QUESTION: Feeling Lame in Conversation?
Every once in a while, I hear a great response and steal it, but I need more, so that I can stand out with my answer. I'm not a run-of-the-mill man, so why give run-of-the-mill responses? I feel like these moments - the "How's it going?" moments - are a great opportunity to make people laugh (especially women) and make an impression.
So, can you or your team offer a resource, or direct me to one, so I can stop fearing that almost un-answerable question, "What's up?"? It would be greatly appreciated (I'm stuck in Iraq and have used up all my clever responses).
CARLOS XUMA ANSWERS:
Well, I'm assuming you must be one of our proud forces over there... For that, I salute you.
As for a response, I used to say things like:
"I'm contemplating the universe. How about you?"
"I'm doing great. Any better, I'd be guilty."
When you become more socially aware, you start to have more insights into even the most subtle of interactions with people. Now, most of the time this is good, but you have to be careful not to let these observations become an excuse to get caught up in your head.
What you're talking about is something that a lot of fiction writers go through when they learn "attribution."
You see in dialogue in books, you have to let the reader know who is talking so they can keep track of things.
"How's it going?" he said.
"Pretty decent," she said.
"That's good," he said.
And this goes back and forth.
Now a lot of newbie writers think that just because THEY are aware that they just wrote "he said" or "John said" a bunch of times that the reader is going to get really tired of this. So they start writing all sorts of lame variations on "he said," like "he yelped," or "she whined."
You see, as a reader, you just expect these attributions, and a dozen of them doesn't really even stand out, because the reader is just absorbing the dialogue, not analyzing to make sure you're saying "he cried out" or "she yelled" as a variation. Your mind just blips right over the attribution.
So when you spend a lot of time focused on the wrong part of the conversation - in this case, trying to stand out with a different answer to "What's up?" every time - you miss the point.
You should actually be working on coming up with your own unique signature greeting that you use most of the time, and then focus on the important part of the conversation: What comes next.
This is far more important than being concerned about something that no one else is thinking about but you.
It's true. You may feel lame, but you're just being overly self-conscious.
You are taking on the correct attitude, though, by feeling like you're not a run-of-the-mill guy. Now apply that to the rest of the conversation - where your uniqueness should really stand out.
Don't get bogged down in the fine points.