Saturday, September 6, 2008

Take a Couple of Minutes and Get to Know Your Neighbor.

Take a couple of minutes and get to know your neighbor.

This phrase could be announced in a church service, new class, or any other variety of community get-togethers where strangers are gathered. I have a dilemma, though. 

Two minutes, give or take, is a horrible amount of time to engage in a meeting and brief conversation. Both individuals are grossly limited to the two-minute slot allotted to them. Since there are only two minutes, one has to ask their temporary neighbor questions that do not require lengthy responses, but one must also consider asking enough questions so that the two-minute slot is not horribly awkward and patchy. So, oftentimes, we have a file in our brain full of generic questions or statements that we use with strangers we are obligated to "get to know" in a couple of minutes. We open up our mental filing cabinet and sift through our numerous stock questions until we fall upon an appropriate one. Generally, we judge the stranger we are about to meet and fire our stock questions out accordingly. I mean the questions I would ask a 70 year old man are vastly different than the questions I would ask a 14 year old boy. 

Here's my stock question/statement/observation list for the two minute meet and greet:

- Exchange names

- If possible, use the stranger's name to relate to somebody you know. My buddy's name is Josiah!

- Or, if they have an interesting name, you let them know that they have an interesting name. Names seem to play a crucial role in the two-minute conversation. They don't often require much response, but can eat up a lot of the two minutes if executed wisely. Josiah! Wow, that's a cool name!

- Location. Location. Location. Where do you live? Are you from around here? More great stock questions used if the name games didn't quite use up all of your time. 

- Weather. Everybody can relate to the current weather and their longing for change of it, or their current love of it. Man, it's hot in here. I sure am ready for fall to come around.

- Education and workplace. If the weather banter doesn't last, you might have to go into the education/workplace category. I just hate this category because it is always cut short by the head speaker who says, "Okay, let's take a seat now." You rarely get anywhere substantial with these. Again, the two-minute conversation fails.

- Family. If all of the above are being responded to in rapid succession, you might have to resort to family talk. I generally don't like to delve into family matters in the two-minute conversation because sometimes  that can lead to personal matters I don't feel I am ready to tackle after two minutes with somebody. But when you are stuck in an awkward pause, you might have to reach into your file and grab one of these. So, are your parents from around here? "My parents . . . well, are dead." Not cool during the two minuter.

-By this time, the two minutes should be up and you should be back in your seat listening to whatever is going on attentively. One can only hope.

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I am recent graduate just looking at the dirt, writing about it.