Category Archives: Conversation

Eye Contact

I once ran into two groups of people, a group of friends walking behind a group of strangers.  I looked with no facial expression at my friends, then looked at the group in front.  Then smiled a bit in the general direction of the 3+ people I knew and then walked by them.  This was rude and super fail eye contact–if you are friends, you should greet each other respectively.  From their perspective, they saw me staring in their direction, then away, then smiling randomly towards them without eye contact–I made none of them feel like I recognized or acknowledged them personally.

That is the power of eye contact: to let someone know that you are who they are focusing on.  People will like you more if you make eye contact with them, and the interaction will feel more genuine.  That’s not to say you can’t look away during a conversation, but it does mean that you should be careful about how you look away, because your body language may communicate that you are disinterested or not paying attention.

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Factors that Influence a Conversation

People:

  • What your relationship is to each person in the conversation
  • What you know about each person in the conversation
  • What does each person know about you
  • What do you want them to know or not know, to think or not think, about you

Mood:

  • What is the mood of each person in the conversation
  • What is the mood of the group
  • What mood are you in

Purpose:

  • What is the purpose of the conversation
  • What is the purpose of the gathering of people
  • What do you want out of the conversation
  • What do you know or think people involved want out of the conversation

Communication and Conversation Topics:

  • What is the background of each person, such as what language are they most familiar with, what slang, what references, what life experiences?
  • What is appropriate to mention, what is not

Full List of Conversation Resources

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Identity and Conversation Manipulation

I was recently asked about rivalry between Berkeley and Stanford.  The question was: are Berkeley students passionate about school pride.  Followed by, are you passionate about school pride.

Now there’s two answers to this question that jumped into my brain, and here’s how I worked through them:

Answer with the Truth: there are people who care about the rivalry, and there are people who don’t care.  I am someone who doesn’t care.  Conversation ends.

Answer with a Lie: Very passionate.  Of course I care, *Make conversation interesting by over-exaggerating school pride*

I answered with the truth, because the context of the question was “Stanford students are cool as a cucumber, whereas Berkeley students are dumb for spending frivolous energy on trivial pursuits,” and if I made the conversation interesting, I would attach to my identity the accusation that I am someone who frivolously pursue trivial things like over-exaggerating school pride.

I remain convinced that, for this particular instance, I made the right decision.  However, I cannot help but be bothered by the loss of potential for fun, because the rest of the conversation was not as engaging or fun as it could have been if we played around with school pride.

Thoughts?

The hypocrisy within this whole situation is that everyone spends frivolous energy on trivial pursuits sometimes: that’s what having fun is.  All work and no play is not the way to go.  As such, why hide the “truth,” which is that I am someone who frivolously pursues trivial things, sometimes?  From what I know about human nature, and perception, and how people for identities of others, I know that the imprint of this interaction on overall identity will take more work to erode than if I wait for another opportunity to demonstrate fun.  At the same time, I suppose it is fair to look at it from the alternative point of view, which is that I am strongly signaling that I am no fun.  Seems like a lose lose situation.