Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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New start for conversations

Talk about love/fear/dreams not weather
  (+17, -5)(+17, -5)
(+17, -5)
  [vote for,

When meeting someone for the first time, it's customary to start off by discussing the weather and similar trivia (e.g. how they travelled there, how they know the bride, who they hacked to death with an axe).

However, I would propose that we outlaw or stigmatise the discussion of such trivia so that people are forced to find more interesting areas of conversation. Instead of raising the topic of precipitation, when you meet someone socially (I exclude work, because work is evil and I never talk to anyone at my work; furthermore, revealing anything about yourself at work is always a power game) you begin the conversation by asking about one of the following topics, or think up your own:

their greatest hopes or fears
where their secret childhood hideout was
any of their recurring dreams
what they wanted to be as a child
how they would least like to die
what superpower they would like to have

Not only will this make conversations more interesting, and tell you more about a person far more quickly, but it will also stimulate the mental capabilities of imagination and empathy, leading to a flourishing of moral behaviour and consideration for others. Yay!

pottedstu, May 14 2002

How Basil Brush would least like to die http://www.disappoi...lbrush/evilnick.htm
Contains rudeness. [calum, May 17 2002, last modified Oct 03 2006]


       the weather is pretty rotten here today, but the sun has just come out as we speak.
po, May 14 2002

       When entering "Up" elevators, it is best to say "Prepare for liftoff"
po needs lessons
thumbwax, May 14 2002

       One of my recurring dreams is weather like today.
FarmerJohn, May 14 2002

       At a party recently I was scolded by a stranger for starting a conversation with them in a trivial way such as pottedstu describes. Given the chance to start again, I asked them which pane of a four panelled window they would break if put in the situation where they had to break one. "Top left" was the reply.
stupop, May 14 2002

       1. a) That I will live to wear a cardigan and sit in a rocking chair on my front porch, sipping iced tea, in reasonably good health, on a bright sunny day at the age of 79 (there used to be grandchildren in this scenario, but they've faded). b) That I won't.
2. Behind my piano, which was an upright set into a corner. Prior to that, under the dining room table (and dreaming).
3. See my profile.
4. Astronomer.
5. Drowning.
6. Elastic body a la Reed Richards/Fantastic Four || Wall climbing a la Spider-Man (tie)
waugsqueke, May 14 2002

       I think it a social courtesy to begin on a mundane level to enable you to assess the other persons mental abilities. you can then either raise or lower the level accordingly. if you start too low, they may consider you a moron or if you begin with a dissertation of Darwin's theories, they may walk away looking bewildered or produce the axe you mentioned in your first paragraph. by the way, the rain has now stopped.
po, May 14 2002

       This is like one of the scenes in 'Waking Life'. An inspirational film (well it was for me, anyway).
-alx, May 14 2002

       I've always found, "So, how often do you masturbate?" to be a real ice breaker.
quarterbaker, May 14 2002

       Great idea!   

       1. World peace and model Communism 2. Treehouse in Cedar tree, not very secret though 3. Don't have any but always remember dreams when awake from about a year ago, very strange 4. An adult 5. Ever seen the film 'seven'? The smelly guy! 6. USA. Oh, I get it, um, immortality
ferret, May 14 2002

       Absolutely none of those six example topics would get onto the list of things I would talk about with a stranger. Not even the strangers here at the HB who I am likely never knowingly to meet. However, I would happily start conversations with 'I had organic cheese in my sandwich today', 'isn't that a pretty dress the bride is wearing', and 'my taxi driver was clearly raised by wolves'.
Next week I am going to the wedding of my first boyfriend. I am petrified enough at this prospect, although it's not because the experience will be uncomfortable. But as with many others in similar situations, there is nothing wrong (in my view) with keeping your small talk at a mundane level. It is a courtesy to the other person, in case they are an idiot and wouldn't understand your babbled Darwinian discussion, and a courtesy to yourself, to save you the pitfalls of hearing your mouth end up saying something your head knows is seriously off-limits. (you know the little guardian-angel-on-your-shoulder feeling? SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP! oops, too late)
I dread being the cause of one of Neil's ageing aunts having a heart attack because I said something intensely private and personal about the groom, in an attempt to fit my foot into my mouth.
sappho, May 14 2002

       oops, there you go, you got one of my greatest fears.
sappho, May 14 2002

       Taking the chain "fill in the blanks" email into the conversational arena. Definitely better than the usual football-as-common-denominator rubbish that blokes are forced to endure.   

