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 worst kind of small talk, though, 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…do you have any hobbies?” 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?
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 use 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 anywhere 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?