small talk

Small talk when you don’t want to reveal your stigmatized job

Anonymous asked:

I’m a sex worker but I don’t feel like that’s always an appropriate honest answer when someone asks me what I do. What should I say instead?

realsocialskills said:

I’m not sure of anything specific to sex work since I don’t have any direct experience and I’ve never discussed this with someone who does. I’m hoping people who’ve done sex work will weigh in.

I do have some general thoughts on deflecting unwanted questions in social settings: People don’t like to be bored. If you make something you don’t want to talk about sound boring, people tend to make it easy to change the subject.

I think there are a few basic reasons people ask about jobs in social settings:

  • They’re making polite small talk
  • They want to get to know you better and are trying to identify a conversation topic of mutual interest
  • They’re asking you about yourself in hopes that it will give them an opportunity to talk about themself
  • They are trying to figure out your social status
  • They are using the gathering to network, and they’re trying to figure out if you’re in a related field

All of these reasons are amenable to redirection through boredom, along these lines:

  • Say something that’s true, but sounds boring
  • Along the lines of “I run a small business from home”.
  • Possibly with a couple of boring details that will discourage further questions, for fear of having to listen to a verbose explanation of something dull.
  • Change the subject to something that they are likely to find more interesting.
  • One thing that tends to work well is to ask them what they do
  • Once the conversation has shifted away from your job, find a point of mutual interest and discuss that.

eg: 

  • Them: So, what do you do?
  • You: I run a small business from home. The taxes are so complicated these days. I’ve had to spend so much time this week pouring over the tax code. You wouldn’t believe some of the categories.
  • You: Yourself? What do you do?
  • Them: I’m a cabbage farmer.
  • You: What got you into cabbage farming?
  • Them: I grew up on a family tobacco farm, and we’ve had to find new crops.
  • You: A lot of things have changed in the past few years.

People don’t like to be bored. If they think your job is boring and that a more interesting conversation is available, they will probably not be too inquisitive about your job.

Do any sex workers or former sex workers want to weigh in? How do you handle questions about your job when you don’t feel that the whole truth would be contextually appropriate? 

tl;dr Making things you don’t want to talk about sound boring is a fairly effective way to prevent people from asking unwanted questions.

talesfromthechickpea:

Boyfriend’s parents are coming for a visit.  I never know what to say and always end up feeling awkward and weird. Could you guys give me some suggestions for parent-in-law appropriate conversations?

realsocialskills said:

First of all, it’s normal to feel a bit awkward around in-laws. That’s not necessarily a sign that something is wrong. Being around in-laws is weird because they’re often close to your partner and not you. They also are often close to your partner in ways that you are not, and they probably cross all kinds of boundaries with him that you are careful to avoid crossing.<p

It’s a confusing and complicated relationship, and it feels awkward for a lot of people.

That said, there are principles of how to talk to in-laws that sometimes work.

Ask about stuff they do and care about:

  • If they are active in a club, ask about the club
  • If they have a hobby, ask about it
  • If they like talking about work, ask about work
  • In conversations like this, listen more than you talk, and don’t offer advice unless they ask for it

Sports is a safe topic among sports fans

  • Did you see the game last night?
  • (this works best if you also watched the game, but it can also work if you didn’t but know they like to talk about sports)

Fandoms you share:

  • Did you see the latest episode of (show you both like?)

Do any of y'all know other good topics?

swamiswan:

realsocialskills:

I was wondering if you or any of your followers knew the rules for getting your haircut (or nails done, etc) at a salon?  For years, I paid a friend of the family to cut my hair, when needed, but occasionally I want to go to a salon but I have no idea what the rules are.  

I know you tip, but how much?  I don’t think you’re supposed to tip the owner (one time I went and tried to tip him, and I got the sense that I had done something wrong) but I am not sure.  What is the process for tipping?

Is it rude to not engage is smalltalk with the hairdresser while they are cutting your hair?  Is it okay to stay quiet if they don’t say anything?  What are appropriate topics?  

I’m unsure about a lot about this, and probably have more questions I can’t think of right now.  

realsocialskills answered:

I actually have no idea; it’s been years since I’ve managed to get a haircut.

