Stuck in a Game of Thrones gab-fest and you don’t have HBO? Follow this escape plan
The art of conversation is hard to master—especially when you know nothing about the topic at hand. While you’re probably happy to plead ignorance on things like celebrity pregnancies, it’s harder to justify knowing nothing about current events or politics. “Whether you’re with your friends or important business clients, most people don’t want to feel less than equal when everyone else is talking about world news—or bored to tears while they talk about TV shows you haven’t seen,” says Debra Fine, Colorado-based communication expert and author of The Fine Art of Small Talk.
Plus, you’re typically in a social situation to, well, socialize, and you shouldn’t miss out on convos just because you don’t know about the issue. So how can you navigate tricky topics when staying quiet just isn’t an option? Start by learning these seven crucial BS skills.
1. Do Your Homework
Unless you’re hanging with your best friends or family, you should never walk into any interaction without three things to talk about, says Fine. “If you want to change the topic to something you know about—or away from something you don’t care about—it’s a lot easier to transition if you already have a subject in mind,” she says. Choose one topic in three different categories, like sports, current events, and something personal pertaining to your conversation partners—like the promotion they just got at work, or the trip they’re taking this summer. “When you remember personal details, it makes people feel connected and special, and will ease the awkwardness of you changing topics,” Fine says. And while current events may be the hardest to brush up on quickly, take advantage of free services liketheSkimm—which emails you a synopsis of daily headlines—or breaking news alert emails, which most major news networks offer.
2. Use Verbal Cues
If you’re in a large group or a situation where you can’t change the topic, staying quiet for too long ups the odds of someone putting you on the spot with, “What do you think about the situation in Crimea?” But adding to the conversation shouldn’t mean lying: It’s much more embarrassing to be caught fibbing than ignorant, Fine says. So how do you fake it? Show interest by asking leading questions, she suggests: “Why do you think the coach made that call?” “What have you heard about the riots?” “How do you think it compares to last season?” You can also use verbal cues—like “Oh, that’s nice” and “Really?”—to encourage someone to continue talking while seeming like you’re contributing substance to the conversation, Fine suggests.
3. Play the Spoiler Card
Recapping every minute of this week’s Game of Thrones can be riveting . . . for those who watch the show. If your friends are talking about a show or movie you have no desire to hear about, call spoiler alert: Tell them you don’t want to hear any more because this conversation is tempting you to start watching the whole series, and you don’t want any surprises to be given away, suggests Fine. Anyone die-hard enough to spend dinner dissecting each character won’t be able to argue with that. And since they’re clearly into entertainment, move the conversation along to what movies they’ve seen lately.
4. Master the Art of Bridging
Re-route the discussion with three sentences: Show appreciation for what they’re saying (“Sounds like you stay really up to date on politics.”), bridge into one of your prepared topics (“By the way, Sally and I are thinking of going to the beach over Memorial Day.”), and re-engage them (“Are you guys going to the Hamptons like usual?”). Without appreciation and a follow-up question, the bridge becomes too abrupt and can seem rude, Fine says.
5. Make a Joke
“Humor helps deflect the intensity of any topic, and makes the interruption feel less like an intrusion,” says Fine. If Jerry is jumping from one headline to another, try, “You could give Brian Williams a run for his money.” Pause, then ask about a new topic, like the NHL playoffs. Or play up your ignorance: “Oh man, this is so over my head. I was too busy partying in college to remember all my Russian history.” Self-deprecation can go a long way, but say it with a smile so people don’t think you’re domineering—or dumb, Fine adds.
6. Play Host
Some people have a lot of opinions about a lot of topics, and while you don’t want your friends to think you don’t care about their daycare debate, it’s self-centered for them to take up the whole evening talking about themselves, says Fine. It’s the host’s job to keep the conversation moving, and if someone is droning on—or leaving you out—for more than 5 minutes, you have every right to take on this role, she says. Acknowledge what they’re saying, then direct a question at someone else: “Man, it sounds like your neighborhood has a lot of great child care options. George, what’s been going on with you?”
7. Pair Ignorance with an Ego-Stroke
Ignorance is all in how you phrase it, says Fine. Instead of, “I don’t know anything about that,” say, “I wish I were more up to date.” And follow it up with a request for help: “What progress has been made in the last week?” This not only throws the ball back in the inquisitor’s court, but also compliments his intelligence. Plus, people love to offer their opinions and talk, so boosting his ego and providing a distraction will help take the spotlight off your lack of knowledge, Fine adds.
Source by menshealth