Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What in the hail are you talking about?

Q. When finding myself in awkward social situations, or around people I have nothing in common with, I catch myself talking about the weather. Why can't there be something else for me to talk about? Is there really no other common-ground subject?

A. Dear Weather or not,
No. There really isn't anything more comfortable to talk to strangers and casual acquaintances about. Everything else is potentially loaded. The weather, however, isn't. It affects all of us in about the same way. If it's cold and windy, you and me and them are likely cold too. If it's hot then we are all hot or at least warm. It is a subject that transcends everything: Race, religion, politics, social status, gender, age, and so on. It's unlikely for someone to say after your comment about the state of the atmosphere, "Oh I wouldn't know... I gave up weather a long time ago." Or, "I don't own a weather receiver any more and I couldn't be more pleased with myself. Plus I just FEEL way more these days, now that my senses aren't taken up with all the various amounts of humidity and temperature fluctuations." 

Even though it feels like a bit of a cop out conversationally, you can actually learn a lot about a person listening to how they talk about the weather. Their reactions to stratospheric shifts can be quite illuminating if you are in the mood to be present and interested. 

So the next time this subject comes up, I say, release yourself from expectation to find something else to talk about. The conversation will naturally turn to something more interesting or come to a quick end. If it ends then just say something weather related like, "Stay dry." or "Stay warm." or "Get in the basement! It's a twister!" Then go on your happy way.

Hope that helps and perhaps we'll find ourselves talking about the weather some day.

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