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You walk on campus and you see someone approaching from the opposite direction. You know that person from student parties, but in a state of non-intoxication, you have no clue what to talk about.

There is this awkward moment in which you say “hi” and hesitate for a split second whether to stop and talk or keep walking. The other person takes advantage of your indecisiveness and throws in the dreaded “what’s up?”  You have no choice anymore. You have to make small talk. Here are some tips on how to make the chitchat much less of a cliché.

When the conversation starts with a statement about exceptionally beautiful weather, respond: “It’s not so great for me. When it’s warmer than 15 degrees I get incredibly sweaty under my armpits. Look, see it?”

When asked about your well-being, list all the things that go wrong in your life. Complain about your back pain. Complain about troubles in your relationship. Complain about a broken toenail, and don’t forget to describe in details how much it hurts. Sharing is caring.

Give a backhanded compliment. Say that you love someone’s haircut and that it’s sooo much better than the old one. So much better. Really.

When asked about your studies, describe in detail the progress of your thesis. Say what chapter you are working on, which paragraphs have you finished, and which sentences you find problematic. Don’t forget to list all the sources you’re using. They probably want to know all about it, they’re just too polite to ask.

When asked about your plans for the summer, say that you won a trip to the Caribbean in the Albert Heijn contest. You can’t stress enough the fact that they pay for the tickets, private bungalow on a beach, cocktails with paper mini-umbrellas, and a day spent with Captain Jack Sparrow.

Note: I shall not be held responsible for your social alienation and eventual loneliness.

Originally published in Univers no.11, April 2012 (Download PDF) 

Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

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