“Whoa, who’s that Asian guy in the corner doing magic tricks? Wait… is he wearing cowboy boots and a bolo tie?”
If it were any other Asian man, it would be no big deal, but he was doing magic tricks!
Within seconds, a quietly attentive audience congregates, and in a few minutes hearty applause. Just who was he?
He isn’t the mythical friend of Santa Claus that appears at parties, far from the contrary.
The man I’m describing above is my Dad.
Stuck at a Party
“Hmm… stuck alone at a party again. What should I say, what should I say…!?!”
I hear you. We’ve all been there.
There’s one problem.
We end up beating ourselves and saying something along these lines: “But I’m boring. I don’t have anything interesting to say. I’ve never even been out of the country! Heck, I’m like the other 1 million other Asians who study accounting or nursing.”
People tell me this all the time, and I completely understand. But often times we’re so busy trying to figure out something witty to say, that we make things more difficult than they should be.
With only a little preparation, you can hack any social event. They’ll be a walk in the park because you’ll be prepared.
What’s the secret?
The best part is that you can learn it too!
Portable conversation starters
Considering the story above, there’s no wonder my Dad was able to light up social events.
He does have a friendly smile, but it wasn’t always what got people interested. More than that, he always had portable conversation starters. That’s right, sometimes you don’t need to look any further than your pocket to win someone’s heart.
Over the years we’ve been to many social events and hosted many of our own, some more lively than others.
Who doesn’t love a game of cards?
Bonding over games of any sort is something humans have been doing forever. No need to reinvent the wheel if this works.
Get a game started with those that know how to play and teach those that don’t.
This is especially fun if you have a lot of international people because they can also teach you card games you’ll never find back home.
Letting someone share a bit of home always livens up people. Because you’re letting them share who they are.
I’m putting this under the card category because who doesn’t like a good trick?
Whenever someone asks, “Hey, you wanna see a card trick?” Saying no is not an option. It’s always fun to see what someone has up their sleeve.
Wondering where to start? Here’s an easy card trick you can learn. Remember, the process of learning magic is tons of fun, and it’s always impressive.
Of course, different magic tricks have many different tools, but for simplicity, cards are an easy portable object.
I’d go on, but not being a magician myself, I’m not qualified.
One year at camp, I met this kid named Joseph.
Imagine a rowdy cabin of 11 year-olds quietly listening, and subsequently rolling on the floor in fits of laughter. What a super power!
I realized that his great sense of humor was complemented by a memorized repertoire of jokes. Coming home afterward, I felt inspired. I remembered a few of the jokes and decided to memorize for myself.
Everyone Loves to Laugh.
No matter how sour a person can be, when you make them laugh, you’ve won their heart. This is a truth I’ve seen for myself.
I highly encourage you to love people by cracking some jokes.
A great site to find jokes worthy of any crowd is Ahajokes.
Something else that is incredibly useful is memorizing the jokes of comedians. Using the name of celebrities makes people perk their ears. Here’s a list of my favorite 11 comedians that I guarantee will make you smile.
Give Yourself The Chance To Be Silly!
Everyone loves a good story. We’re not going to care if you mess up the punchline, people will forgive you. The point is you tried! Before you know it you’ll have a circle of listeners at any party. I’d recommend starting with one-liners and then moving on to tell stories and longer jokes.
Don’t worry if the jokes are corny, often they can be easier to memorize because of that quality. As long as they’re not popsicle stick jokes… Safe jokes that are definitely NOT offensive are Dad jokes, puns, and pick-up lines,
Obviously, you can’t just interrupt a conversation with the opening line of your joke.You have to set the stage and you can try these following phrases:
“Have you heard the one about… “ or “You wanna hear a joke?”
Trust me when I say “A smile is an investment.” People never forget a funny person because you made them laugh.
3. Personal Anecdotes
This definitely goes in line with having jokes on hand. Stories are what get people going and paying attention.
Obviously, no one just wants you to ramble on about the time you went to Mexico and bought a pet monkey, you’ve got to make it somehow relate to them. If they’ve been to Mexico for instance, then by all means.
It’s always good to prepare a few funny stories like the time you pulled a prank on your little brother or when you got sprayed by a skunk. (It’s happened to me.)
