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To pathetically ask for some help with how to talk with people

(25 Posts)
Abbbinob Thu 14-Apr-16 10:05:16

at work?
I'm so, so rubbish at making conversation with people I don't know, but i've started a new job and so far it's been, er, awkward.
before i've been there too long to pass it off as being new and shy I need to get better at this.
I work in a shop so there is quite a lot of talking with each other etc

At the moment it feels really awkward, because i can't join in with what theyre talking about because of course, people at work tend to talk about work a lot and other people who work there etc which i have no clue about.

I just need some conversation starter type questions/topics i can use (yes, i know i should know this but it's just not in my brain and never has been. suspected autism when i was at school, since nursery, but my parents "don't believe in that sort of thing" though in my opinion the suspicions of teachers were probably right. anyways that's irrelevant but just explaining that my social skills are lacking to a point where people obviously notice, and i don't want to be seen as weird)

The other people who work there are mostly youngish, early-mid twenties so same as me really and very nice. a couple of older people. (not sure if that's relevant but maybe with what people talk about?)

all i can think of is asking if people watch EastEnders and praying they say yes so i can talk to them about that.

please help, i actually feel sick about going in because it's so awkward. I cried last time because i felt so confused blush

InTheBox Thu 14-Apr-16 10:11:56

Steer away from using Eastenders as your opening gambit. You might receive a few hmm faces if you go from zero to talking about who's running the Queen Vic these days.

You could for example ask if they have plans for the Weekend and go from there. If it's a work type setting then chances are a few brief exchanges should suffice, not a re-telling of the odyssey.

EponasWildDaughter Thu 14-Apr-16 10:12:16

A rule of thumb to remember is that people nearly always love to talk about themselves. Talking about yourself comes easily to most, and you can use this to your advantage smile

Ask them questions about themselves. Not too random - maybe try to tie it in with something which is happening around you or being talked about already. Go from there. Agree, find common ground, laugh along ect. Ask another, related question if things start to dry up.

Asking what people think about things usually works. But stay away from politics and religion as the old saying goes grin

kitnkaboodle Thu 14-Apr-16 10:15:34

It's hard with strangers when you haven't found any common ground. I dont really think you need a 'topic' at first. I'd just start by commenting on something in your immediate surroundings - how awful the coffee is, how you like their jacket/where did they get it from, etc. Something complimentary ought to work (if not, they're antisocial, so it's them not you!). In a new job I'd probably start by asking the existing people how long they'd been there, what they did before, etc. Again, if they are decent people they'll respond by asking you where you've come from. Then the important thing is to keep questions coming. So answer their questions then ask them another connected question back

Abbbinob Thu 14-Apr-16 10:15:59

so if i'm asking people about themselves i guess i could i ask, how long have they been working here/do they like it/ where about in the area do they live? what they were doing before?

Abbbinob Thu 14-Apr-16 10:18:19

i think it's the asking connected questions back that i'm bad at.
i just sort of answer the questions they ask and then can't for the life of me think of anything to say back, i know it should be obvious but to me it's not i have no idea how people do it

catinthecradle Thu 14-Apr-16 10:19:22

Relax, and don't worry about what people think about you. Talk about random and non confrontational issues:

weather (oh yeah)
If you are in London, the hell of commuting is always good.
best place for lunch around your office
what are people doing at the weekeend
are you going on holiday this year? People love talking about their holidays, past and future
I love your shirt/dress/bracelet, where did you get it from
How long have you been working here? What did you do before? (smile, writen like that it sounds a bit abrupt)
I want to go to cinema this weekend/join Netflixx, can you recommend a movie?
I am thinking about joining a local gym, any recommendation?
I am taking my mum/ friend/ partner to a nice restaurant locally, any recommendation?

I would personally stay well away from the "have you got any kids" or anything private.

Just make things up like that, it doesn't matter, it's just small talk. As long as you are friendly and really listen to what people say, you'll be fine!

heron98 Thu 14-Apr-16 10:21:20

Oh God, I am so rubbish at this too.

I avoid going into the office kitchen if anyone else is in there becuase I just don't know what to say!

I am always criticised for being too quiet in my appraisals. It's not that I don't want to talk, I just don't know what to say.

