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Life Skills 301

Advanced-level techniques for being a person.

Illustration by Ana.

Illustration by Ana.

Holy crap, another year has gone by. The planet slowly but surely completed one more revolution around the sun. We lived 365 more days on Earth. And in that astonishingly long yet unbelievably short time, somehow we wised up. We know things now that we didn’t know this time last year. We are smarter. More experienced. We made it! And that means: It’s time for another round of Life Skills. Advanced level. Here we go!

1. Entering and Exiting a Conversation (Politely)

Entering: You know how when people are talking at a social event they stand in a tight circle, and it looks intimidating? You know how it can sometimes feel weird to be alone at a party and want to be in the talking group but you don’t know anybody or have any idea how to join a conversation?

It’s OK, lemon drop! Everyone (EVERYONE) feels a little awkward in a situation like this, but we can handle it!

So you don’t know anyone. So what? You are an interesting and cool person, and other people, if they are not total jerks, will listen to what you have to say, or at least be willing to let you join their group. If you are alone at a social event and don’t know how to enter a conversation with people who are already talking, just get a little closer to their group and eavesdrop in a non-hover-y way. Find an excuse to stand near them—fiddle with a book on the bookshelf or get a beverage nearby. What are they talking about? If you hear someone mention something you like or know about, that’s your in. Maybe someone is showing someone a picture of their dog on their phone. You say, “Whoa, is that your dog? It’s so cute!” And, BOOM, you’re talking to someone in the group! Maybe you hear someone say, “Wait, you haven’t heard of the Breeders?” and the Breeders are your favorite band—jump in! Say something as simple as, “Aaaah, I love the Breeders!” and people, if they are not snotty, will move over and make some room for you.

The key, though—and this is real—to entering groups of already-talking people is to not apologize for yourself. No “Sorry, I couldn’t help overhearing you guys talking about the Breeders” or “Sorry, I don’t mean to interrupt, but…” Nuh-uh. It is natural for you to talk about shared interests with other human beings, so just act like it’s the most normal thing in the world for you to casually join a group of people already conversing, even if it is a big deal for you.

Exiting: Maybe a conversation has gone on…a little too long. Perhaps it’s just run its course, and there’s nothing left to talk about. Or maybe someone has cornered you and is boring you to tears about a subject you care nothing about; or they’re persistently hitting on you, and you’re completely uninterested. There are a million reasons why you might want to end a conversation, but it can often feel impossible to extricate yourself. You don’t want to be impolite or hurt anyone’s feelings, there’s no escape route that doesn’t seem super awkward, etc., so you’re stuck talking to this person, desperately scanning the room for anyone who might come and rescue you, blinking SOS signals at everyone who walks by.

You know what, though? You’re not stuck. You can leave this soul-sucking convo any time you want! Here are some of my favorite strategies:

  • There’s always “Excuse me, I have to go to the restroom.” So tried and true that it’s a cliché at this point. NO ONE can argue with your need to pee. This is my go-to for getting rid of people who are conversationally irritating me. And it’s not even a lie! I really do have to pee—practically all the time!You do not have to come back to the person, especially if you’re at a party or in another social setting. Clearly you meant to come back, but you were distracted by someone else. You’re a social butterfly, flitting airily about!
  • If that feels too abrupt, do what my friend Jen does and offer the person something. Say, “Hey, do you want some chips?” or “I’m getting a drink, you want one?” If the person says yes, go get it, cheerfully bring it back, and then wave goodbye and vanish into the crowd. You have now done them a favor. You are obvs not rude, and now you are freeeee.
  • If you’re dying to get out of a conversation with a person you know, you can try reminding the person of a future event. This maneuver involves trying to wrap up the conversation quickly by saying something like “Hey—Kara’s show next week! Are you going?” If the person says yes, say, “Awesome, I’ll see you then!” and smile while backing away.

    However, this is a risky social move, as it may serve only to delay, but not prevent, further misery. This person may approach you again at Kara’s show—after all, you both just agreed to see each other there! But you do have all these new ways to politely avoid talking to them, so maybe it’s not such a big risk after all.

    Anyway, remember: If someone has backed you into a corner, cutting you off from all other people, and is going on and on about something that does not interest you, they are being rude. It is not rude of you to make a prompt, polite, and effective exit.

