How can I prevent people laughing at me when I make conversation with them? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
Answer by Jane Chin (陳盈錦), author of Practical Leadership for Biopharma Executives (Elsevier), on Quora:
If you suspect people are laughing at you, not with you, when you are talking with them, figure out whether this is caused by any or all of the following:
- misinformation or lack of information
- missed social cues, tact, timing
- hanging out with jerks
If your conversational faux-pas comes from lack of knowledge, find ways to broaden general knowledge and you will feel more prepared in most conversations.
This is not a call for you to dive deep into multiple subjects and become a scholar. Most people have no interest having prolonged conversations at a Ph.D. level, their conversation interest is based on interests. Figure out what people you tend to hang around are interested in, and make a habit to “keep up to date” on what’s happening in those topics.
For example, sweep headlines everyday on all sections of Google News and click on items that pique your interest. You may occasionally find a news item that is discussed more in depth by a news magazine or news journal, which allows you to get more in depth with the topic or subject.
If your conversation faux-pas comes from social factors such as missing social cues or bad timing or tact, you may need to watch and “(role) model” individuals in your circle who have good social skills. Social skills tend to boil down to:
- Appropriate personal space and affect: standing socially close/far apart enough from another person and showing on your face a pleasant or neutral expression.
- Culturally acceptable eye contact: hold the other person’s gaze long enough to be polite but not so long that you are starting.
- Saying sentences that will not be misinterpreted as gross/insensitive: usually anything regarding or relating to physical/mental anatomy and modifications/secretions/illnesses thereof… avoid.
If your conversation faux-pas comes from hanging out with jerks who love to target one person in the group to laugh at because this is how they feel better about themselves, bid these jerks adieu and find a different crowd. These are not the best social role models for you anyway. You will be surprised how hanging out with curious and open-minded people can draw out the “smarts” you did not even recognize you already have.
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