       What was the last book you read and hated? Where else would you rather be right now? What do you get when you gobble down sweets?
calum, May 14 2002

       "Hello there." (Sniff.) "Say, did you fart?"
waugsqueke, May 14 2002

       "Nice shoes" or "Can you run faster and jump higher when you're wearing those shoes?" always gets the ball rolling.
thumbwax, May 14 2002

       "What an ugly baby! How much ya gettin paid to sit it?"   

       "Penny for your thoughts; five bucks for your Polaroids."
"Do you recall the horse that finished inside at the Derby 02?"
"Man created god to break the laws; lawyers for the sex."
"See those (any group) gathering dust? Show me the money."
"Want to see something I've never even shown my doctor?"
reensure, May 14 2002

       Qb, what circles do you move in exactly? Wait... forget I asked.   

       1. a. that I would live to accomplish my dreams. b. that I would succeed in doing so, but the cost would be too much to bear. 2. All over the farm. Ie. in the creek across the road, back in the maple syrup cabin in the woods, and in the basement. 3. being chased by people with guns who are trying desperately to take over my dad's farm; also, talking back to a member of the supreme court, and then being silenced by my sister, who is a lawyer. 4. Independently wealthy. Or an architect. 5. Naked and alone. 6. Predict the future.
RayfordSteele, May 14 2002

       I don't really move in circles - more like parallellograms.
quarterbaker, May 14 2002

       and he does a bezier curve like no-one else. A perfect circle is not complete really without QB.
po, May 14 2002

       1) That I can die with my work on earth complete, and that I don't start whatever my work is. 2) can't remember that one. 3) You know the sort of one where you're falling, and you wake up just as you hit the floor. 4) Fireman. 5) Without a friend nearby. 6) To see what the consequences of my actions would be, and then choose whether or not to make that action.
kaz, May 14 2002

       1) that I am right about religion...that I am wrong about religion 2) in the woods 3) the same barn and the same house....I will find it someday 4)a rock star or famous movie star 5) execution 6) mindreading   

       croissant for the idea....I usually ask people what their earliest childhood memory is....
runforrestrun, May 15 2002

       1a) That one day I'll write something publishable
1b) That I'll never write anything even I can enjoy
2) Underneath my bunk bed
3) Some kind of abstract black & white patterns, just before I wake up and be sick
4) A writer
5) Unaware that I was about to go
6) Immortality
-alx, May 15 2002

       1. That I've already suffered the most pain I will ever have to / that I haven't.
2. A network of caves in Afghanistan.
3. An army of red robots driving sports cars, walking into a packed concert hall and opening fire, while I'm watching, knowing it was going to happen, but powerless to do anything.
4. A good outlaw.
5. Panicking.
6. Invisibility.
stupop, May 15 2002

       All these people that are wanting immortality have obviously never read any Greek tradgedies.
[ sctld ], May 15 2002

       OK, eternal youth then.
-alx, May 15 2002

       (1) hope: to have enough money to not have to work; fear: never achieving that
(2) inside: behind the upstairs bathtub; outside: in an overflow water channel at an old, old dam on a small creek
(3) the detachable/interchangeable penis dream I've discussed here before
(4) never had any idea what I wanted to be, and still don't
(5) unloved
(6) telepathy, but only if it could be turned on/off (like vision, rather than like hearing), and only if I could retain (or even improve) a strong sense of compassion
quarterbaker, May 15 2002

       I like asking people what websites they frequent. Then I can tell them about this one!
grasshopper, May 15 2002

       grasshopper, it is considered unwise to tell secrets

to be fearless
bamboo jungle
Pro Baseball Player/Stand Up Comic/Talk Show Host/Inventor
By the fateful decision of someone with an IQ lower than 80

"You know, I lost 60 pounds in 30 days"
'Really, how?'
"I went on a diet, you fat pig."
thumbwax, May 16 2002

       This was a really interesting exercise reading the comments here. Exposes alot of who we are. You could tell a lot who sees themselves as what and why. And why I became an engineer when I should've been a psychologist all along, I'll never know.   

       [runforrestrun], would that barn have white metal walls and a red roof? Would the house be a grayish white single-story, with red shutters and a limestone fireplace chimney perchance?
RayfordSteele, May 16 2002

       RS, no, the house is at least 3 stories. If you've seen the Sandra Bullock movie "Practical Magic", her family's house made me gasp when I first saw it b/c it is very similar to the house in my dreams. Very close, but needed more stone on the outside and more fireplaces...also the location of that house was wrong too. The barn in my dreams seems to be very old-fashioned, stone and quite expansive also. I believe there is what I would call a "carriage house" that is separate from the barn too.   