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79 Comments

  • soviet_kitsch January 3rd, 2014 3:11 PM

    KRISTA. the last piece of advice was perfect and omg if i see the cute boy at the bookstore again i’m gonna take it.

    • tockoftheclocks January 4th, 2014 2:01 PM

      YES to this! I spent 2 whole hours revising opposite the most perfect specimen of a human being at the library and when he went I just couldn’t carry on with my English essay – he was my muse.

      http://tockoftheclocks.wordpress.com/

  • MissKnowItAll January 3rd, 2014 3:31 PM

    I had decided that 2014 was the year that I’m going to go out and fearlessly ask cute guys and girls out and now I’ve found the key to doing it and I’m totally gonna use it now. Thank you so much for this Krista!

  • dojo45 January 3rd, 2014 3:31 PM

    Oh my God yaaasssss thank you so much you guys are lifesavers!

  • flocha January 3rd, 2014 3:35 PM

    Krista you are such a magical and incredible person and the only bad thing about this edition of life skills is that I seriously needed it at New Years agh

    http://whimsicalprocrastination.blogspot.com

  • dreamygirl January 3rd, 2014 3:38 PM

    KRISTA I LOVE U THANK U

    i will use the last method until the end of my days omg also the email one thank u thank u

  • kenny22 January 3rd, 2014 3:50 PM

    you should make a rookie calendar 2014, yeah?

    • Anaheed January 3rd, 2014 4:32 PM

      We didn’t make one this year but we’ve got some other merch in the works.

  • mangointhesky January 3rd, 2014 3:58 PM

    I’m ashamed to say that I needed life skill number one. Oh well. Thanks rookie!

    http://perfectlittledaisy.blogspot.com
    http://mangointhesky.blogspot.com

  • kaworude January 3rd, 2014 3:58 PM

    KRISTA THIS IS GOOD THIS IS SOO GOOD AND SO USEFUL – these methods will save my butt so many times and in so many ways

  • Alepisaurus January 3rd, 2014 4:06 PM

    “What if they’ve got a girlfriend or boyfriend already? What if they’re gay? What if they’re not gay? What if they’re asexual?”

    Thank you for summing this up, this is pretty literally my thought process for every cute person I see.

    But, what should I do if I’ve been talking to them for a minute already?

    • periwinkle_dreams January 4th, 2014 12:08 AM

      My humble opinion:
      If it looks like you’d actually both have free time to talk more, maybe you could do that. If you’re feeling too nervous for a full-blown conversation or have somewhere to be (or feel like they’re too busy to talk, etc) – whip out a piece of paper/napkin + writing utensil and give them your name/number. While you do that, say “I’ve got to run, but I enjoyed meeting you and I’d love to talk again sometime.” If you’d like to stay, you could ask, “You seem like a really cool person; I’d love to get to know you better. [or "I'd love to talk to you more about X" or "I'd love to hear your opinions on Y"]. Do you have a few minutes to sit and talk?” If they seem at all hesitant, make your exit. :)

  • lucide January 3rd, 2014 4:06 PM

    I feel so warm and good and safe just being here reading Rookie in my dark room. I love you Rookies, you are the bests.

  • grace elizabeth January 3rd, 2014 4:09 PM

    Krista, is there any chance of you being able to write these more than once a year? This kind of advice is what I really look forward to reading on Rookie :)

  • sofia the weird January 3rd, 2014 4:15 PM

    Since I am as awkward as they come I got used to neglecting social norms regarding social interaction. If you leave me alone with someone I don’t know I will just say the weirdest thing that comes into my mind. Nothing offensive of course. Instead of the usual “How are you doing?” I just jump into “Hi. You know, when I was little I slept with a doll because I thought that if I didn’t, she would kill me in my sleep. How about your favourite toys?”. Although a little strange I found that it makes people feel at ease…

  • anaisabel13 January 3rd, 2014 4:16 PM

    THIS IS SO GOOD and useful. Numbers seven and eight will be used, like, today. Thanks Krista!

    http://anexerciseofmyfaculties.blogspot.com/

  • AngstyTheBrave January 3rd, 2014 4:21 PM

    Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god. I now know how to ask a stranger out. And how to make good small talk (because I sort of awkwardly go for stupid “what’s your favourite…?” questions).