But I bet some of y’all know. Anyone want to take this one?

swamiswan said:

Speaking as someone whose social skills anxiety is often a barrier to getting a “proper” haircut, here are my rules:

1) I tip by rounding up to the nearest ten. So if my cut is £35, I round it to £40. At my current place, it costs £39, so I round to £45. I think some people might tip more than this? I work a low-paid/public-sector job, so I think this is a reasonable amount for me.

2) It’s not rude not to chit-chat with the haridresser (according to me, anyway!). I tend to answer their questions, but bring a magazine or a book as a clear “I don’t want to talk to you and am busy with something else”.

3) If you have problems with describing your haircut (which I do), then do some picture research and bring a pic/some pics, or practice with a friend so that you have your “script” ready.

acertaininefficiency:

realsocialskills:

I was wondering if you or any of your followers knew the rules for getting your haircut (or nails done, etc) at a salon?  For years, I paid a friend of the family to cut my hair, when needed, but occasionally I want to go to a salon but I have no idea what the rules are.  

I know you tip, but how much?  I don’t think you’re supposed to tip the owner (one time I went and tried to tip him, and I got the sense that I had done something wrong) but I am not sure.  What is the process for tipping?

Is it rude to not engage is smalltalk with the hairdresser while they are cutting your hair?  Is it okay to stay quiet if they don’t say anything?  What are appropriate topics?  

I’m unsure about a lot about this, and probably have more questions I can’t think of right now.  

realsocialskills answered:

I actually have no idea; it’s been years since I’ve managed to get a haircut.

But I bet some of y’all know. Anyone want to take this one?

acertaininefficiency said:

Back when I had a regular hairdresser, in the mid-to-late 00’s, the rules I worked out seemed to go like this:

  • Tip your hairdresser specifically, 10-15%. Usually I would just find my hairdresser up front when we were done and I was ready to leave and hand her the cash. If I couldn’t find her, I would ask someone up front to give it to her for me and hand it to them.
  • It’s a little odd not to respond when your hairdresser attempts smalltalk, but if you can work out appropriate light responses to common kinds of smalltalk, usually you don’t have to alter your script all that much.
  • It’s fine to stay quiet if they don’t say anything.
  • The kind of smalltalk you’d engage in with coworkers, or with a sales clerk, is generally appropriate. If there’s anything coming up in either of your lives that you’re excited about, like a vacation, or starting school or a new job, that’s a good topic. Complaining briefly about common small problems like finding hair products that work for you is also good, especially if you suspect the hairdresser may share your problem and be able to commiserate.
  • If you see the same person regularly, more personal topics may also become appropriate, like answering questions about how you feel about your hair and why you like it cut the way you do. Maybe don’t wax poetic about it, that could get a little weird, but short simple answers are good.

emeraldincandescent:

realsocialskills:

I was wondering if you or any of your followers knew the rules for getting your haircut (or nails done, etc) at a salon?  For years, I paid a friend of the family to cut my hair, when needed, but occasionally I want to go to a salon but I have no idea what the rules are.  

I know you tip, but how much?  I don’t think you’re supposed to tip the owner (one time I went and tried to tip him, and I got the sense that I had done something wrong) but I am not sure.  What is the process for tipping?

Is it rude to not engage is smalltalk with the hairdresser while they are cutting your hair?  Is it okay to stay quiet if they don’t say anything?  What are appropriate topics?  

I’m unsure about a lot about this, and probably have more questions I can’t think of right now.  

realsocialskills answered:

I actually have no idea; it’s been years since I’ve managed to get a haircut.

But I bet some of y’all know. Anyone want to take this one?

emeraldincandescent said:

You tip whoever cuts your hair. Usually, you give the tip at the same time as you pay. Tipping is usually 15-20%, same as standard elsewhere. 

You don’t have to engage in small talk if you don’t want to. If they’re talking, you can just go, “Um-hm,” and “yeah” a lot unless they ask you specific questions. If they don’t say anything, you don’t have to, although if the silence feels awkward and you would like to break it, you can. School, sports, the weather, and other standard small talk topics are safe. Also, hairdressers often like to talk about celebrities, particularly their style, so if you saw a celebrity at an award show that had a haircut/dress/makeup you liked, you could talk about that. Usually, though, the hairdresser will instigate small talk, so if you’re worried about awkward silences, you shouldn’t be.

