At Skip the Small Talks, we ask attendees to have compassion for others and for themselves as they try out new ways to hold conversations. It’s probably obvious why we care about people having compassion for each other at an event where strangers are getting to know each other for the first time, but equally if not more important in that context is self-compassion. That’s because any attempt at change or improvement generally goes much more smoothly if you’re not beating yourself up after every setback. Connecting genuinely often requires taking some risks (like sharing things that feel a little vulnerable), and having compassion for yourself when those risks don’t pan out the way you hope can help you continue taking some risks in the long-term, and can help make the learning process easier for you in the short-term.Read More
“It’s hard spending time with people who are the normal you wish you were,” said one of my closest friends. Her husband was struggling with a dependency on alcohol, and he found it painful to hang out with friends who could have a few drinks and call it a night. He would regularly talk himself into thinking he could be “normal” like them and just have a few drinks, but “a few” invariably turned into “too many” for him, and he would end up feeling shame about not being able to control his relationship with alcohol.
“Tuesday at 3 pm is great. Thanks for your flexibility. Looking forward to chatting then.”
Imagine that the above e-mail pops into your inbox. Do you get the impression that the message’s author is actually looking forward to talking to you? It probably depends on context, of course, but stock language like, “Looking forward to chatting,” or, “Thanks for your patience,” or even, “Sincerely,” are so overused that they’ve mostly lost their meaning. Those phrases and others like them are the “small talk” equivalent of e-mail; they’re polite, they usually don’t offer meaningful content, they don’t require a great deal of thought for either person in the interaction, and they are often the easiest mode of communication for people who don’t know each other well. (We’ll focus on work e-mails in this blogpost, but everything here applies just as much to other types of e-mails or online messages.)
Whether you’re spending the holidays with family, with friends, or with yourself this year, your celebrations probably won’t live up to the impossibly wholesome fireside gatherings that the media depicts as the norm. Well, the good news is that no matter how many pictures of glistening ham you see on Instagram, nobody else’s holiday is going to be perfect, either. So, we’ve come up with some tips for making the most out of your holidays, whatever they look like.Read More
“Just be yourself!”
“Don’t worry about what other people think of you!”
“Dance like nobody’s watching!”
“To thine own self be true.”
We consume these truisms from the moment our infant brains can understand them and we don’t stop until we’ve seen one too many cliché-littered Pinterest boards. But the reality is, if you’re flailing your limbs on the dance floor without a single thought of who’s watching, or who’s within arm’s reach, you might accidentally smack someone in the face. How do you dance like you’re aware that people are watching, but you know that you’re dancing for yourself, and not for them? How can you think about the space you're taking up on the dance floor without having it affect your self-expression? How soon until we're done with this metaphor? It's important to "be true to yourself," but if you’re not thinking about how others respond to your behavior, you might be missing out on opportunities to connect, and you may even hurt others or yourself in the process.
Ah, the holidays: A time when we hope our lives will look like those wholesome cartoon specials we watched as children, but also a time when anxieties about getting stuck in conversation with people who hold different political and moral ideologies might keep you from doing that happy dance from A Charlie Brown Christmas.
This Thanksgiving, we encourage you to take some time to connect with others in ways that feel authentic without feeling emotionally exhausting. To help the conversation flow, we offer you some ice-breakers that will get others to share about themselves while subtly nudging everyone’s mood in a positive direction. So if you do end up having the “here’s why racism is bad” conversation with Uncle Joe, you’ll have a buffer of positive experience--and perhaps some common ground--that’ll make it easier for you to communicate with one another.
