How to Be a Witty Conversationalist (So You Can Be Popular at Any Age)?
by RA Murphy
Can you make other people laugh? Does your conversation sparkle with
wit? Do people crowd around you at parties just waiting to hear what
you're going to say? Do you regularly get invited to jet down to
Acapulco for lunch by the beautiful people because they love how you
provide so many opportunities for them to flash their smiles in their
deeply tanned faces?
If not, maybe a little lesson in "quick wittiness" can help.
Making other people laugh when you make conversation is a critical
social skill. The trait ranks high on nearly every list of what's
considered desirable both by the opposite and the same sex (regardless
of which sex you happen to be opposite or same to).
But be careful. This isn't cracking crude jokes. This isn't memorizing
long not-so-funny stories and forcing them on people at inappropriate
times. No. We're talking witty remarks here. Witty remarks are not made
up and planned in advance. They're responses to what's being said in
the heat of the chat.
Fortunately, there's a formula you can follow.
To use wit successfully in conversation, do these three things.
1. Listen for words and phrases that can mean more than one thing.
2. Respond based on your alternative interpretation.
3. Speak up at the right time.
Although it might sound a little difficult, it's not that hard once you
practice a little. Let's start with "1: Listen for words and phrases
that can mean more than one thing."
Suppose your best friend's date says, "I've been taking vitamins for my
health." Most people hearing that will think exactly what the speaker
intended. The speaker was saying they want to stay healthy so they
consume vitamins to support that aim. But is there another way to look
at what was said? Is there anything in the statement that could be taken
(hint, hint) more than one way?
What about that word, "taking?" The speaker obviously uses it to
indicate pill popping. But wait - "taking" can also mean "stealing."
As in, "He's been taking the jewels from his rich aunt's house."
Interpreted this way, the speaker now sounds like they're saying, "I've
been stealing vitamins for my health."
In Step 2, you create a response based on your alternative
interpretation. It's not as much of a challenge as you might think.
Almost anything you say that points out the alternative interpretation
will be considered witty by your table mates. Try these:
"I've been taking vitamins for my health."
a. "Oh, dear. Maybe we could loan you some money so you could buy the
vitamins rather than taking them."
b. Or you say, "Taking vitamins doesn't sound good for your health to
me. If the Police catch you, you could get shot."
c. Or even just a simple, "Golly, I'd never have guessed you were a
Step 3 requires simply that you speak up and that you do so at the right
time. Many a great line has been lost because of poor timing. Be sure
no one else is speaking. Speak loudly and clearly so they'll hear you.
Speak with conviction so they'll think you're serious until the joke
dawns on them. Mumbling and muttering won't cut it.
Got it? Good. Let's practice another.
Suppose you've just met someone you'd like to impress enough so they'll
go out on a date with you. They say something typical like, "Originally
I'm from Vermont. My parents moved to Florida when I was seven."
If you're only listening for the standard meaning, you'll hear what the
speaker intends: that they moved with their parents to Florida at age
seven. But that's not exactly what the speaker said. If you're
listening for alternative meanings, you could just as easily assume that
the parents moved by themselves. The speaker was left on their own.
You might respond like this,
a. "Gosh, seven. How old were you when you finally tracked them down?"
b. Or, "It must have been tough being deserted by your parents at age
c. Or, "That's awful. I hope you had them arrested when you finally
caught up with them."
Regardless of what you say, don't forget to speak up at the right time.
If you follow the three steps, you really can become a witty
conversationalist. No matter what it's called, wit, humor, comedy - it
all uses double meanings. Listen to stand up comics or read joke books.
Much professional humor starts with a setup that makes you assume one
thing and then follows with a punch line that reveals the real meaning.
Henny Youngman's classic, "Take my wife. please." is a perfect example.
You can start your transformation to a wit by just listening for
alternative meanings. Don't worry about responding at first. Just try
to hear different interpretations of what's being said. You can do this
even when you're alone and just eavesdropping on the conversations of
other people. Listening while watching TV programs can be excellent
Once you've gotten good at hearing alternative meanings, start thinking
about what you might say in response. Again, practice in your head
only, without saying anything. Just silently think of lines you might
Finally, when you're ready, practice the third step of speaking up. Give
it a shot. If you're uneasy about it, try it first on those close to
you. If they don't get it, you can always explain what you meant. They
probably won't stop being your friend or relative or spouse. Especially
if you eventually do make them laugh.
To get you going, below are three common statements people make all the
time. You can practice on them.
1. You're at a restaurant. The server arrives and asks, "Would you
like to hear our specials now?" What does the Server mean? How else
might you interpret what they say?
2. You're at a game and the guy sitting next to you says, "We're
getting killed tonight. I've never seen the team play as bad as this.
We should ask for our money back."
3. A telephone solicitor calls and says, "Our representatives are going
to be in your neighborhood tomorrow. What time would you like them to
stop by and give you an estimate?"
Follow the three steps. Practice. You'll be a true conversational wit
in no time. Enjoy Acapulco!
Humorous Writer and Illustrator, RA Murphy writes and publishes
RA Murphy's LaffZine - Always Original - Always More Fun
LaffZine, the Internet's No. 1 Humor Site Exclusively for Folks Over
On the web at: http://www.laffzine.com
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