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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:

He says:
"I've been taking vitamins for my health."
You say:
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 thief."

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. Poor thing.

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 seven."
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 practice too.

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 use.

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.

Practice Exercises

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 Forty

On the web at:

For information e-mail: info@laffzine. com

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