Everything else

Life Skills 301

Advanced-level techniques for being a person.

2. Making Small Talk

Small talk is when someone talks to you in a polite way about something unimportant. Small talk is when a friend’s mom says, “Hi! How are you today?” and you say, “Fine.” It’s when a bus driver opens the door, looks down at the slush on the road, and says, “Cold out there, huh?”

A lot of people hate it and find it annoying, but small talk has its place. It smoothes out social interactions and makes simple exchanges between strangers (e.g., you and the bus driver) more pleasant. It can also serve as a launching pad for actual conversation.

The hard thing about making small talk is when you have to do it with a stranger—like when someone introduces you to another person at a party and then leaves, or when you and your friend go out for breakfast with her friend from out of town, and your friend gets up and goes to the bathroom, leaving you with a stranger you must be friendly to. What do you say now?

Don’t panic! Repeat after me: “So, what did you do today?” Emphasis on the you. Ask this question while forming your face into an I-am-so-fascinated-by-and-interested-in-you expression, and you have yourself the perfect small-talk opener.

It works every time. You’re not asking something boring or trite, like “So…what do you do?” or “Where are you from?” or “Uh…what do you like to do?” No. No one likes answering those questions. But if you ask something too specific, like “Read any good books lately?” a lot of people won’t have an answer for you because they can’t think of the last good thing they read, and they wind up feeling like total idiots even though they totally read great stuff all the time (ugh!). Instead, you are asking them a pointed question that everyone has an answer for—often a really interesting one!

But let’s say their answer is not exactly a thrilling tale of derring-do. Usually, it isn’t. Most people will give you a really banal laundry list: “Well, I went to school, and then I had dinner, and now I’m here, ha ha.” Your job is to seize on the one thing that sounds even vaguely interesting to you, and then drag the details out of them. For instance:

You: Oooh, what’d you have for dinner?
Them: Pizza.
You: What kiiiiiind of pizza?
Them: Ha ha, um, pepperoni.
You: Is that your favorite?
Them: Yeah. But I like sausage, too.
You: So you’re not a vegetarian, I take it?
Them: Nope. But my sister is.
You: Oh, that’s cool. Is your sister older or younger?
Them: She’s older.
You: I have an older sister, too. Did yours used to beat you up?

OMG, LOOK, YOU ARE TALKING!

Small talk is not hard—it is 100% about being (or even just faking being) super interested in another person. Most people are really good at talking about themselves—all you have to do is ask questions. You can do that!

3. Getting Wrinkles Out of Clothes Really Fast

You’re going somewhere and you have to look nice NOW, but the places you usually keep your clothes are on the floor, wadded up in drawers, and in backpacks. Welcome to my life (no need to take off your shoes).

Because we don’t have time for irons or steamers (and even if we did, let’s be real, would we be ironing and steaming?), I have a trick for you. You know that Downy Wrinkle Releaser stuff that’s like eight bucks? You spray it on clothes and they become magically unwrinkled. That stuff is amazing. It’s a miracle. And you can make your own version at home in less than 30 seconds, for almost no money.

1. Combine 2 cups of water with 2 teaspoons of liquid fabric softener in a spray bottle.

2. Shake it hard.

3. Spray a fine mist over your wrinkled-as-hell garment.

4. Gently tug on the hem and sides, then smooth the wrinkles out with your hand.

5. Walk out the door wrinkle-free.

Gosh, you’re always so well-groomed!

4. Getting Your Parents/Guardians to Loosen Their Vice-Grip

OK, you screwed up. Your parents finally, finally just started allowing you to borrow the car on the weekend, and what did you do? You piled all your friends into the backseat, drove to another town, went to a party your parents didn’t know about, and massively underestimated the amount of time it would take to get back, meaning you missed your curfew by miles. One of your friends smoked in the car, and even though the windows were down, your parents can definitely smell it.

You are grounded. You are so grounded you will never again see the light of day, and you are definitely never, ever, ever going to have your mitts wrapped around the steering wheel of your parents’ car. Help.

Well, honey bun, you earned this. I know. I’m sorry, it sucks, but seriously, come on. Look at it from your parents’ point of view. They were hesitant to let you borrow the car (or go to the next town over, stay out late, go to a party, etc.) because they weren’t sure if you were ready for that kind of responsibility, and you basically just waved neon red flags that say NOPE, NOT READY in front of their faces. They were sooo right, and they’re not going to give you another chance to blow it for a loooong time.

Here’s a way to maybe make things a little better:

1. Meekly accept the grounding. You are, after all, in the wrong.

2. Keep meekly accepting the grounding for a surprisingly long time. Shock everyone with how calm you are about it. No whining, no crying, no begging. Just stay quietly grounded and lead a responsible life doing what your parents tell you to do.

3. When it’s been a good long while, and you’ve accepted that you blew it, and you feel confident you will not screw up like that ever again…seize on the right moment to approach your parents and say you’d like to talk to them.

4. Begin by sincerely apologizing for your behavior that night. You know how.

5. Follow the apology by stating what you will do in the future if given a similar opportunity. For instance: “I know I don’t have car privileges right now, and that’s OK, but I want you to know that I understand that what I did was wrong. If you give me another chance, I will not take the car to a place I don’t know without telling you where I’m going, because that isn’t safe. I will be home by curfew, because I know it’s only there to protect me. Also, I will never allow anyone to smoke in the car, period.”

6. Here is the kicker. It’s the most important part. Follow your sincere apology and statement of future intent with this little gem: “I would like the opportunity to show you that I can be responsible and trustworthy sometime in the near future. In order to show you that, I need the freedom to improve myself and to be able to make the right choices.”

And then leave it alone. Don’t beg for the car, don’t make wild promises. Just try this. My friend Lexi taught me the part about “needing freedom to make the right choices” and she is onto something. Parents like it. It’s mature and well-thought-out. If they say no, don’t argue. Concede defeat gracefully, like the super reasonable person you are. You gave it your best shot, and becoming less mature now certainly isn’t going to improve anything.

And when you do get the car back, don’t shoot yourself in the foot like that again, OK?

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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/

  • mint 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