Small Talk

Small talk. It should be an actual course in school, say, in Grade 5. Way before high school, at the very least. It’s not hard to make small talk with friends or co-workers you know fairly well, but get stuck in a room with strangers, and it’s tough! For our Friday Frivolous Post, we’re going there.

As Canadians, we seem to learn how to make small talk about the weather from day one. But what happens when you have more time to kill, or want to chat up that fascinating person across the room during a conference? You can’t rely on the other person to do all the talking–you need to learn how to have conversations, especially in this world of social media and cell phones.

But how? Do you memorize a list of general questions you could ask anyone? (What type of work do you do? Have you been on vacation this summer? What do you think of all this construction? Do you like this restaurant/hotel/yoga class?) After a while, you’ll lose someone with those run-of-the-mill questions. To really engage a stranger, you need to keep a conversation going. But it would be nice to also glean a few tidbits of interesting info from them as well.

When I came across this list of 16 Interesting, Better Small Talk Questions, it was something I had to share. Some of these are BRILLIANT, and I plan on using them the next time I’m lost for words.

How about something like:

  • What are you reading/watching/listening to right now?

We ask this question casually at work all the time, just not in this particular way. When people ask us for book recommendations, we often ask them about the last great book they read, or what type of book they usually enjoy. Why can’t this be a “regular” conversation question? You might find your next favourite book or Netflix binge-worthy show.

  • What are you doing this weekend?

Okay. This seems like a no-brainer, and we often go through this conversation with friends or family right before the weekend. But what if we did it with strangers? (I don’t recommend asking someone on the bus, or in line at the bank…seems a little weird.) I could totally see a conversation like this playing out with someone sitting beside you at the doctor’s office, or the cashier at the grocery store. Just an easy question, and it gets the other person talking about things THEY’RE excited about. Plus, you might get a great tip on something fun to do!

  • What’s the best thing that happened to you today?

I feel like this one is for people you know a little bit already. Otherwise, it ends up sounding like one of those inspirational Facebook posts by a self-help author. (List the five best things that happened to you today! Wasn’t that an Oprah thing?)  But with someone you know…an old friend, your kids, etc., and you could totally pull this off.

There are plenty of other great questions to ask, with lots of wiggle room and the obvious…segues into more conversation! Give them a try and let us know what you think? Or….do you have some favourite conversation starters that work well? Leave us a comment!

 

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Change

We all know the saying, a change is as good as a rest. Just doing something different can make us feel revived, alive–different! But usually, we think of change as being something big, something life-altering, and it doesn’t have to be.

The other day at work, I overheard someone say they only buy white sheets. It was like she was speaking in another language. Only white sheets? Other than the practical reasons, WHY??? It feels so limited, so uninspired, so plain. It started me thinking, what if someone gave her a set of sheets with a floral print? Would she return them? Would she only use them on the guest bed? Would she turn them into cleaning rags? (That’s extreme, but I couldn’t think of another use for them offhand.)  But the bigger question was…how would she feel if she had to sleep on them?

Honestly, I think she’d feel amazing. Change is good, and sometimes change inspires us to try something else in other areas. It doesn’t have to be a big change….just something that allows for another idea or feeling to come about.

If you’re feeling in a bit of a rut, but don’t have the courage to make a big life change, try something small and see how it goes. This is a fantastic post with 17 Tiny changes that will make your life more interesting. Try one. Try a bunch. They’re awesome…make a change.

I’ll add something to it. Try an eBook if you only ever read traditional books. Come to a library program you’ve never tried…like our Cookbook Book Club, or a craft night. Read non-fiction if you only ever read fiction. Or drop by your local library if you usually read online only. You might be surprised. It might give you a different perspective. Go ahead….make a change!

What do you consume?

I came across a very interesting post by business guru Paul Jarvis called “Consumption Spirals”. The whole idea behind most of Jarvis’ work is to help people do things better, not bigger, and so the idea of consumption spirals really aligns with his brand.

The idea behind the post is that many of us spend…not because we have the money to do so, and not because we even need something…but because what we have in comparison looks out of place.  That’s right….it looks wrong.  Jarvis uses the story about a French philosopher Diderot who lived a very meager life until one day, a friend gave him a luxurious robe as a gift. But once he put it on, he realized how old the chair he sat on while in the robe looked in comparison. So, he bought a new chair. And then the chair looked better than the table he sat at…and it started a downward spiral of spending to make things look right with each other.

That’s what Jarvis is talking about in the consumption spirals. And we all do it. In the age of the internet and social media, it’s easy to compare ourselves and our surroundings with what we see online. Do we have a Pinterest worthy home? Does our Instagram feed look as put together as someone else’s? Do we have as much as our friends on Facebook? The answer for most of us would probably be no, and that makes us feel unworthy, or less than we think we can be. And it begins the consumption spiral.

