Sunday, June 20th, 2010 | Author:
– Don’t you hate that?
– Hate what?
– Uncomfortable silences. Why do we feel it’s necessary to yak about bullshit? In order to be comfortable?
– I don’t know. That’s a good question.
– That’s when you know you found somebody really special, when you can just shut the fuck up for a minute. Comfortably share silence.
For me, conversation (especially the smalltalk variety) is an anxiety filled nightmare for me.
Until I do find that really special person in which I can share an awkward silence comfortably, I try my darndest to keep the conversation going; Keep that hot potato hopping, that shark breathing by the filling the air with sound and fury.
Or else… it’s dead silence and the slow realization on my conversation partner’s face appears because she has discovered my secret. That at heart, I am nothing but a boorish philistine with nothing significant or interesting to say about anything.
Sweaty with desperation to be liked, I obsessively try to think of conversation topics beforehand and write them on notecards to refer to later. I prepare the way talk show hosts do by having prepared topics listed on notecards.
I imagine that there are those for which conversation flows easily and there are those who are well-versed in many subjects and always have an interesting witty anecdote to deliver. Essentially the image I have of Oscar Wilde at a party. Always erudite with a refined wit with which he uses to be the life of the party.
So I got the idea that I too could say something interesting on any topic if I do some research and find some conversationally interesting thing to say about anything. I decided to go through the entire dictionary and find at least 1 interesting thing to say about each and every word in the dictionary. This would serve as my conversational lubricant reference book where I could look through for sweet juicy morsels of ice breaking conversation lubricant.
I’ve tried this ambitious idea several times, always starting with “aardvark”s but never getting anywhere past it.
Somewhere in my studies of the Chinese language I got a book that has the 3000 most frequently used Chinese characters. I was looking at this book, while thinking about my conversational lubricant reference book. There are over 171,000 words in the English dictionary. But 3000 Chinese characters doesn’t sound impossible. Not only that, but it could help me learn Chinese by thinking up interesting things to say about each character. Moreover, each Chinese character doesn’t necessarily map exactly to one word as many Chinese words are made up of several characters. This means I can get a little more freedom for interpretation of a “word” to find interesting things to say about it.
So now I will begin my Chinese Conversational Lubricant Reference Book!
Wikipedia says topics of conversation are categorized into 4 major categories:
  • Conversations about subjective ideas, which often serve to extend understanding and awareness.
  • Conversations about objective facts, which may serve to consolidate a widely-held view.
  • Conversations about other people (usually absent), which may be either critical, competitive, or supportive. This includes gossip.
  • Conversations about oneself, which sometimes indicate attention-seeking behaviour.In the real world, few conversations fall exclusively into one category.

I will mostly try to come up with some the first two types (with opinions and facts) as the other two are personal. I definitely feel that “Conversations about oneself” is almost always going to be preferable to the others as it reveals much more about yourself to your conversation partner especially if its a personal story.

I will go through each Chinese Character in my 3000 Chinese character dictionary, explain its meaning and try to come up with several interesting facts or opinions about the word. These will be archived as blog posts and can be used as a reference for whenever I feel there have been too many awkward silences.

References:

WikiHow Article: How to Start a Converastion When You Have Nothing to Talk About

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