It was graduation time and I was invited to my friend’s graduation and to be honest I am not looking forward to going, dressing up in a suite and just watching proceedings is not my thing to be honest.
I get real uncomfortable just sitting there and watching students march to their graduation song, I am reminded that I am a College dropout, but what I dread the most is the small talk after the ceremony is done.
What amazes me is how easy it is for me to talk to a room full of persons, to sing to an entire congregation but dread going over to someone and making small talk.
So there I was, just watching persons moving up and down taking photos, laughing and having the usual small talk with each other, I just want to disappear, but I have to grin and bear it so that eventually my inviter would catch up with me and that was proof that I was there and then I could disappear.
So here comes a long-time colleague of mine, what is her name again? I cannot remember and the usual questions, ‘hey, been a long time, so how are you, where are you now (where do you work?), how is your family, got any children?’ gosh if you are unemployed and then they proceed to list a long line of accomplishments, that they live close to the White House and knock shoulders with the President and for the life of me I cannot figure out why I find it so annoying.
This time I decided I was going to talk, so instead of clinching my fist and biting my tongue this time I was going to try to enjoy the session.
Here she comes a small talker, so I said to her after the initial introduction, ‘how do you do that, walk over to me and start a conversation not knowing what my reaction is going to be?’ Her response to the question blew me out of the water, ‘It was not easy, because I wondered if you remembered me and maybe you would just blow me off, but I mustered up the courage to come over anyway, it is just a custom I suppose’. Small talkers just talk because it is expected of them to talk, just imagine that, so with that information I will say this,
Sometimes a stranger will come over and start a conversation and I would enjoy it, maybe instead of just standing there and waiting and observing and feeling uncomfortable, I could go over and rescue someone, that is a great idea, scope the room, see the ones who look uncomfortable and strike up a conversation.
Try it. If it’s painful to mingle, if it’s awkward to make small talk, use those feelings in a positive way. Turn sympathy for yourself into empathy for another. Go rescue someone.
Just introduce yourself to people and ask a basic question: what they do, where they’re from, why they’re attending. You don’t need to be a conversational genius. The people you rescue won’t notice. They’ll be too busy feeling less like wallflower and more like people who belong — and they will always remember that you found them interesting.