Darren: 1, Rational Small Talk: 0

I’ve written before about my inability to make remotely-competent small talk. Tonight I’m in the elevator petting a woman’s small, blonde, furry, energetic dog and the following conversation ensues:

ME: I don’t think you walked him far enough.
HER: Why?
ME: He still seems pretty lively.
HER: I thought you meant because he’s chubby.
ME: Really? I can’t tell with all that fur.

We reach her floor, and there’s a pause as she moves off the elevator. I could just say ‘good night’ and navigate this conversation peacefully. But no.

ME: You should dye him black. Then he’d look slimmer.
HER: (Pause.) Ok. Thanks.

She picks up her dog and scurries off.

Is there some kind of ToastMasters for making small talk? Like, MarmaladeMasters or something?


  1. I can’t comment on small-talk in a situations like that (I’m getting better at the elevator talk, but only with people I’ve talked to before or someone who was at the same event that I was just at), but one thing struck me about you (yes, you Darren) at a thing at Steamworks. You sat down next to me while I was eating, made your face look serious, and then said “so how about that Jeremy C. Wright guy eh?”. It surprised me because a) I had no idea who you were talking about–I read your blog posting earlier that day, but didn’t internalize the name and b) I can’t go up to people, even people I know, and say stuff like “so how about [insert current event here]”. At that same event at Steamworks, someone else, whom I had briefly chatted online, turned to me and said simply “so, what’s up?” I really have to stop letting questions like that surprise me and accept that yes, people are interested in having a conversation with me even it’s just for the sake of having a conversation.

    I think I’m getting better at that too, “that” being initiating a voice conversation with someone (initiating an IM session is no problem, but I still have problems with the people who IM me with “Hi” and don’t have a subject of conversation in mind). Just the other day I called a friend because I was thinking about a mutual friend and didn’t have the mutual friend’s email address. Normally I would have moved on to something else, but this time I called my friend to get her email address. Or even just when she was flying out to Taiwan so that I’d be able to say something to the inevitable “oh, when is she going?” question after I tell someone I have a friend going to Taiwan.

    And so ends another edition of my using someone else’s comment system to effectively blog about my so-called personal life.

  2. Darren that is seriously hilarious, especially since I just came back from a networking event where I was confronted with some outstandingly socially inept people. You made my night. 😀

  3. Hah. You should watch Coupling, the British equivalent of Friends. In the first 3 seasons, there was a character named Jeff. Jeff is INCREDIBLY inept at small-talk – whenever he tries to chat up a girl, he manages to screw it up royally. For instance, he’s had conversations go so downhill that by the end the girl thinks he has an artificial leg, or collects women’s ears in a bucket. Great show.

  4. That’s the funniest thing I’ve read today Darren. Seriously, thanks for posting that.

    I had a very similar experience in my building – although nothing compares to the slimmer dog story.

    A woman has just purchased the suite across the hall, and the other day she came in from taking her CAT for a walk – I was petting it, and with no sensitivity at all, blurted out ‘Don’t you think it’s kind of silly-You know-walking a cat?

    I think I’m still on her good side – but that probably pushed it a little.

  5. Did you screw up, or did you just run into one of those Yaletownies-with-small-dogs and anorexic anxieties?

  6. I don’t know how to make small talk either, and now it all makes sense to me now when I call you up on the phone Darren. Me, a klutz at small talk talking to someone who has similar issues. Somehow, it seems socially unacceptable to jump right into the main subject without first making small talk. I try but I’m always nervous. We should run a support group. 🙂

  7. that was hilarious. especially when i have small, furry energetic dogs of my own. i’d probably respond the same way that the woman did.. 🙂

  8. I sometimes really hate small talk, but I don’t think I’m particularly bad at it.

    I think the joke about dyeing (with a y) the dog black is funny, although waiting until she got off the elevator probably wasn’t the best move. If the woman didn’t get it — her loss.

  9. Joke: Ouch, that typo was a particularly stupid one. I’d usually just cross it out and add the new word, to recognize that I was correcly something, but it’d disturb the flow of the joke.

  10. I have the same problem, mostly because things I think are hilarious usual sail right on past whomever I tell them to. It’s hard to recover from those blank “What the heck are you talking about?” stares.

    FWIW, based on the dog conversation alone, I’d look forward to running into you in the elevator (if I lived in a building that had one, that is).

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