Welcome to my blog, aka my place to comment and reflect on things I find inspiring, amusing, irritating, or baffling. When I was young, my Stanford PhD, former physics professor, software engineer father used to help me with my math homework, and I, being mentally deficient in all things math, could never quite get it. He would constantly say to me, "Jill, it's not rocket science." (Did I mention the PhD was in Aeronautics and Astronautics??) So I thought it would be an appropriate title for this blog because everything I write about is, indeed, not rocket science.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Why My Mom is Awesome

I couldn't leave my mom out after my last post. My mom is awesome for many reasons, but one particularly awesome quality is that she can talk to anybody. And I mean anybodyI once told her that that she could talk to a goat. Years ago we were in Scotland, waiting at a train station, and my mom had a 15-minute conversation with an older Scottish gentleman who had an incredibly thick Scottish brogue (one of those, "I can't believe we're speaking the same language"-type accents), and afterwards she told me that she couldn't understand a word he was saying. Yet she hung in there for 15 minutes. She makes "friends" all over town - the grocery store, the nail salon, the auto repair shop, restaurants, wherever. If we're out-and-about and she runs into someone she knows, it's a guaranteed 10-minute (minimum) conversation, with me standing beside her, discreetly checking my watch and wondering when she'll be done with this conversation so we can go (my dad feels my pain on this). 

Part of it is her life-long philosophy of being kind and friendly to everyone. But I think it is a gift. She can work a room like no one I've ever seen, floating from one conversation to another, making the person she's talking to feel like she genuinely cares about what they're saying (which she does...most of the time) and that they're the most important person in the room. If we're at a party or social gathering together and I'm struggling with a conversation, my mom will enter and I know that I'm saved. 

I try to learn from the master, and she tells me that the key is to just ask questions, because people generally love to talk about themselves. But I've been in situations where I'm chatting with someone I've just met, and I'm throwing out question after question. I'm even thinking of other questions I can ask while I'm asking the current question. And then there's silence. And awkwardness. Pulling teeth. Somehow my mom is able to work through the awkwardness and keep it flowing. 

She also likes to play a little game - a test of egotism and social grace, I suppose, where she mentally notes if the person with whom she's speaking reciprocates and asks her any questions. More often than not, they don't. I suppose I'm giving away her little secret. But I've been in situations where I'm talking to someone like my mom, who's asking me a ton of questions, and afterwards I think, "Shit. I talked a lot and didn't ask them very many questions." But at least I'm aware of it, and I'm constantly trying to be better. Most people probably don't notice that they just talked about themselves for 20 minutes. Being a great conversationalist is definitely an art. I consider myself a young apprentice, which makes my mom the Jedi master. 

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