are doing it with the best of intentions. They are trying. Many of us who don’t say anything don’t make the effort to have a connection at all, of any kind. We are willing to live in a less personal world where we let people do their job without any interaction. People who try to create interaction may do it awkwardly, but they do it.
One good conversation can shift the direction of change forever. Linda Lambert
On the weekend I did it myself. My husband and I were sitting having a coffee and across from us were three obviously British young men. I spoke to the one closest to me. They are here on assignment for two years. Do they have this same conversation everywhere they go? Are they getting sick of it? They’ve only been here two months.
As I look up conversation starters there are lists, lists, and more lists. How would we feel if someone started a conversation with “What do you think about tattoos? Do you have any? What’s your favorite number? Why? What is something you are obsessed with? What’s your favorite way to waste time? When was the last time you worked incredibly hard? What is your guilty pleasure?
Starting conversations with people we do not know is awkward. It is more awkward with some people than with others. Is it better to not bother? Are we trying too hard if we try and make conversation with everyone we meet? Are we not trying hard enough if we don’t?
Maybe some of these conversations start out awkwardly but over time if we go to the same coffee shop we actually develop a relationship with a little chit chat both people enjoy. Are there others who go to the same restaurants and because they never had the awkward first conversation, they’ve never developed any relationship at all?
A conversation is so much more than words: a conversation is eyes, smiles, and the silence between words. Annika Thor
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How to Talk to Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere: The Secrets of Good Communication Paperback – Oct 24 1995
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