  • Laurets January 3rd, 2014 4:24 PM

    I needed this in my life so. Much. The last one is AMAZING. Krista, you’re perfect. Thank you thank you thank you ♥♥♥

  • Emmie January 3rd, 2014 4:24 PM

    I felt butterflies just reading that last piece of advice but I’m totally gonna use it!!

  • deemary January 3rd, 2014 4:29 PM

    oh no, now i really have to ask the guy at the liquor store out. thanks krista!

  • Shayd January 3rd, 2014 4:42 PM

    Oh my gosh! The asking out a stranger will come in handy! I am sadly the person who sees a cute stranger, and hopes I catch them staring at me! (never happens) Another fantastic Rookie article that made my life better! <3

    • julalondon January 3rd, 2014 11:16 PM

      Hahaha, I do that too..they also NEVER approach me then.. Krista, this is great; please do more of them than once a year!!

  • eyelet January 3rd, 2014 5:02 PM

    Thank you Krista– I love life skills so much!!

  • paashaas21 January 3rd, 2014 5:30 PM

    ily

  • Kourtney January 3rd, 2014 5:49 PM

    I NEEDED THIS!!! Especially the one about gmail. Ugggggh, I could’ve so used that tip yesterday (I sent my friend two of my design projects that I’m really embarrassed about now) but totally useful for future reference!! And I really want to use the last tip some day :))

  • doris January 3rd, 2014 6:12 PM

    What if the person is a creep and sends you gross/scary things via email? Or what if your email has your full name in it and they try to stalk you? I know that’s the chance you take with a lot of people, but when you haven’t even spoken a word to this person you have no idea how they could react. And maybe I’m in the minority, but I would be pretty weirded out if someone just handed me a note with their contact info letting me know they’ve been staring at me the whole time.

    • Isil January 3rd, 2014 7:13 PM

      then you can just write your phone number and first name. if you have multiple emails, you can use the one without your full name in it. it would be safer i guess. or if you pass by a lot of cute people then you can create an entire email account about it haha. but i don’t think it’s necesarry. if you use an email that doesn’t include your full name, you can always block that person. most of the email provider-server-things (i don’t know what they’re called asdjhf.) have this ability. and in my country it’s available to block phone numbers, too. so i think it would be okay as long as you just give your first name.

      and yeah, you may be weirded out (me too) but there’s a possibility that you may like that person. maybe they’re so cute and blushed when they were giving you that piece of paper, and you may like that etc. that’s why they’re giving you their info, if you are weirded out, you won’t call them. if you like them, you’ll call them. you won’t probably see this person ever again anyways.

  • MegW January 3rd, 2014 6:16 PM

    I love this series. The tips about being generous and asking people out are THE BOMB.

  • Cerise January 3rd, 2014 6:22 PM

    YESSSS. Krista, I was SO hoping you’d write another life skills article. So much good advice, especially the first and last bits–I am usually terrible at going up and talking to people I don’t know, but these should help. :)

  • lexilikes January 3rd, 2014 6:58 PM

    Krista that is pure genius <3 simple yet shows elegance and confidence!

    http://www.lexilikes.com/

  • Isil January 3rd, 2014 7:01 PM

    I love love love love LOVE this series. They are really working and these ones were specifically my problems. Especially the ones about small talking and being broke :( Seriously, this series are amazing. Can’t you guys make it more general? I love Krista of course, but if everyone shares their life skills we would be learning more of them :D like every month or something.

    http://isilmonika.tumblr.com
    http://isilnoir.wordpress.com

  • piisaa January 3rd, 2014 7:35 PM

    I literally got an adrenaline rush just READING the ask-a-stranger-out part. Oh lord. I WANT TO DO THAT BUT ALSO I WANT TO NEVER DO THAT ohgoshohgoshohgosh.

    (Also this life skills series is very very awesome)

  • VB January 3rd, 2014 7:46 PM

    Krista you are literally a genius seriously you should have your own show.

  • lovetherain January 3rd, 2014 7:57 PM

    Everyone is excited about the last one (I am too!), BUT THE DIY WRINKLE RELEASE OMG YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW.

    I go to a highschool with uniforms, and we wear polos, and I cannot tell you how wrinkly those get seemingly of their own, nonexistent volition.