Jarvis gives a few ideas about how to stop the spending spiral, and even more importantly, how to stop comparing ourselves to everyone else. It’s worth the read all the way though.Start small. Stop elaborate spending in one place, or change your social media feeds to stop including those who are envy-worthy. It might make you feel better overall.

Go Screen Free!

We’re very connected here at the library–it’s not just about books anymore. But we can certainly understand the need to go screen-free once in a while, and hey, books are the ultimate “device”, right?

I came across this great post by Heroine Training about trying to do more screen-free options once in a while, and the list is awesome. From books and magazines, to slow reading newspapers, maybe the good old days weren’t so bad after all.

Take a few minutes to see how many of these you could incorporate into your life…for a day, a weekend, or even more permanently. And then drop by the library to get a book, a magazine, a puzzle to take home, a museum pass, or even a ski pass! We’d love to have a little chat, too—face to face. (None of those self check outs for us!)

White Space

In our early writer’s group workshops, we talk a lot about “white space”. What exactly is white space? When you step back and look at a page, is it jam-packed with text? Are there any breaks at all on the page, through dialog or short paragraphs? If not, we have to work on fixing that.

White space is necessary for a number of reasons. It’s easier for readers to actually read pages that have white space. If not, they might not continue with a book. White space helps control the flow of a piece of writing, too. Imagine long, wordy paragraphs of description. Sometimes, that’s tough slogging when you’re reading. It also probably means you need more dialog or shorter thoughts when writing. Break it up, mix it up…it all makes for easier reading, and a better flow.

So…let me ask you. Do you have enough white space in your LIFE?

I came across a blog post recently that talked about this very question. White space in real life equates to time you have to think, to do things outside of your work and your obligations. It allows us to stop and see the beauty of things, to create, to imagine, and to be more than our schedule. Brilliant, isn’t it?

If you had to write down every item of your day into a list, and then label everything that was white space, would you have a thick, black day….or would you actually see some space in there? Maybe the act of just looking at it with squinty eyes might allow you to make some changes. Put a little coffee break in here. Schedule in a nap over there. Take a walk with the dog. Do some yoga.

Put some white space in your life. It might make a big difference in how you feel.

Gift Giving Ideas

Have you finished all of your shopping yet? Stuck for ideas? I came across a wonderful and practical blog post that has “11 Minimalist Gift Ideas That Add to Happiness, Not Clutter”.

We’re not talking minimalist gifts like one of these Modern Nativity DIY sets (although c’mon…this is brilliant). No, these minimalist gift ideas are to inspire less waste, less clutter, and less fuss. But they’re all fantastic ideas (like giving a Texture Magazine subscription that can be read on a tablet or computer, or how about a single season’s worth of yoga classes).

Go ahead, click on the article and become inspired. Maybe you even have a few suggestions of your own for our readers? Comment below, and provide links if you have them. Inspire us!

Do You Need Help with your Wardrobe?

For a fun, and frivolous post today, I’m talking clothes. While the transition in Canada from Winter to Spring to Summer can seem like it happens within a day, it makes for really confusing clothing choices. While you might need to start out the day with a warm sweater and a jacket, by lunchtime, you can be sweating it out and wishing for sandals. So how can you weed out those “useless” clothes and invent your own capsule wardrobe that will make sense all season long? The answer, apparently, is shirts, and lots of photos.

I ran across this interesting blog post about building a Winter capsule wardrobe. It starts off with the mind-boggling fact that in 1930, the average woman had 36 pieces of clothing in her closet. How many does the average woman have now? ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY. I’m pretty sure the author of this article has been in my closet. And the worst part? Most of these items rarely get worn.

So what does she suggest? You can read the full article here to see how she pares down a wardrobe, but some of her tips are great:

  • Consider your climate and lifestyle first. If you need clothes for work that are drastically different from casual ware, then you might need more pieces than she suggests. But most of us can get by with several top/blouse/shirt/sweater items, a few pair of pants, and some good shoes.
  • Create style boards on Pinterest or Instagram. Lots of people post their outfits of the day. If you like something you see and think you can pull it off, consider adding it as a staple. Once you have several outfits on your boards, see what they have in common, and purchase one or more good quality items that can be used in all of your looks.
  • Make sure your clothes FIT! Sure, it can be a pain trying on clothes at the store, but once you find those pants that really make you feel good, buy them in two or three neutral colours. And if you can’t find just the right fit, consider having them tailored. It might cost a little extra, but you’ll wear them until they fall apart.

Do you have any other great suggestions for creating a simple wardrobe that you can switch out season after season? Let us know!