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Forge
A publication from Medium on personal development.

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People are much more than how they earn a paycheck

Photo: Thomas Barwick/Getty Images

One of my favorite icebreakers is to ask a stranger to tell me the worst thing they’ve ever done. Most of the time my conversation partner is taken aback, stumped, or left profoundly uncomfortable as they mine the archives of their life searching for a suitable answer. It’s not so much that I’m dying to know everyone’s worst sins but it’s a shocking enough conversation starter that very quickly morphs into meaningful discussion. Discussion that doesn’t involve what we do for work.

Without fail, nearly every time I meet a new person, the question, “So what do you do for…


🧶 Tip: To be a better listener, visualize a ball being passed back and forth.

In a conversation, listening isn’t the price you have to pay to finally be able to say your thing. As Don Johnson explains on Human Parts, it is “an active process that signals genuine interest in the other person.” If you have a tendency to be absorbed in your portion of the chat (and no judgement—we’re all guilty of this at times), try picturing a ball being passed and forth, a metaphor that Johnson shares. The other person speaks and then tosses the ball to…


💬 Tip: When a friend is upset, try asking: “Do you want to talk about it or be distracted from it?”

If a person you love comes to you with a problem, you might think the only correct response is to drop what you’re doing, grab a chair, and ask them for every single detail so you can analyze every possible solution. But that might not be what your friend needs—or even wants. A better approach is to first see what they’re looking for. Reddit user Dykejoon suggests asking: “Do you want to talk about it or be distracted from…


Level up your daily interactions with strategies from My Dinner With Andre” to ‘Adaptation’

“My Dinner With Andre,” Wallace Shawn, Andre Gregory, 1981. Photo: Everett Collection

Considering how inherent it is to everyday life, conversation is an under discussed art. But being more thoughtful about how we talk to each other can yield powerful connections.

I thought a lot about conversation when writing my memoir, No One You Know, which revolves around my organic interactions with strangers. Sometimes, those interactions were stimulating, sometimes a drag, and occasionally, they were revelatory. When I think about what makes a fruitful conversation, besides drawing on experience, it’s been useful to consult a resource hiding in plain sight: movies. I’ve plumbed some of my favorites for enlightening clips and lessons…


Three conversations that have nothing to do with the pandemic

Photo by Bewakoof.com Official on Unsplash

In a way, the pandemic has made small talk easy, even for those of us who struggle with conversations about pets or the weather. These days there’s always an ice breaker close at hand, whether that’s new travel rules, predictions about the next phase of pandemic life, or where you are in terms of being vaccinated. (“Oh, you’re a Pfizer?)

We need these conversations. They help us manage our anxiety, and stitch together reality from our still fairly isolated realms. But at this point? Pandemic talk is just. So. Boring. And reminds us that we’re still in a pandemic, even…


When I let small talk with strangers spiral into something deeper, it became a book about memorable interactions. Here’s what I learned.

Photo: Getty Images / janiecbros

The best conversations crack us open. They leave us tender and reeling, alive again with possibility, mesmerized by the uncanny nature of things. When you really “get there” with someone, you reach what my friend once referred to as the wilderness. You may not know where you are anymore, but you know it’s a place of mystery and beauty. You know you want to keep going. I felt this most acutely a few years ago when I kept having unexpected interactions with strangers. I wrote a book about those experiences — No One You Know, which is very much a…


🥝 Today’s tip: Try an unexpected kind of fruit.

It’s really hard to come up with anything interesting to say over dinner when you and your kids have been in the same building staring at screens all day, or when the only new thing on the horizon is a vaccine appointment. But rather than just stare at each other blankly over your next meal or social zoom, try this tip from Catherine Newman: Buy a social fruit.

Newman writes in Cup of Jo, “Whenever someone is shopping or ordering groceries online, I say, ‘Oh, and get some social fruit.’ This…


☎️ Today’s tip: Call an important woman in your life.

Women’s History Month is a great time to remember all the women who have helped to make this world a little better — including the women who have made your world a little better. Should we do that every month? Yes, yes we should. But still, there’s nothing wrong with taking it as a nudge to call Mom, Grandma, or some other woman-identifying figure who has meant a lot to you on your journey through life. They’ll be happy, you’ll be happy — it’s a win-win,

And hey, just in…


🔥 Today’s tip: Ask someone about their favorite low-stakes hot take.

Recently there was a flurry of conversation among Medium’s staff about, of all things, Grape Nuts, the world’s most boring cereal. Turns out people feel very strongly about it.

“I eat it dry sometimes,” said one of our colleagues, who shall go unnamed.

“There is no un-dry way to eat it,” replied another.

“It’s so good when it gets cement-y,” someone else shared.

The discussion was revealing — and a much-needed break from the seriousness of daily work life. It turns out trading spicy opinions about something inconsequential is…


In the aftermath of a presidential debate that was legitimately scarring to witness, we return to ‘bunny trailing.’ That is, number five of Melody Stanford Martin’s 10 conversational hazards to avoid during conflict. You could also call it ‘whataboutism.’ Whatever your chosen nomenclature, it describes veering a conversation away from the matter at hand and threatening to derail the whole exchange in the process. And, courtesy of President Donald Trump, it made for a couple of particularly tense moments in Tuesday night’s debate.

If you have the stomach for it, our friends at GEN laid out the play-by-play.

Forge

A publication from Medium on personal development.

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