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How to Escape Awkward Conversations

Today, exceptional conversationalist Ryan Chapman stops by to save us all from ourselves. Ryan is the author of Conversation Sparks and the creator of Webby Award-nominated Tumblr, Fill the Silence.

A good conversation is a linguistic dance between two people, and sometimes your partner’s got two left feet. When that happens, it helps to have a few tricks for keeping things going. Think of the following as the conversational equivalent of that Dirty Dancing scene. (You know the one.)

Completely Plausible Scenario #1

Let’s say you’re meeting work colleagues for the first time. You want to be personable, friendly, and open, but not too social. (Save some of that for the holiday party.) Then it happens: the talk fades to a trickle.

Everyone’s looking at you. Is this a rookie thing? Are you being hazed, however subtly? Then you volunteer:
Conversation Sparks
Everyone’s eyes go wide. Their expressions say, “Whoa, the rookie knows about dolphins! Where did we find this guy?!” While their mouths say…nothing. They’re still speechless. (If someone tries to one-up you: his dolphin “fact” is probably fiction and that person is a dick. Steer clear. He’s gunning for your job.)

Completely Plausible Scenario #2

It’s been three dates with your new partner. The dates are amazing, and you’re optimistic in a way you haven’t been in months. Maybe years.

Now it’s time to meet your partner’s friends. They seem cool, but you’re still nervous. Has this bar always been so warm? Is flopsweat “in”? (It’s not, sorry.) Don’t panic! These guys are on your side, you just don’t know it yet. You take a sip of beer and casually say:
Conversation Sparks
Mic drop. Everyone realizes: you know things. Secret things. About dating. If you catch someone blushing, know that she inflated her height by at least four inches. If everyone blushes, joke that your profile lists a 7” millionaire. Self-effacing humor slays.

Completely Plausible Scenario #3

The great white has already claimed the life of your captain and half of the boat. Things are looking bleak. Why didn’t you pack a bunch of grenades? Or a bazooka? You look to your left: young Richard Dreyfus shrugs. He’s no help.

Wait! The scuba tank! There’s one stuck in the jaw of the beast, and if you can hit it just right with your trusty rifle…

Kablooey! The shark is blown to smithereens. You and young Richard Dreyfus cling to a piece of shipwreck and laugh: we almost died! That was crazy! You look over and say:
Conversation Sparks
Young Richard Dreyfus replies, “That seems a little out of nowhere, but I will never forget it.”

Neither will you.

So! I hope those ice breakers prove helpful. There are over 350 more in Conversation Sparks, out now. Read it and be at least 8% more interesting at parties and shark-related disasters.

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