I got a great question about social skills.
“How do you talk productively and amicably with a boss whose long-windedness turns every conversation into a never ending monologue? I feel like my inability to get a word in edgewise with him prevents me from getting any respect from him.”
Which reminded me of a bunch of archetypes I’ve encountered in meeting people:
I was at some open bar thing with my friends and my buddy went to get us drinks. Within seconds, some guy comes up to me and goes, “Hey man, what’s up?” I said hello. We got to talking. Then he interrupts me — “Hey listen, my friend likes you.”
Me: “Oh yeah? Is your friend a girl or guy?”
Him: “HEY MAN. I’M NOT INTO GUYS.”
He points out his friend, a semi-attractive Indian girl. I wasn’t really into her, but I thought it was pretty cool she was aggressive (even if she sent her friend over to talk to me). So I go, cool, I’ll come talk to her in a few.
My friend comes back, we hang out, and a few minutes later I walk over to the girl. I go hey, what’s up. She is like “hi.” Very terse.
I’m like…so…what’s going on?
Her response: “Nothing much.”
HEY GIRL. THIS IS YOUR IDEA, NOT MINE. I DIDN’T EVEN WANT TO TALK TO YOU BUT HERE I AM. NOW YOU’RE GIVING ME ONE-WORD ANSWERS?
I’m looking around like, are we on Candid Camera? And the friend is standing right there, so clearly he didn’t just make this up. I pry two more excruciating answers. Finally, I say, well…have a good night.
One-word-answerers make you want to re-think your entire life. Why am I here? Why is this conversation so boring? Is gravity real? I used to blame myself for not being able to connect with these people. Maybe it’s me! Should I come up with new conversation topics? Now, like in many things, I just blame them and move on.
Everyone knows a one-upper. The most interesting thing is, they’re not just bragging about GOOD things that happen. Usually, they love to thrive on how terrible and difficult their life is.
Two people especially love to do this: college students and new moms.
College student: “OMG dude, I only slept 3 hours last night.”
College student #2: “That’s nothing. I’ve only slept 2 hours in the last 9 days and I wrote 3 essays, 2 problem sets, and created a new formula on…”
New mom: “I had a really difficult labor for my son.”
New mom #2: “You!? I was in labor for 9 straight days. I wasn’t allowed to eat anything. I almost died! They had a team of 12 doctors in there.”
The One-Upper reduces ordinary people to mumbling, “Really? Wow” responses because there is no way to get out. However, when paired with another One-Upper, it is truly an explosion of narcissism. I like to listen in from nearby and cackle.
This is the worst. You ask a simple question, and they go into 16 minutes of responses. Just as they’re finally coming to a finish…the last words leads to a new story! Key phrases include “So then I started this new job…well it’s not really about the job, but the thing is, when I first moved to New York…” [story about New York].
Due to the dysfunctional social skills of some IWT readers, I’ve had to develop the ability to extricate myself from situations rapidly. Still, on a recent trip to SF, I met a guy who would not let me go for THIRTY MINUTES. No matter how sophisticated my exit strategy, he kept me in place with his verbal tractor beam.
Finally, I had to cut him off with this. “Sorry, but I have to leave. My friend has been waiting for me for 30 minutes.” He stopped and, in a moment of fleeting light, he realized he’d been talking non-stop for a half-hour. As I walked away, he turned to talk to someone else.
Solution: You look for ways to kill yourself. (Also, check out this video about speaking mistakes, and how to end your sentences with power.)
My favorite ways to improve social skills:
Here are some ways to get around these situations.
- Instant irresistibility: The 7 keys to advanced social skills (25-minute video)
- How do you practice improving social skills (4-minute video)
- I,I,I syndrome, and why nobody will be honest with you
- Talking too fast — social skills teardown (8-minute video)
- Smiling too much — social skills teardown (4-minute video)
- How to fix a monotone voice (10-minute video)
- Speaking too aggressively — social skills teardown (7-minute video)
Question for you
I mentioned 3 archetypes of social dysfunction: The One-Word-Answer-Giver, The One-Upper, and The Rambler.
What else am I missing? Share your stories below.
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