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“The Pocket Guide to Making Successful Small Talk”

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Bernardo J. Carducci, director of the Shyness Research Institute at Indiana University Southeast, in New Albany, Indiana, has put everything he knows about the subject into this handy vade mecum.

At first I didn’t believe this was a real book. I was wrong. Here are some “openers” (what they call, on internet dating sites, “conversation starters”):
“Nice tie”
“How goes the battle?”
“What will you do this weekend?”
“Boy, is it hot outside.”

Having broken the ice, it’s time to move in for the kill. Here are some recommended “low-involvement” responses:
“I’m there”
“Yeah, probably”

Finally, three “sure-fire closers”:
“Let’s get coffee.”
“I’ve got a meeting to make.”
“I’ll let you go.”

I recommend, as an accompaniment to this book, renting/buying the movie “Office Space.” I watched it recently with much amusement and occasional laugh-out-loud moments, such as when the chain restaurant waitress (wonderfully played by Jennifer Aniston) is told she needs to “voluntarily” add more “flair” (those idiotic buttons waitrons wear at such establishments) to show her “team spirit.”

Erving Goffman‘s “The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life” remains the best book ever written on how we create a different persona for each role we find ourselves playing in our attempt to create the plausible narrative we term “our life.” First published in 1959, it remains as fresh and original today as it must have seemed then. It’s currently ranked #7 on the Danish non-fiction best-seller list, according to amazon just now. Those Danes… still brooding about Kierkegaard and what he really meant.

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