Abbbinob Thu 14-Apr-16 10:21:28

oh and i know i;m already coming across as weirdly quiet because i heard two of them talking about me, not being nasty but just one was saying oh she's really quiet she doesnt speak and the other was saying that it's probably because shes new and when your new it's hard to join in because you don't know what's going on. so atleast they're nice about it i suppose. but probably not the best idea to talk about someone who is only a few meters away! just because your stood behind a shelf in a tiny shop does't mean sound vanishes

SmarterThanTheAverageBear16 Thu 14-Apr-16 10:23:30

Never ask about soaps!
Just ask them about themselves. And they will ask you back. Think of it like tennis to begin with, they ask you how long you've lived in the area and do you like it (for example), you answer and say "and yourself, you here long?" and go on from there.
Look interested, and if stuck talk about weather and children (if they have any).

cheapandcheerful Thu 14-Apr-16 10:24:39

My go-to question is 'Have you got anything nice planned for the weekend?"

RaeSkywalker Thu 14-Apr-16 10:26:34

Thinking about what we talk about a lot at work:
What we did last weekend/ what we are doing next weekend
Holiday plans
What we are watching on TV
Partners/ DC
What's for dinner!!

Then I've found specific shared interests with most people- several of us are really in to exercise, for example, so we talk about that.

givemushypeasachance Thu 14-Apr-16 10:27:04

This website looks like it might be some help - it really breaks down the different elements of having a conversation, aimed at people who want to improve their social skills. And this one is aimed at people with social anxiety, which could be relevant.

justmyview Thu 14-Apr-16 10:29:21

My suggestions would be to be natural & don't try too hard to be someone you're not

Quick observations about the weather are not v exciting, but it's a safe topic and shows you're making an effort

Likewise, a quick "ooh, I like your ring, that's a pretty shade of blue" is friendly, and a compliment. It may or may not lead to a conversation about why they chose it, what they like about it. That's fine

Make eye contact and say "Hello" when you arrive and "goodbye" when you leave, instead of slinking out the door

If a colleague shows you how to do something, thank them & perhaps try to turn it into a compliment "Thanks, you've explained that really clearly, I think I've got it now"

In many workplaces, that's enough to be polite and friendly.

Bellatrixurstrange Thu 14-Apr-16 10:29:51

I second the I like your shoes, bracelet etc even if you don't really as even the most shy will remember and be flattered about a compliment.

People love to talk about themselves so as previously said feign total interest in how long they've worked there what they think of the place.
Bring in cakes on a Friday etc Still be yourself you don't need to pretend to be something you aren't and just remember to smile. It will take time! Good luck!

AntiquityUbiquity Thu 14-Apr-16 10:31:46

The suspected autism is very relevant here, perhaps try on the

Mumsnetters with Special Needs Board

or specifically the thread

Neurodiversity Support Thread

You don't need an actual diagnosis for support there.

I'm the same as you. In my 20's I just hung out with talkers mostly so my own deficits were not apparent. I still find it all very difficult in my 40's and trying to keep track of everything as well as remember what I've read about conversations and to implement it is still almost impossible. I tend to find friends who aren't put off about listening to my special interests.

The thing that works best for me is listening to others and then going on to say the same things to other people, it is successful but makes me feel like a fraud and a bit of a freak.

Oh and it can be appropriate sometimes to ask who they're talking about/when did they work there/when did that happen. It takes some bravery to do this because I always feel if they wanted me to know they would tell me, but I do see others making conversation this way.

ElinorRochdale Thu 14-Apr-16 10:33:15

Well, it should be two-way thing. Do they talk to you and ask about your interests and try to include you in conversations?

If you work in a shop, presumably you interact with customers, so your social skills can't be too bad.

If you ask about EastEnders and none of them watch it, you could ask what they do like to watch, and maybe try it yourself so you can talk about it a bit.

If one of the older ladies mentions grandchildren, you could ask how many she's got, where do they live, and so on.

Or you could say you're trying to decide where to go on holiday, where would people recommend. Or, has anyone been to whatever your big local attraction is, and what did they think of it. Or ask if they can recommend a hairdresser, or anything else you might be thinking of doing or buying.

