Let me tell you, my darling Glam Pack, that it has been “one of those days.” Nothing really bad happened but the stress of an unusual winter throwing the semester into disarray is starting to take its toll and we are all starting to be a bit impatient and snippy with each other. Spring Break can’t come soon enough! So, when I got home, I decided I’d find out what our mid-century glamour coach Ruth Tolman had to say on the matter. She says,
Sometimes it’s most difficult to be charming, especially when others irritate us to the “nth” degree.
Ha! I knew she would understand!
But then she continued,
Well, it’s not always possible to change another person, but it is possible for us to adjust so that the irritation and discord are lessened. You might even begin to enjoy someone whom you had formerly disliked if you understand his reasons for acting the way he does. Many people unconsciously throw up barriers that irritate and annoy. Conversationally they unmeaningly hurt and offend…They cannot put themselves in the place of their victim to see how what they say, sounds.
Drat. She wants me to be a grownup about it and be understanding. But, if I’m going to be charming and live a glamorous life, I guess I need to listen to her advice about carrying on a conversation that won’t devolve into a snark attack.
The Ten Commandments for Conversational Charm
- Try to understand the other person’s viewpoint–including the fact that the person may be pushy, argumentative, or making everything about them because they are feeling insecure
- Fit your mood to the mood of the occasion–know when it is appropriate to “let your hair down” and when it is time to be serious…all the while maintaining your dignity
- Learn to guide the conversation–Gossip should be outlawed (there goes a whole “entertainment business”) and no one is interested in hearing about your medical history (okay, I won’t bring up my surgery or foot injury any more)…you can redirect the conversation by asking a question or complimenting one of the others in the group
- Don’t be silent–If you do not join in a conversation, people will decide that you are stupid and have nothing to contribute or that you are stuck up…Let others know that you are aware of the world around you
- Don’t monopolize the conversation–a conversation means you talk to others…remember how your worst professor would just go on and on and on with his lecture–or wouldn’t let students talk when it was supposed to be a discussion? Don’t emulate that professor. Trust me. I spend my days trying to break professors out of these habits when they are teaching.
- Use simple language that all can understand–I’d like to add that we also have to beware of using jargon or acronyms…I remember my key team member and I having a meeting with a professor and when he finished talking–nonstop– an hour later and left, we turned to each other and started laughing. Neither one of us understood half of what he was saying to us…he wanted to prove to us how smart he was by using big words and lots of jargon but he ended up with the opposite response from us. I’m pretty sure eyes were rolled (inadvertently, of course)
- Find out how people spend their leisure–find out how the other person spends his time and you’ll find out all sorts of things about him that can come in handy for future conversations
- Don’t become personal–even though we live in the age of oversharing, people still get resentful when people ask personal questions or presume they know what another person is going through. Boundaries, Glam Pack…respect each others’ boundaries.
- Talk about ideas rather than people (or politics or religion)–I think that one is pretty self explanatory.
- Select entertaining rather than argumentative subjects (see number nine, for example)–Every time a person wins an argument, she loses. She loses her charm to her stubborn pride. It is mentally rude to insist that there is only one point of view. The art of compromise displays wisdom, culture, and good taste.
Our mentor ends our lesson by reminding us
A discussion is not an argument until one or the other loses his perspective and forgets that conversation was intended to be a bridge upon which we cross to meet our fellowman…Your enthusiasm will attract people to you and [you will ] increase your sphere of influence and become a leader.