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On Monday I attended my uncle’s funeral. He was a truly gentle man. He had the rare gift of treating children as genuine human being, which (he being a thinker) meant taking their questions seriously. This has got me thinking, and will be the subject of another post I plan to write later in the week – or maybe early next week.
This post is about one difficulty we can have in conversations. At the funeral there were lots of people that I had never met before and who I ended up being introduced to and needed to make conversation with.
This led to the difficulty. At the moment I don’t have a permanent place to live and am between jobs, except for being a blogger (my uncle was 86 and so ‘blogging’ is something utterly unknown to his contemporaries) the conversations were usually difficult. There were two common questions. The first one was along the lines of, “So what are you doing now?” This is a question about employment status: I was not supposed to answer things like: pursuing a spiritual path, being my best to be kind to others, enjoying doing reading and not much else, or, being the past partner I can be. The second was, “Where are you living now?” The answer to this is with various friends while I try and figure out where I want to live taking into account lots of factors about lifestyle, possibilities of employment, income, what is affordable, and where is a nice place to live.
My life at the moment falls well outside the expected answers to these questions. And that can be a problem. How do you keep a conversation going when the answers are unexpected.
My response was largely to just explain that I was in transition and explain some of what I was juggling. With the people I didn’t know this was usually listened to. It didn’t lead to any deeper engagement, but perhaps this wasn’t to be expected in this situation anyway.
For myself I try to avoid the types of questions about jobs and stuff. I tend to just ask, “How are you?” or, “How’s it going?”. But this doesn’t deal with how to negotiate those difficult times when you know your answer is well outside what is expected. The only way I have found to deal with this is to give my answer reasonably quickly and then move on to ask how they are.
My question for you is: what do you do in this situation? How do you keep the conversation going?. What other questions could I ask? Let me know in the comments. I’m hoping for lots of suggestions of different conversation starters that we can use.
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