by | 2 Comments | Tags: None | on Jan24 2012


In our initial stages, my girlfriend and I liked to pick apart societalconventions and gawk at them from afar, as I would recommend any new couple who wants to believe they’re unique and perfect for each other to do. One of the first conversations we had was on the topic of the irksome predictability in the talking points of virtually every introduction between two people. You’ve probably observed this yourself. Here’s a simulation:

“Hey, what’s up?”
“Nothing much, just chilling, you?”
“Same here, bored…”

I’m perfectly sure I’d be bored too, even four lines into that exchange. The crux of the problem is the “What’s up” part, because it isn’t there for any other reason than to pose as conversation. Why isn’t it real conversation? Because there’s only one real answer. Now, if you can think of someone with whom you’re prepared to give an answer other than “nothing much”, then the two of you already have a degree of closeness. There is enough fluency of conversation there either to skip the step, or acknowledge its relative weightlessness. I’m not talking about those interactions – I’m talking about the rest.

For the rest, with whom there is little hope after the downward spiral of “same here, bored…” except to call MAYDAY and scramble for the state of the weather or their plans for the nearest holiday, my girlfriend proposed an alternative to the crux. I believe it’s a good alternative because it doesn’t have a sole answer. Mind you, it may even have a hard answer. The question is:

“What have you been thinking about lately?”

Quickly you will observe that to respond with “nothing much” would make one look like a fool. Any other answer leads inexorably to more interesting things. If a thought kept your conversant’s attention long enough that he or she remembers it, then it must be interesting. If it’s not, then the question of why it interested him or her is interesting enough.

Two concessions: a possible response other than an interesting answer is a remark that suggests their surprise at being asked that question. This is not productive and may lead them to avoid you in future settings for fear of being unprepared to be interesting. This may not manifest as fear; more likely, it will manifest as flattery — “Well that’s an interesting way to put it…” — whereupon they may ask you to answer the question first, a demonstration of sorts. The second concession is that the conversant may respond “What do you mean?” out front. You could respond to them with something like a short version of this article, but that again is not a productive conversation unless they end up responding with something interesting; otherwise your short monologue will only be another way to avoid conversation, just slightly better than weather or holiday plans.

You’ve been patient long enough. This article will be the first of hopefully many under the title “Lately”. This is an abbreviation of “What have I been thinking about lately?” In writing these, I am not under the superstition people will find my answer interesting, or are even interested in asking me the question, but, hell, this is fun for me, and you can, unlike in a real conversation, simply “walk away” if what I write doesn’t please you. I won’t take offense –- cross my heart. But just like in a real conversation, you are free to respond with your own thoughts on what I write. The Internet seems to have captured the best of both worlds.

The most redeeming quality about this course of conversation, as I see it, is that it may actually work to bring your conversant more swiftly into the realm of close friendship. If you think about it, the conversations you have naturally with your closest friends are on the topic of what you’ve both been thinking about lately, even if you don’t intend for it.

So, reader, what have you been thinking about lately?

Photo courtesy: victius

About Anand Jayanti :
Anand Jayanti is a senior studying Plan II and premedical science. He is the editor of the Reflections section of Nazar. He enjoys creative work, such as playing and composing music, singing, writing short fiction and poetry, screenplaying, and directing. He maintains a happy, faithful relationship with running. For all of these pursuits he takes inspiration from his friends and family.
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  1. Sumi says:

    Jan 30, 2012


    Hey, I was hoping someone would’ve taken you up on this by now, Anand! Truthfully, I often don’t respond with more than “fine!” when someone asks me how my weekend went, mainly because I don’t think my colleagues would appreciate being subjected to reviews of what I’m reading or my thoughts on existence. But I’m seriously considering implementing a chat protocol for myself where the answer to “hey, what’s up!” is a new fact I’ve learned that day.

    I mean, if you’re going to be exasperatingly unconventional, might as well go all the way.

  2. Amberly says:

    Mar 30, 2016


    Now we know who the selnbise one is here. Great post!

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