As a rule, people in my community don’t initiate friendly conversations with strangers.  I don’t think it’s totally a “fear” thing but it is a cultural issue for the bigger city dwellers.  However, in the building we live in,  we are often standing at an elevator with another resident or entering an elevator with another resident already aboard.    You’d be surprised the amount of conversation that actually occurs.  It’s definitely more than you would have at a bus stop, a check out line, or even at the community centre we all visit called “Starbucks”.

The minimal contact is “good day”.  The next level is usually initiated if one of the folks have either children or a pet.  (Both are ice breakers).  You can usually make a safe comment about both.  The safest level of conversation is “the weather”.  But every once in a while you find yourself drawn into a conversation with someone that goes beyond the banale.

It happened to me this morning.  I had gone out for a bit of exercise (running) and come back to the building obviously depleted and in need of a shower.  Standing at the elevator was a woman with her small dog waiting for the unit to arrive.  It seemed slow and I commented that “it doesn’t usually take this long”.  She nodded then asked me about “my run”.  When I responded about time and distance she complimented me and mentioned that she “did yoga 3 or 4 times a week”.  That led to further conversations about what is important in life (values etc).   I then complimented her by saying she had some very articulate views about things and asked about her line of work.  When she told me, I was surprised because she didn’t give the image of a people-worker.  I honestly thought she was a banker or investment person.  We had a further level of conversation about how people get treated in life. While this was all going on we had entered the elevator and had proceeded upwards.  When she left she introduced herself and shook my hand.  I gave her my name and thanked her for a few minutes of pleasant conversation.

I learned years ago that you can make friendly small talk with almost anyone if you know how and they are willing.  I use the acronym—“FORM”.    Family.  Occupation.  Recreation.  Meaningful Message.  Everyone has a family, usually you can talk about that.  Ordinarily everyone has/had an occupation and you could talk about that.  Most people engage in some kind of recreation.  And you can always leave a meaningful message when you conclude.

Friendly conversations aren’t always easy, especially in a culture that promotes silence and no eye-contact.  But sometimes you come across someone who wouldn’t mind conversing.  It’s good to have a friendly conversation.

When someone enters your life, whether in your neighbourhood, or your church, or your school, can you make friendly conversation with them?  I think more want it than at first let on.