But then there’s also embarrassing stories. People love to see who has the craziest story.
Plus, showing that you are able to be vulnerable is always a good thing.
4. Photos on Your Phone
Here’s a new twist on the world and on travel.
The more places I’ve been and things I’ve done, even though I’m not apt to take photos of everything, I’ve come to the realization it’s NOT about me.
Each time I take a photo, each meal I eat, every moment I spend with friends, what I’m doing is gathering stories. For who?
For my future children and grandchildren.
I remember as a kid always begging my Dad to tell me another story, and yet another about things he’s done and the faraway lands he’s visited. They enchanted me and helped me to dream big.
What’s great about now with your cell phones is we can take photos at any instant. Each photo “locks in” a moment for all time. And the plain truth is, we can’t remember every event that happens, but having photos jogs our memory.
A picture is worth a thousand words after all…
We can use these photos of great times and great meals, and always have a story ready for our children when we have them, our nephews and nieces, or for our grandchildren. And in this case, anyone at a party.
On my phone, I have a folder of labeled “My Favorite Photos.” Originally it was to cheer me up if I was having a bad day because looking at past photos would remind me of all the up and downs I’ve had. It gives perspective.
But then I realized it had a second function.
It serves to grow conversation and keep it flowing.
This takes getting to know someone a bit first, but once they mention a subject my mind thinks of ways we can connect. Maybe ask someone if they’ve traveled somewhere and show them pictures while giving them travel tips and ideas. Or if someone’s never had a certain type of cuisine, show them a picture of what it looks like and recommend them a place.
5. Foreign Accents and Imitations
This is an amazing tool because it makes stories come alive.
I usually do imitations when talking about being from New York, or recalling past experiences like my hilarious Filipino physics teacher. People get really impressed when one is able to transform and suddenly become someone else.
Mastering accents is not easy, but is a ton of fun and can help spice up any conversation.
Obviously test the waters. You don’t want to start an argument, and of course, one’s purpose should never be to offend.
A great way to start any conversation is with a question. Let the other party give input, and then bring yourself in.
If a conversation’s quiet you can ask, “So, I was reading about Benjamin Franklin, and he had this one quote that stuck out to me. He said, ‘Life’s tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late.’ What do you think?”
See where the conversation goes from there. Using quotes to spark an intellectual discussion is power and everyone has a little something they can take home with them.
Forget quotes, maybe you saw an awesome TED Talk recently that you think everyone else should go so. Keep sharing ideas worth spreading!
7. Wearing Distinct Clothing
My Dad’s funny. Whenever there’s a group of white Americans coming to our church in NYC, on goes the full cowboy suit. Like I said above, just imagine an Asian man with his cowboy shirt, bolo tie, and boots on. When it comes to the naked cowboy, he was long ahead of the game.
And guess what, it works EVERYTIME. Without fail.
Maybe wearing cowboy shirts aren’t your thing, wear anything that’ll tell someone something about you– something that will prompt a question.
If you like to travel, wear clothes you bought from those countries. I love wearing the Indonesian Batik because it stands out. It reflects my heritage and always gets a conversation started.
Too much for you?
No need to wear ethnic costumes.
Wear a shirt of your favorite band or your favorite sports team. Caps are also good! I remember seeing random people on the bus tell my friend, “DUDE, I LOVE PIERCE THE VEIL.” I know nothing about that genre of music, but it helped connect people. Maybe even a bit more than if they started with small talk.
Each time you connect with someone, it’s because you made them feel at home. And when you do that, you’re loving them out loud.
Call to Arms
Not everyone has had crazy opportunities to travel the world, but that shouldn’t stop you from having awesome stories or conversations.
Everyone is interesting and has something to say.
You don’t need to be an Asian cowboy who does magic tricks. Heck, that’s like 0.0001% of the world’s population. All you need is a few things in your pocket and that desire to connect with others.
Most people keep waiting for life to happen, truth is, you’ve got to happen to life.
Don’t let waiting be your course of action because, in my opinion, that isn’t one. Or as the Germans would say, “Das ist aber kein!”
You are now armed with 7 objects to charm anyone anywhere. Use them well.
Keep loving others and loving the world.
What do you do to charm people? Let me know in the comments section down below.