    THANK YOU SO MUCH <3 :)

  • spudzine January 3rd, 2014 8:17 PM

    I actually have problems with the first situation(getting out of talking with people I dislike). If someone’s being rude to me, I don’t know what to do. Do I tell them off with the risk of making a scene, or do I just politely walk away without defending myself? If I walk away, then I have a fear that they’ll talk about me behind my back and say rude things about me. I know I shouldn’t feel this way, but I feel unconfident with either of the approaches I just mentioned. It’s something I have to work on :/

    http://spudzine.tumblr.com/
    http://emotwins.tumblr.com/
    http://rockogirl.tumblr.com/

  • Clementine Rose January 3rd, 2014 8:30 PM

    Once again, Krista, you have SAVED. MY. LIFE. I love reading and rereading Life Skills. Thank you for all these great tips! I was particularly impressed by, ahem, the Ask a Stranger Out segment. I’m absolutely and completely afraid of all boys, but this will really help! Thanks again! You’ve made my day.

  • Stevie January 3rd, 2014 8:32 PM

    THIS IS THE GREATEST THANK YOU SO MUCH
    it’s handling situations politely but not necessarily putting on a forced persona
    thankthankthank

  • Sophii January 3rd, 2014 8:45 PM

    Wow. Advice likes this makes me feel like I’ve spent my entire life making things so much more difficult than they could be! The last one is beautiful oh my. I see cute strangers all the time omg. Such fab life tips. Thanks so so much

    http://prettypassionsfinefashions.blogspot.co.uk

  • umi January 3rd, 2014 8:53 PM

    i started homeschool in the sixth grade and ever since then i’ve become incredibly inadequate in the social interaction department.i’m gonna use the last one to maybe make friends.i cant ask people out,i’ve never done it,but i’m imagining bad bad things.

  • lyssagrltx January 3rd, 2014 9:18 PM

    This so helpful. I’m admitting this I’m socially awkward. The small talk how to meet strangers THE NUMBER THING IS AMAZING I’M GOING TO USE THAT. Thanks so much Krista.

    http://sundayschoolshoes.blogspot.com/

  • emily_hunter January 3rd, 2014 9:38 PM

    Ugh. Rookie is such a gift in my life. Great stuff, Krista!

  • Ozma January 3rd, 2014 10:10 PM

    All of this is so great! Thanks Krista!

  • Violet January 3rd, 2014 11:16 PM

    I need all this skills !!!
    Wishing I had all of those YEARS AGO ! ! !
    Thank you Krista, you’re fantastic, absolutely.
    Love, V

  • diniada13 January 3rd, 2014 11:50 PM

    I really need all these skills! Especially the first one, I’ve always wondered how people do it. Thanks, Krista! x

    http://sorryimoutofgoodurls.blogspot.com

  • lotusmarina January 4th, 2014 1:23 AM

    In all those girly whirly oh-my-gosh-people-can-be-so-self-obssessed magazines, the tutorials they write are no help. Zilch, nada (i.e. Q: How to prevent yourself from blushing in front of your crush A: Hold your breath, but still try and look cute. ‘Cause that’s really going to work.)

    But THIS man, this was amazing. I’m so glad because these tips are ACTUALLY so new and helpful and wow.

    Thanks Krista for this <3

  • strawberryhair January 4th, 2014 2:40 AM

    Kristaaaaaaaaaa you are such a goddess and now I feel like I’m just all round BETTER AT BEING A PERSON. Thank you.

  • soretudaaa January 4th, 2014 8:34 AM

    oh my god, the last piece of advice totally changed my life, I have to start doing this asap.

  • karis January 4th, 2014 12:08 PM

    YES – the last piece of advice is amazing! definitely using it the next time i see a cute boy

  • Lillypod January 4th, 2014 12:21 PM

    i’m definitely the betty draper of small talk because i don’t do that because EW

  • flightdust January 4th, 2014 1:12 PM

    This is brilliant THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!!

  • pizzaface January 4th, 2014 1:19 PM

    Thanks wow! Great article. I think the Small Talk topic is very interesting, just because i’m so bad at it. I wish I could just follow a class for small talking, and this already helped me further!

    I always like it when you’re in an awkward scene where you are SUPPOSED to small talk, but the other person is a socially awkward wallflower too, and you are both sunken in deep thoughts, and no one even cares about the missing small talk anymore!

