On How to Converse: What Are You Excited About?

Good conversation is not generally easy to come by in the age of endless busy-ness and casual manners, so here’s a fun piece on how to be graceful and spark interesting chat.

As writer Troy Patterson points out, asking “what do you do” is not only boring but also “has a way of taking the bloom off the roses in the garden.” So what should you say instead?

To win a friend—or, at the very least, to gather data that will enrich your appreciation of the human comedy—you should ask something like “What are you excited about?”—which is nice and wide and cheerful. Just thinking about tomorrow clears away the cobwebs, you know. To say, “What are you looking forward to this fall?” invites the other party to remark on enthusiasms and travel plans and hopes and dreams, and it allows him his choice of a momentous or delightfully trivial answer. He looks into the future while you look into his eyes. It will be your duty, in this joint improvisation, to ask good follow-up questions. It will be your pleasure to reveal something of yourself—the slant of your curiosity, the cast of your mind—by drawing him out and encouraging a self-portrait.

For more on civilized conversation, including how to politely escape a bore, see the full piece here.



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