We’ve all been there. Those gatherings where you don’t seem to know anyone well. You’re trying to make small talk and that usually means questions. What do you ask? How do you answer?
1. How do you respond when asked “So, what do you do?”
I say “I’m a business librarian at at quasi-governmental agency.” Anything to work the prefix quasi- into the conversation.
2. What about the classic “Where are you from?”
I used to have a rude reply to this, but now I just say “from Binghamton, NY.” If they’re from NYS or nearby, this means something, but if they’re from south of the Mason-Dixon line or west of the Mississippi River, they hear New York, and invariably think “New York City”, which is about 200 miles away.
3. What other questions are you frequently asked at parties and other gatherings and how do you answer them?
“Is that REALLY your daughter?” “Yes.”
If someone at the party knows I was on JEOPARDY!, that person will almost invariably tell the new person that I was on the show, which leads to:
“Were you REALLY on?” “Yes.”
“What’s Alex Trebek really like?” “He did the rabbit-ears things with his fingers behind my back. I saw him on a monitor.”
“How did you do?” “I won one game, and came in second the second day.”
Considering this happened almost eight years ago, this conversation happens at least a half dozen times a year, and I never initiate it.
4. Are there any questions or topics that make you cringe?
No, but there are topics, usually home improvement, where, once the conversation is launched, someone in the midst of renovation, e.g., will tell a detailed 15-minute blow-by-blow; I’ve faded out by minute four.
5. What is your strategy for breaking the ice?
Usually to look for the person who seems out of the loop. Another tactic – be useful – offer to open the wine bottles or bring in additional chairs, for instance.