Read this before you attend your next festive get-together …
I wouldn’t like to jinx anything, but we might just find ourselves … if we’re lucky … interacting with people other than family … on a social basis, this festive season. Now this may merely comprise of a couple of polite murmurs to friends, coworkers, or fellow shoppers (hopefully, not muffled by masks) or season’s greetings to our loved ones (this, at least for me, includes the hairdresser. The most loved one of all.)
In such a scenario, when approaching a casual chat, we mustn’t bend to boring habit and talk about What Is Currently Going On With Covid or How We Thought It Would Be Over By Now. Let’s pretend for a second that it’s not actually plodding onwards ominously and incomprehensibly, the way we know it happens to be.
It can be daunting, though, to drum up stuff to say. What the hell can we ask each other? Or comment on? Or complain about? Good grief, has the whole drama of the past two years provided such endless conversation fodder that we now need a list of suggested elegant topics of smalltalk, in order to relate to each other?
In a word, yes. See below list.
1. Scientific discoveries
Did you know we recently discovered the first-ever real millipede? Or that archaeologists recently dusted off potential evidence of Neanderthal art, for the first time ever? Events of fantastic scientific and historic progress, that might have been sadly overlooked these past two years, make for great talking points. Also pretty cool is our October establishment of a malaria vaccine, but you know what, park that one for now…
2. Basic political critique
Be wary here, there’s no need to shove the chat into Political Beliefs territory. I am merely referring to gentle joshing of elected leaders. For example, it’s fun to guffaw at the fact that Joe Biden has admitted that he can’t boil an egg, or this video of Queen Elizabeth darting away from her grandson’s enthusiastic treatment of raw Christmas pud.
3. Pop culture trivia
Obviously this one has its limits depending on one’s audience. Your grandmother may not know who J-Lo and Ben Affleck are, but if she did, imagine where that particular conversation would lead you? Many, many people have helpfully potent views on Lady Gaga’s accent in House of Gucci, or Timothée Chalamet’s upcoming role as Willy Wonka in next year’s remake of the Roald Dahl character. Capitalise on this nonsense!
4. Animals, pros and pros
Conversations about the wonders of having a pet, between pet owners, can literally go on forever. Pet owners just can’t stop talking about their beloved furry pals. But even more fruitful for conversation is a handful of facts about how great all animals are for humanity. Maybe mention this Italian programme that trains Newfoundland dogs to be “lifedogs” – saving lives and being very cute while doing so – or the recent study that seemed to suggest that cats have object permanence. It’s indeed believable that our feline friends know more than we realise. They have very pensive expressions.
5. Favourite things
Particularly at Christmastime, the tone of group discussion can quickly turn sour. I’ve learned a bad time for this is just as people await dinner – hungry chat is not happy chat. A great way to refocus dialogue in a positive way is to ask people about their favourite things. This can be pretty revealing of the characters around you, and can even give way to light debate – for example, ask for their top three favourite cities, or their favourite comedian, or their most prized appliance in their house, or their favourite building in Dublin. You could even ask what is their favourite THEGLOSS online feature – except don’t mention this one. It’s a dead giveaway.
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