If one of them is going to a wedding, or other special occasion, ask how it went.

Or on a Monday, something like 'wasn't the weather lovely at the weekend, did anyone go out anywhere?'

But if they don't respond to your openings, and don't include you in conversations, they're the ones at fault, not you.

Good luck.

kitnkaboodle Thu 14-Apr-16 10:33:17

Yes, try to think of it a bit like ping pong:
A: That's a nice top. Where did you get it?
B: In New Look.
A: Mmm. (Dropped ball ...)but

A: That's a nice top. Where did you get it?
B: In New Look.
A: Oh, what, the one in xtown?
B: Yes, I get a lot from there.
A: Oh I don't often go to xtown because ...
B: Really? I usually .. = ball returned several times!

cautiousoptimist1 Thu 14-Apr-16 10:34:10

It's just a matter of practice and good for you for wanting to improve your communication skills, whatever job you're in or hobby groups etc you will always be before from them.

So my advice would be to start small. When you arrive in the morning, make an effort to start a conversation. This is difficult when it's so far out of your comfort zone but the main lesson is to keep it flowing - start with how are you but then learn to change some of your questions - instead of did you have a nice evening, ask what did you do last night and this can then likely lead to something else - like what they watch on tv or they like to cook or they have dogs to walk etc.
Try and do the same if you're making a drink or lunch at the same time too.
Some examples might be:
- how was your weekend/evening?
- do you have plans for this weekend/evening?
- how long have you worked here?
- how is your day going?
There's always the topics of weather and news too!

AdrenalineFudge Thu 14-Apr-16 10:35:37

It might take some getting used to. I'm the very opposite and can strike up a conversation in an empty room. Having said that, I'd also be weary of appearing to sort of interview the person you're talking to - that can make people put their guard up.

Theydontknowweknowtheyknow Thu 14-Apr-16 10:44:46

If it's a Monday asking them what they did over the weekend is always a winner.

A good conversation leaves people feeling that they've shared something about themselves but not too much so don't interrogate or probe too much.

It is also a two way street. We have a guy at work who only talks about himself. He can take any subject and relate it to his personal experience. Talking to him is so unsatisfying. So share a bit but don't dominate.

And don't forget you can also confide that you've always been a bit rubbish at conversation, you'll probably elicit a few "me too"s which could lead to a conversation itself. smile

angielou123 Thu 14-Apr-16 10:51:42

I've never been much of a conversationalist either. More of a listener, I actually find people that talk for the sake of talking a bit annoying. I always say 'I only speak when I've got something to say'. I think as long as you're polite to people, they won't think any less of you for not spouting drivel at every chance. Once your new colleagues get to know you a bit, i'm sure you'll be a valued member of the team. Best of luck.

whois Thu 14-Apr-16 11:07:44

- plans for next weekend
- have you ben up to much in the evenings
- have you been getting to do [x] hobby much recently?
- are you a member of a guy? Can you recommend one near work?
- thats a really nice top you're wearing, where is it from?
- your lunches always look amazing. Do you enjoy cooking?
- i'm hoping to go out ofr a nice dinner wiht DP at the weekend, have you been to any nice restaurants recently?
- any holiday plans coming up?
- are you watching [night manger]?

Once you get to know people a little bit you can talk about things that interest you both such as shared hobbies or interests.

whois Thu 14-Apr-16 11:09:10

Yes, try to think of it a bit like ping pong

Great advice. Some people just manage to kill the conversation... you have to keep batting it back and forwards to each other.

Abbbinob Fri 15-Apr-16 22:35:11

Thanks for the advice everyone. smile
think i got on ok, minus the supervisor being a bit mean
(he was "joking" i think)
but i was talking to one of the girls and she said "you've been pretty quiet since you started"
and he said "yeah she's so quiet it's kind of off putting, maybe she's secretely evil"
i was standing right there, i think thats kind of rude personally but just thought well, maybe you taking the piss isn't helping but ok, don't think he was trying to be mean but it was a bit really.

after that i did better though, got talking to someone who has a similar aged DC so that made for an easy topic at least.

and i get on really well with one of guys, similar type of humour to me so quite easy to talk to, it's easier once you've sort of got the jist of someones personality i think.

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