Talk to Everyone, and Master the Art of Conversation

So a few weeks back, I rode the wrong bus home.

Oh, Arnold. I feel your pain, dude.

Definitely seems like something I was gonna do eventually — I’d barely known the bus schedule at all. I’d preferred walking everywhere my last three years of college. But it wasn’t too big a deal — the bus was just going in the opposite direction of where I needed to be. So I just had to wait for it to loop around. A 30-minute penalty. I wasn’t in too big of a rush.

But it was just me and the bus driver for some time. So naturally, I’ve got to break the awkward silence. I want to let this driver know that I’m much more than just an idiot who can’t read the bus routes correctly. And besides, I’ve got 30 minutes to kill, and my phone’s almost dead. Why not?

So I start chatting it up, and end up learning so much about this driver. We talk about where we’re from — I’m from Charlotte, the driver’s from Yanceyville. I had no idea where that was, so he describes it to me. I learned that he grew up on a farm. “Do you know where Charlotte Catholic is?” he asks. “Of course I do,” I tell him back. “It’s about 30 minutes from my house, and they used to beat us in football all the time!”

And we went on another tangent. I learned that the driver played football his senior year of high school — he was noticed by the coach one day, and recruited to shore up his defense at free safety. I was astounded by the man’s drive — he told me that he learned how to play football, conditioned, and helped bring his team to the state championships all in the span of a year. “We hadn’t lost a single game that year, up until the championships… Hell, I didn’t even know private schools could play public schools,” the driver reflected. There was clearly still some salt from his team losing to Charlotte Catholic that year.

Then he told me that his coach said that if he had started football earlier, he would have been scouted. And he probably could have played in college.

He didn’t go to college. “I should have, he said. “I didn’t know better.” He laughed.

We didn’t talk about too much afterwards, and then it was time for my stop.

“Thanks so much,” I told him.

“You’re welcome,” he said.

And that’s it. I’ve only taken the bus once since then, and haven’t seen this driver again yet. And I might not ever. But that’s just the thing — when he mentioned that he played against Charlotte Catholic, it was something that I could relate to, and have a good 20 minute conversation from. Small world, this school was 15 minutes away from my house. And hey, I love football. Maybe I just got lucky, but the point I’m trying to make is that you can pretty much talk to anyone. And you should, because everyone has a different story to tell, and the perspectives that you gain are invaluable.

Nowhere in this am I saying that you should ever, ever take the wrong bus just so you have an excuse to spend 30 minutes chatting it up with a stranger. But I’m saying seriously live in the moment, and put yourself out there. You never know what you might learn. And if you’ve got time to kill, why not spend it introducing yourself with to another person.

I love one-on-one, personal situations like this. Some people say that I ramble, and that I just can’t shut up. But I’m a good listener too, and I’m trying to strike a fine balance between talking and listening. I genuinely care for learning more about others. I’m trying to master the art of conversation. It’s easy, if you just put yourself out there.

So go do it. You might regret it now, but eventually you’ll find that it really helps. It makes you a cooler, more amicable person to be around. Hell, I even think it makes you funnier.

Oh yeah. I’m also reading this book, and in case you’re having some trouble, I highly recommend it. Going through it, I’ve learned a mix of super helpful, and super gimmicky things to help you be more sociable. Check it out:

Quick, to the point, and quite entertaining.