  • pizzaface January 4th, 2014 1:31 PM

    KRISTA I SAW THIS COMMENT AND I JUST WANT TO SAY IT TOO

    YOU ARE A LIFESAVER

  • TheCyanideInNightlock January 4th, 2014 6:39 PM

    KRISTA IS GOD. No, seriously.

    That or she’s a genius.

    Or both.

    Maybe both.

    DEFINITELY BOTH.

  • talullahbunny January 5th, 2014 2:56 PM

    Ummmmm okay so that Gmail undo sent mail feature oh my god than you in advance for the millions of times this is gonna save my proverbial bacon

  • Kelly K January 5th, 2014 3:53 PM

    If you’re thinking ahead about how you don’t want to leave internet footprints then you can use incognito mode. (At least, I know Chrome offers it)

  • Peanutpug January 5th, 2014 9:17 PM

    I’ve just realised that I always ask “so, what did YOU do today?” in awkwardy small talk situations! I feel very accomplished now I know that it’s a Life Skill and I’m doin it riiight. I’m gonna challenge myself now to ask a stranger out ! :)

  • Moonshoes January 6th, 2014 12:05 AM

    ugh praise you for writing this

    http://www.oddsntrends.blogspot.com

  • aprilmaybe January 6th, 2014 4:28 AM

    this is so great! i really loved the “being generous section.” i honestly can relate so much and now i have the perfect ways to return my friendship, thank you soooo much!

  • TinyWarrior January 6th, 2014 6:53 PM

    Kinda far out, but I think it would be cool if you took all of these Life Skills 101 articles and turned them into a mini book? Like one small enough to carry around in a purse, say the side of a crossword puzzle book! I know I would definitely buy a copy for myself, and ones for friends, too. :)

  • Isabellla January 7th, 2014 4:40 AM

    YES amazing !!! I love u Krista! <3 :)

  • Lena_hyuga January 7th, 2014 5:15 AM

    The last piece of advice was seriously awesome! It made me feel more confident. Definitely gonna try it. Thanks :)

  • Mary the freak January 7th, 2014 1:59 PM

    SO CUTE! Krista i love you.<3

    http://birdiewearsatie.blogspot.com/

  • nana January 7th, 2014 5:08 PM

    Better than Google.

    http://sagelliv.blogspot.com/

  • Blythe January 7th, 2014 10:29 PM

    If they’re asexual, it’s likely they’ll be flattered and maybe even interested in a romantic relationship, actually.

  • Hazel January 8th, 2014 1:00 AM

    On the topic of erasing your internet fingerprints, I think deleting your web and search history on google is good too! https://support.google.com/websearch/answer/465?hl=en

  • biankaberta07 January 8th, 2014 5:15 PM

    O.M.G.T.H.I.S.I.S.E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G.T.H.A.N.K.Y.O.U.

  • TessaTheTeenageWitch January 11th, 2014 7:59 AM

    Unless you’re purely looking for sex, you should let the person you think might be asexual know that you they’re cute, too! Lots of ace folk are romantic want a romantic relationship!!! This is because sex and romance aren’t the same thing, and so a disinterest in participating in sex is not automatically a disinterest in romance!

    Otherwise, this article is ACTUALLY THE BEST THE WRINKLE THING OH MY ??!?!

  • RisainSanFrancisca January 15th, 2014 12:06 PM

    THIS MAY BE THE BEST THING I’VE EVER READ THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! and since I read rookie regularly that’s saying a lot :) I love you krista!!!

    http://manyrisas.tumblr.com

  • 3LL3NH January 19th, 2014 6:02 PM

    My question is, how do you ask someone you don’t know to hang out without it giving the impression of asking them out…?

  • January 25th, 2014 3:46 AM

    This is so great. I get so tired of teen magazines’ “asking him out” advice because it always hovers around weird scripted ABCfamily-show-like scenarios that don’t happen in real life. For some reason telling him he’s a “cutie” before “sexily tossing his hair”, eyeing his friend and kissing him on the cheek with *insert brand* lip stain never was my cup of tea. The cute vanishing is easy, though.

  • Janis January 31st, 2014 1:01 AM

    PERFECT i’ve been bookmarking all the life skills on my google chrome because it’s that good

  • Anding February 7th, 2014 9:27 AM

    i suck at everything basically and this helped me a lot :D