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Social Skills: Beating Shyness by Having Something Interesting to Say

Just another typical January day. Not a cloud in the sky, and a slight winter breeze pushing the mercury down to -35. Celsius, Fahrenheit, when it gets that low, "Too damn cold" is a more than suffici...

Just another typical January day. Not a cloud in the sky, and a slight winter breeze pushing the mercury down to -35. Celsius, Fahrenheit, when it gets that low, "Too damn cold" is a more than sufficient description.

I usually make a point of leaving the house as little as possible when the mercury dips below -30. Aside from the pleasurable side effect of still being the proud owner of both my earlobes, and all my fingers and toes, it gives me the opportunity to do things indoors that I might normally put off, like arranging my taxes. (Or writing a book?) But, man's gotta eat, or man gonna die. So off to Safeway we go.

"Hello there."

"Good afternoon, sir."

"How are you today?"

"Good, good. You?"

"Horrible. My golf buddies cancelled our game this afternoon. I told them to look outside, there's not a cloud in the sky, but they still wouldn't play. Wimps."

"*giggle* How would you find your ball?"

"I don't see much difference. I usually can't find it in the summer, either."

"*snicker* Did you find everything you were looking for today, sir?"

"And then some. I narrowly missed a five-cart pileup in the deli. It was horrible. Your bosses need to seriously consider install some traffic lights in there before someone else gets hurt."

"*chuckle* Do you want your milk in a bag?"

"I had better. It'll just get jealous of the other groceries, otherwise."

"*laughing* Your total is $57.82."

"I don't have that kind of money! How will Grandma be able to afford the operation?! I guess I'll have to use a card."

"*still laughing* Sign here, sir."

"M-i-c-k-e-y-M-o-u-s-e. There you go. Hang on to that. It'll be worth something someday. $57.82 to be precise."

"*laugh* I'll treasure it."

"You do that. Bye now!"

"Goodbye! Have a great day!"

Now I'll change the conversation up now and again. Eventually you start running into the same cashiers, clerks, and waitresses. By the time you've read this, my routine is probably completely different, (except Mickey Mouse. I love that.) so by all means, feel free to plagiarize.

The specific phrases don't really matter, but there are a couple of important things to note, here.

It feels good to make others feel good. Why do people tell jokes? Because it makes them feel good to make others laugh. One of the most important premises that one can learn in interactions with other people is that emotion is contagious. The quickest way to make someone feel anything is to go there first.

If you want to make someone smile, the best way to start is to have a big grin on your face before you begin. If you want affection, be affectionate first. And on it goes, once they've smiled, or become affectionate, it will begin to come back to you as well.

Think about it for a moment. Think about when you make someone laugh and feel good about themselves tomorrow. You've lifted their spirits, which will in turn have the effect of lifting the spirits of everyone they come into contact with for until the effect has worn off. One of those people is you. And as for the others that person comes into contact with, their moods will be lifted as well.

Beware, this also works with negative emotions. If you want someone to become angry with you, simply become angry with them first, and they will most likely reflect it back to you, and to others. If you've ever wondered why people appear so impatient and angry during rush hour...

None of what was said was "off the cuff". I've done it enough that it rolls off the tongue for me just as automatically to me as her asking me if I wanted my milk in a bag. I've had that conversation dozens, if not hundreds of times. It almost always gets laughs not only from the clerk, but also any other customers within earshot.

You see, throughout the course of our lives, we all build shortcuts in our mind so that we can do any repetitive task with a minimum of effort. Psychiatrists, psychologists, and neurosurgeons call them "neural networks". Computer programmers call them "algorithms". What you call it isn't important, there's no test on this later. I prefer the term "automatics".

The examples of this in our daily lives are endless. Driving your car. Putting a spoon or a fork in your mouth. Brushing your teeth. Flicking a button on your television remote. Even walking while chewing gum. (OK, I'm still working on that one.)

We have lots of automatics to help us to make our lives simpler affairs. Life would be a lot more complicated and difficult if we had to consciously move the left foot in front of the right and vice-versa every time we wanted to take a step.

"Automatics" can be created through practice and visualization. Think back to the first time you sat behind the steering wheel of a car. Before you turned the key in the ignition, you first pictured what you were going to do next. Then you almost certainly pictured what was going to happen as soon as you shifted into first gear. You rehearsed in your mind what you were going to do before you set about actually attempting to do it. This prepared your mind and body for the what was eventually going to happen for real.

When the car started rolling for real, it probably felt different than what your visualizations had prepared you for. But now you were only dealing with those small differences, instead of being overwhelmed by the entire experience.

And on it went... visualization then practice, visualization then practice... until it became as natural as riding a bike. Automatic.

Since we already have the ability to create these automatics within our own brain, we have all the tools we need to practice and create "automatics" at will, to use like tools in a mental toolbox.

We can craft these conversations out, instead of leaving them to chance. What are the things that are almost guaranteed to come up? "How are you?" is an automatic. If people don't offer this one up, you can always ask them. 95% of people will say a one-word answer like "Good" or "Fine", and ask you how you are. It's as automatic as shaking someone's hand when they hold it out. Insert Joke #1. Or whatever it is you want to do if laughter isn't on the agenda.

"Do you want your milk in a bag?" or "Paper or plastic?" Depending on where you shop. Joke #2.

"Did you find everything you were looking for?" Sometimes you get it, sometimes you don't. But it never hurts to have something ready to go. Joke #3.

"Sign here." I do everything through debit/credit cards, so I don't have to worry about tracking my expenses, it's all taken down automatically. So I sign for everything. That statement's a given. Joke #4.

You don't need to script an entire conversation, just have something interesting to say at all the common points that you know are very likely going to come up.

And not only do you have more interesting conversations, and now possess the ability to make others laugh and smile as soon as you open your mouth, now you have more confidence and awareness going into each common conversation.

As far as tools go, can you think of a better tool to have in your box than bettering the mood of any person in your immediate vicinityFree Web Content, and therefore yourself?

Job interviews? Making new friends? Customers/Clients? Husband/Wife?

Can you think of other situations and conversations where that would be useful?

Article Tags: Something Interesting, Make Others, Feel Good, Make Someone

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Steve Johnston is a former internet millionaire (remember Dot Bomb?) He creates experimental websites like and

He is now omnologist who spends as much time as he can learning about as many different things as he can to make his world and those of others a more abundant, care-free, and fun-loving place.

Apparently he does pretty well. He hasn't worked a job in over 10 years.

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