       Perhaps we should take a poll and see if an above average number of 1/2 Bakers have recurring dreams... I mean above average when compared to a general population....   

       (RS, there's a topic for your Master's thesis in Psych)
runforrestrun, May 17 2002

       <pedant>Ok, I stopped reading about half way down, because I can't believe no one has yet pointed out that the proper way to relate that information is by describing who*M* he hacked to death with an axe.</pedant>   

       I like it though.   

       So, is it a social courtesy or narcissism to post my own after finishing reading everyone else? Regardless,   

       1. That I'll be rich enough to live without financial worry, and loved by my immediate family. Working hard forever and never having anything to show for it.
2. I found lots of places to hide, as the situation dictated. 'course, it seems to have happened much more in my adult life...
3. There's this one feverish dream/sensation that I get periodically. It's like I'm pinned in an odd corner of a gymnasium or other such large interior space by some cosmic strength, and I must stay in this corner at this odd, inward facing angle, mostly upside down, with the back of my head in the most extreme, smallest corner, for dear life. There is also some pillar or tower of vague, colorless, toroidial shapes just either inside or outside of arm's reach, that is just setting rather normally, but has my gaze entirely affixed.
4. Understood, and related to on a similarly disaffected-with-this-lower-realm level.
5. Violently, or alone.
6. Invisibility (I've already got inaudibility, by most counts)
absterge, May 17 2002

       if i talk about all that stuff with perfect strangers, what shall i reserve for my most beloved? the weather? we can't be intimate with the world, you know. there are more problems with this, but alas, i have but one fishbone to give.
efarns, May 18 2002

       It is good to try to rise above inanity. I applaud your effort.   

       Seems to me that cultivating a feeling of empathy before you say anything, would be productive. Validate someone's experience: "It hurts when you chew on ice, doesn't it?" Smooth out a rough spot: "Everyone here is at a loss for something new to talk about." Blurt out a non-sequitar: "I used to weigh ten pounds." (U.S.) Self-deprecate: "I feel like a pair of brown shoes in a closet full of black suits."   

       At Sears (U.S.), they teach salespeople to approach a customer and say something non-commital, to put pressure on the customer to say something original, which usually is the thing that is bothering them at the moment, such as what it is they are looking for. Sears wants to make each of their stores a compelling place to shop.   

       Or, don't say anything, but show up with a long thread, in a color that contrasts well with your clothes, preferably hanging off your sport coat. Soon someone will point out the obvious flaw in your demeanor and offer to pull the thread until it breaks off. Give them permission to do so, wait until they have the thread in hand, then tell them to wait a minute while you open your sport coat to reveal a spool of thread on a pencil, the other end of the thread that they have in hand. Then give them the go-ahead to pull on the thread, which will now unwind at length from the spindled spool.   

       But nothing tops the person who can remember appropriate jokes and tell them well, something I've never been able to do. Give them a free show, so all they have to do is laugh.
entremanure, May 18 2002

       Why don't people do this? Why? I would welcome the chance to tell my greatest fear, right now.   

       You see, it's been just a month that I've been back in an office job after a year of unemployment. In my fifth month of unemployment, terrorists took down the World Trade Center -- the inside of which was familiar to me, and looked not a whole lot different from the office buildings I'd worked in for the past ten years. But on that day, office workers jumped and burned and died, horribly, and the corporate crap they'd written fluttered to earth like messages from a new god. And I watched it all, thinking: This is the end of the world I knew.   

       Nine months later, I'm working again, but I am frightened. I'm not scared of a replay of 9/11. I think that what will happen will happen, they're still out to get us and there's still nothing we can do, so we might as well go to work, visit the Statue of Liberty, eat unwashed fruit, and whatever.   

       No -- what scares the living s**t out of me is the possibility that people really have gotten back to "normal". That thousands of people died JUST FOR GOING TO WORK, and yet the rest of us have somehow accepted that and moved on -- making no connection between the work we all do and the possibility that we could die doing it.   

       I mean, what if my society really hasn't changed? What if people have decided that, since it didn't happen to them, it wasn't a big deal and we're all just fine? What if most people still think it's okay to work at a job they hate? What if I'm the only one who works against a mental backdrop of burning memos ("Action Items and Deliverables", "Outsourcing Strategies"), many of which could have been lifted verbatim from documents I once wrote?   

       So that's the big fear. My recurring dream is related to it ... but I'll need a good stiff drink before I'll tell that one.   

