Anywhere you go around the world, you’ll get to meet at least one or two of their species. They are scattered in the crowded corners of the universe and exist in the least parts you thought they would. Whether you are riding a bus, a train, a plane, or you stroll in a park, the market, the mall, and even during holidays and in between family gatherings, you can be sure to rub shoulders with them from time to time. I call them the “small talkers.”
Have you ever had to strike up a conversation with a complete stranger? If yes, how did it go? If no, good for you. I have had several experiences to know how exasperating it is to endure an unasked for conversation with someone I barely knew. And yes, even the awkward exchange of pangangamusta (social pleasantry) with an old friend can cause me an episode of panic attack.
The bad news is nobody is exempted from meeting people whose apparent trade in life is to initiate and perpetuate unwanted small talks that are usually just one-sided. And the thing is, you hate those insipid chats—you’d rather get lost in your own thoughts, read a book, listen to your iPod or play video games than engage in their hobby. But at the same time, you also don’t want to just walk away, so you just suffer silently. But you can do more than that—way more.
Carefully follow these few tips on how to avoid such unpleasant pleasantries.
Tip #1: DON’T ACT INTERESTED
Don’t make eye contact. Stand on one foot bearing your weight and start tapping the lazy foot rapidly like you’re waiting for the bus while running late for a final exam. Check dirt on your nails, which are not there. Nod your head fast and frequently even before they start on another line. Scratch parts of your body that don’t itch. If you are wearing a watch, take an “accidental” look at it and mention you remember to do something urgent.
Tip #2 BEAT THEM IN THEIR OWN GAME
Give them a taste of their own medicine by over talking. Take all the chances you can get and don’t let them beat you to the next sentence. When they are trying to cut you off, change the subject—and do that very often. Don’t let them interrupt you by interrupting them.
Pretend to give them a chance to speak, only to cut them off again. This way, they’ll get irritated the same way you do when they’re the ones giving you the talk. Discuss taboo topics like religion, politics, sexism, and racism.
Tip #3 MAKE A SMART MOVE
Act like you have a stomachache, headache, backache, brainache, etc. Or start to get busy with your phone and press the song set as your ringtone and mock a phone call.
Tip #4 PRACTICE STRATEGIC AVOIDANCE
Remember who the small talkers are and avoid their presence as much as you can. If you see them approaching, don’t look in their way and start walking towards the opposite direction. But if luck is not on your side and you can’t avoid to bump into them, give a quick “hi” and walk fast.
But what if you’re still not in luck and it seems the universe is conspiring against you that you happen to be just stuck and cornered in, say, a jeepney or a bus? Just look at the window and casually say, “oh, look, there’s my stop right there.” Then call the driver’s attention to drop you off the hook.
Tip #5 LEARN TO GET AROUND
The last and probably the least horrible thing you can do to escape from small talkers is to tell them nicely.
Say that as much as you want to talk to them about the job you landed in to, the accomplishments you have achieved so far, or how fair the weather is, tell them you also have other better things to do like write a novel, sleep, and brainstorm for ideas on how to change the world and stuff.
But of course these are not the advisable exact words that you should say. Try to be more creative.
Craft socially acceptable phrases and words to feign concern. You can hide these words under more polite terms and wrap them up in pretty packaging called implied sarcasm and sugar-coated euphemism.
Most people don’t get the irony anyway. Anything you can conjure at the rare moment of colossal ingenuity you can muster would be enough.
So yeah, try to follow these nuggets of admonition and you will be sure to get by and get around these atrocious situation of awkward conversations.