Also, as a paying customer, you have the right to not engage in small talk or whatever you need to feel comfortable. Especially if you tip well, the hairdresser probably won’t care if you seem “weird” as long as you’re polite and treat them with respect.

Food as small talk

teacakemix:

Time, Wasted: some things I think I know about small talk

realsocialskills:

Regarding professions and names:

  • If you are in a college or university setting, asking someone what their major is is considered an acceptable small talk question, and it can lead to actual conversation.
  • Asking someone what they do (for work) is socially acceptable in…

I’ve found food/cooking to be almost ALWAYS safe as small talk.  Unless you’re talking about butchering/hunting in front of a vegan, I suppose. 

Also in college I used to offer candy to break the ice.  If I bought a bar of dark chocolate and offered to share with classmates, they either wanted to talk about how much they love dark chocolate, or how much they hated it.  But either way you got a conversation.  And they always ended up being better conversations than the other favorite… ‘whining about the class/teacher/assignment’ which I think just sets you a bad precedent for small talk.  I still know people who are constantly complaining…not because they’re actually upset, but that’s how they’ve learned to start conversations.

Wow, that’s a really good idea.

What words did you use to offer the candy? Like “hey, I have chocolate, do you want some?” Or something else?

some things I think I know about small talk

applesandporn:

realsocialskills:

Regarding professions and names:

  • If you are in a college or university setting, asking someone what their major is is considered an acceptable small talk question, and it can lead to actual conversation.
  • Asking someone what they do (for work) is socially acceptable in some crowds, but not others. It’s acceptable if it’s perceived as similar to asking about a major, and rude if it’s perceived as an attempt to determine how much money someone has or how much social status they have
  • Making jokes or disparaging comments about someone’s job or major is considered boorish unless you have the same job/major and it is also self-mockery. It’s not nice to insult people you just met.
  • Similarly, don’t make jokes about people’s names upon being introduced. They’ve heard them all before.
Regarding sports:
  • A lot of people like to talk about sports as a primary form of small talk. I don’t really understand this. Maybe some of y’all can chime in?
  • In the US, outside of New York, people are likely to dislike the Yankees, and some people find Yankees fans annoying, and some get really angry about Yankees fans. (This is especially true in Boston).
  • Many areas, particularly college towns, have intense and scary sports fandoms. If you don’t understand the sports fandom in your area, it’s probably better to avoid wearing sports logo clothing, and this is especially true if there is a game on.

I’m pretty sure the sports-as-small-talk thing is because it’s a fairly common interest, and you can at least guess some of the other person’s opinions by the region they live in and how the local teams are commonly seen.  Popular TV shows are sort of similar, but less common, because it can get awkward if you express enthusiasm or distaste for a show the other person turns out to feel the opposite about.  The current weather is an even more universal topic, and thus the most stereotypical subject of small talk.

The stuff about professions and names is all totally spot-on, so far as my experience goes.

With shows it can work to say “hey, did you see last night’s/last week’s episode of x?”, and then judge from their reaction whether this is a good line of conversation to continue.

It doesn’t commit you to the extent that saying a show is awesome/horrible does; you can find out what they think before saying anything emphatically.

Some things I think I know about small talk

Some things I think I know about small talk

Regarding professions and names:

  • If you are in a college or university setting, asking someone what their major is is considered an acceptable small talk question, and it can lead to actual conversation.
  • Asking someone what they do (for work) is socially acceptable in some crowds, but not others. It’s acceptable if it’s perceived as similar to asking about a major, and rude if it’s perceived as an attempt to determine how much money someone has or how much social status they have
  • Making jokes or disparaging comments about someone’s job or major is considered boorish unless you have the same job/major and it is also self-mockery. It’s not nice to insult people you just met.
  • Similarly, don’t make jokes about people’s names upon being introduced. They’ve heard them all before.

Regarding sports:

  • A lot of people like to talk about sports as a primary form of small talk. I don’t really understand this. Maybe some of y'all can chime in?
  • In the US, outside of New York, people are likely to dislike the Yankees, and some people find Yankees fans annoying, and some get really angry about Yankees fans. (This is especially true in Boston).
  • Many areas, particularly college towns, have intense and scary sports fandoms. If you don’t understand the sports fandom in your area, it’s probably better to avoid wearing sports logo clothing, and this is especially true if there is a game on.