1percent, Jun 13 2002

       // ...thousands of people died JUST FOR GOING TO WORK, and yet the rest of us have somehow accepted that and moved on... //   

       What's the alternative?   

       I did list my answers to 'stu's posit above, but I would never engage in this idea practically, as a new start for a conversation. If, for no other reason, I would presume they really wouldn't give a damn how I would least like to die.
waugsqueke, Jun 13 2002

       "Hello, is that a mask you're wearing?" "Didn't you used to model balaclavas?" "On probation, eh?" "Pull my finger."   

       Or, for casual chit-chat with London taxi drivers, you can always steal their thunder and say "You'll never guess who *I* had driving my cab once". Hey, when they ask *you* if you can guess who was "in the back of their cab last night", instead of just mumbling "er...nooo", you could always take up the challenge. "Tom Jones? Des Lynham? The drummer out of ZZ Top? A bloke who looked like Lonnie Donegan? That bloke off the telly? No? The entire cast of Starlight Express? Michael Jackson? Michael Bolton? Rick Astley? Not him either? Why not? That Gordon Brown fella? Am I annoying you yet? Pat Sharpe? Anthea Turner? Pat Sharpe AND Anthea Turner? No? Really? Oh, all right then, I give up."   

       Surely that would be a surprising (and refreshing) conversational opening. And I had trials with Arsenal, y'know...
gizmo_man, Jun 14 2002

       g_m, I like the "why not?" in the middle of your barrage of names.   

       "Rick Astley? Why not?"   

       "What do you mean why not?"   

       "Well why couldn't it have been Rick Astley? That's what I want to know."   

       "Well just because it wasn't. It was..."   

       "But, look. What's to *prevent* Rick Astley from taking your cab? It's got to be legal, even for him, right?"   

       "Yeah, but a person is who they are and not somebody else!"   

       (Getting heated) "...He might just as likely have ridden in your cab as anyone else's, so the question is, why didn't he? I mean what's so wrong about you?... Listen, stop the cab. I'm getting out."
beauxeault, Jun 14 2002

       Tammy Why not
thumbwax, Jun 14 2002

       1)a to spend the rest of my life being a lazy bastard   

       b to have to work 9 to 5 doing something I hate... again   

       2)in my head   

       3)Some sort of educational facility in the middle of a dormant volcano that is filled with lovely plants and things... I just sort of wander around...   

       4)in the alley behind the church next door   


       6)pulmanary embalism... again   

       7)teleportation (damn my commute)
Mambome, Nov 15 2002

       "Do you believe in God? Why or why not?"
mrthingy, Feb 14 2003

       "Nice shoes, can I fist you?" doesn't work in Ibiza.
Five_Swords, Sep 30 2006

       "Excuse me, what city is this?"
phundug, Oct 02 2006

       //I would propose that we outlaw or stigmatise the discussion// advocacy. Surprised this has been so popular. I think it's devoid of invention. ie let's not start conversations about the weather - dhuuuu ok "Hi there - have you ever made tea out of your own ear wax?" 'fraid it's a small bone from me.
xenzag, Oct 02 2006

       Research 'phatic speech', [pottedstu], to understand why people don't do this. Also, no offence, but research 'Asperger Syndrome' (it takes one to know one).
pertinax, Oct 03 2006

       "Hi , if you were to fall from a great height, would you rather land on the pavement, a passing car, or a truckload of dog crap, and why"?   

       And we are now ..... not married, said i was a bit weird or some shi*.
Stork, Oct 03 2006

       Don't the opening inanities of conversations serve the purpose of establishing a bit of common ground and whether or not both parties are interested in a conversation before moving on to more gripping subjects? Fishbone from me for rudeness.
DrBob, Oct 03 2006

       Me: "Can I smell your pu$$y?"   

       Her: "Absolutely not!!!"   

       Me: "Oh. It must be your feet then."
caliman, Oct 03 2006

       As 63% of daytime conversation is through conference calling, we need to rollout a confcall-specific vertical for this idea: the handshaking "who's on the call" process should henceforth and for always be replaced with each participant in the call shouting out as if they were at the beginning of a posse rap track. New starts for confcalls:
Uh-huh, uh-huh
Turn the mike up
Don't erase none of that good shit at the beginning
It's me
and so on and so forth
calum, Nov 22 2019

       I once hosted a conference call with many participants in about half a dozen locations. At the beginning of the call I asked everyone on the line to introduce themselves, in alphabetical order by first name - and they did! It was amazing. You could sense everyone waiting and finally gambling that there was no one with a name that came after the one that had just been said but before theirs.
hippo, Nov 22 2019


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