Has your anger ever led to an action you regretted? Maybe you sent a text you didn’t feel great about, maybe some words came out of your mouth more harshly than you’d intended, or maybe your anger came out sideways and you spent some time silently fuming and distracted from your everyday life. Since anger can compel you to take action before thinking, it can be useful to have some tools ready for the next time you’re feeling peeved.Read More
Chances are, you’ve had the experience of binging on potato chips or other junk food when what you really wanted was a meal. You’re famished, so instead of taking the time to cook something, you reach for whatever’s quickest, easiest, or most tempting, but you end up feeling like garbage. Connection can work similarly.Read More
Whether you’re looking for a good fit with a friend, a romantic partner, or even a new workplace, you’ve probably heard tips like “communication is key” and “stick with someone/somewhere that encourages you to grow” and “go with your gut.” Sometimes even those clichés can be useful, but there are some other “tells” about how any given relationship is going that can be easy to miss if you’re not looking for them, especially since they aren’t as culturally emphasized as platitudes like “follow your heart.” Of course, these aren’t going to be the *only* things you should pay attention to, but they can all be easy to overlook, particularly if you are focusing some portion of your energy on appearing desirable to the other person/ workplace/ whatever.
Five to one: According to one of the most prominent social scientists in the field of romantic relationships, John Gottman, that’s the ratio of positive to negative interactions in stable relationships. Couples were significantly less likely to get a divorce when they had about five positive interactions for every negative interaction they had.Read More
So you tried to be vulnerable in some way, whether it was telling someone how you felt, or asking for what you wanted or needed, or sharing about yourself in a way that felt like “too much,” or otherwise extending an invitation to someone to join you in being a little more human together. And for whatever reason, in some way, it didn’t go as well as you’d hoped. And maybe right now, you feel some combination of disappointed, sad, hurt, invalidated, anxious, hopeless, worthless, angry, frustrated, and/or other feelings you didn't sign up for.
What do the following have in common?
- A “define the relationship” conversation with a crush
- Mentioning to your roommate that you never check your Facebook messages
- Telling your friend that the way he acts when he’s angry is scary to you
We'll cut to the chase. It’s boundaries, or more specifically, setting boundaries liberally and respecting them consistently.
Surprised? Think about it this way. Boundaries come on a spectrum, which looks different for each person-- there are smaller boundaries, which might look like, “Please lower your voice; my roommates are sleeping” and bigger boundaries, which might be more like, “Please don’t come to my house again.”
What a lot of folks don’t realize is that setting and respecting smaller boundaries are the single best way to avoid the big boundaries.
I used to be awful at receiving critical feedback or anything I perceived as rejection. I was so bad at it that it led me to quit things I otherwise enjoyed. I went to musical theater camp as a middle schooler and got turned down for big parts for two summers, so I quit. As a dance team member in high school, I had to hear about how I could improve on a regular basis, so I quit. The pattern pervaded pretty much all aspects of my life for years.
America is incredibly lonely, but social norms and the nature of loneliness, itself, can make it difficult for people to take the actions that make them feel more connected to others; loneliness can lead to a feedback loop in which feelings of isolation make you perceive the world in ways that lead you to feel even lonelier.
Since this leaves a lot of folks feeling trapped in their loneliness and unable to see a way out, we decided to develop some activities to help break the cycle.
I’ve always been a “friend-group therapist.” Even as my social network has morphed over time, the one constant is that for better or for worse, people seem to come to me for help with their struggles more often than they go to others. It’s been that way ever since I was in grade school, when my crush looked to me for advice about whether or not he should tell HIS crush that he was really into her (ouch).Read More
Imagine you’re hanging out with a friend.
You’ve been chatting for a bit, and they reveal something more vulnerable about themselves than they usually discuss with you. Maybe it’s admitting that they feel lonely at work, or maybe it’s talking about their history with depression. Whatever it is, it’s a level or two deeper than your usual conversations.
How do you respond?Read More
I recently found myself in two almost identical social situations with one small difference that changed everything about the way the interaction went down.
A few months ago, I had some new friends over my house when one of my friends took advantage of a brief silence:
“Can I ask you all a weird question?”
We all nodded and leaned forward a tiny bit in our chairs.
“Is a hamburger a sandwich?”Read More