Conversation: Can You Keep it Up?

Picture this vividly in your mind’s eye for a moment. (Hopefully you aren’t driving, lets not end up on those commercials.) You are in a social setting, like the cafeteria of Mississippi College for example. It is a new semester and you join a table with a few familiar faces, and some not so familiar.

Being rude is very unlike you, so you start a conversation by covering the basics. We all know the basics; your name, where are you from, your major, what do you want to do with that and why on earth did you travel 10 hours from home just to attend school here.

So once the basics have been covered usually an awkward moment follows, where everyone looks away or pretends to eat food they no longer have. What happened to the conversation?

I am usually one for hilariously awkward moments, but it took me a long time to understand that there are others who do not share my enthusiasm. After the basics, people just do not know what to say to each other. We constantly shift our attention elsewhere to avoid staring longingly into each other‘s eyes, desperate for the other person to say something.

How did these people manage to get friends anyway? Perhaps they did what I had to by using my silly antics and shenanigans to lure them into friendship. When I talk to people, I want to have deep life discussions. However this probably is not the best discussion to have with people as soon as you meet them.

Some people are apparently bothered by the sudden intrusion of someone taking a genuine interest in knowing them or they would rather be silent and stare blankly at you.

You might be wondering, “Who is this guy to question my conversational skills? I can talk my way out of a speeding ticket.” Kudos to you for defying the law and getting away with it, and no, I actually do not know how to talk to people without being weird.

But see this is the thing, I actually try to keep a conversation going, even the one sided ones. You know, the people who just give yes or no answers and say nothing else, so you end up just asking them questions, and you feel like you are interrogating them instead of having a conversation. I had one such experience happen several days ago.

Some friends and I were sitting in the cafe eating lunch, when we spotted a guy having difficulty with the ice machine. Quickly deducing that he was a freshman, one of us called out to him to go to another machine because that one usually does not give ice.

Afterwards, he stood in the middle of the table area with his tray, looking like a lost child desperate for friendship. Unanimously we agreed to have mercy on him and invite him to sit with us.

It was the four of us asking him questions about himself. He would answer the question then say nothing else, so we had only two choices to make. Stop talking to him and start our own conversation in hopes that he would join in or to keep interrogating him until he left.

You can guess which one we chose and eventually he did leave and we agreed that we scared him off, and he would probably never talk to us again.

Could you blame us? We tried everything to start a conversation but he was not helping us out. I do believe it takes two to tango. I wanted to be nice and help out a fellow homo sapien in need. Is that not the courteous thing to do?

Maybe the bigger question is why is it so hard to keep a conversation going? I find that we as humans are losing this ability. Why? Is it simply because people now just don’t like talking to other fellow beings? Some are even bold enough to walk away while you are talking to them.

At orientation a month ago, we were required to talk to the incoming freshman and impress them with our people skills. While talking to some of them, they had the actual nerve to walk away mid conversation.

They just up and left. No excuse that they have to be somewhere.  Maybe they were distracted and saw something shiny that hypnotized them to leave. We wont fault them for that particular situation.

Had it not been in a school setting, I would have confronted them on their rudeness, but I did not want to appear crazier than I normally am.

Perhaps cell phones and technology are to blame? In this instance, I believe they are just an excuse as to not talk to people, not the reason of their inability to. My theory is that we are all mentally unstable and quickly heading into a hive-mind like society where things like conversation will become obsolete.

Is it because we are as intellectually attune to the world that it is impossible for us to keep a conversation going due to the lack of knowledge on a subject? Someone could be talking about Canada, I know nothing about Canada except that the police wear funny hats and say “Ay.”

How am I supposed to stay in the conversation if I do not know anything about the topic? I think that comes into play all the time, but now that we have handy dandy smart phones I should be able to quickly become an expert on the subject.

Not likely. No one cares about Canadians anyway, so that topic should not pop up. Now everyone who reads this article will start asking me about Canadians, NO! I know nothing!

So what have we learned from this article? Well really nothing but the next time you are finding it hard to keep up a conversation just start talking about Canada, and if you find yourself with a one word responder, say something random, like bananas are yellow. In the end there will always be awkward conversations to come up. How will you handle the next one?

Daitandris Hatcher, Contributing Writer

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