Thursday, October 13, 2011

Life is Friends, by Jeanne Martinet (Miss Mingle)

On the shelves at Abrams books, I discovered a lovely pastel-colored book slouching on one of the shelves outside my desk. During a free lunch, I slipped it out and started reading. "Life is Friends," by Jeanne Martinet (aka Miss Mingle), is a self-help book abashedly disguising itself as a treatise on lifestyle. It's not a horrible book, but its premise -- it's a guide on how to connect with others -- seems a bit pedantic and unnecessary. Would you readily admit that you didn't know how to talk to people? Not many people seem to think so: one week this summer, Nielsen Bookscan recorded less than 10 total sales across bookstores in America. 

I'm a connoisseur of social tips, though, and I skimmed through the pages trying to uncover nuggets. Here's what I excavated.:

When people start a conversation, there are just three types of starters.

1. Ask for help: “How long have you been waiting for the bus?”
2. Commiserate: “Can you believe how long we've been waiting?”
3. Observe: “Thank God we have air conditioning here.”

A good social life should not be static: you should always be meeting new people. PL Edit: I think this means couples should have friends over for dinner more.

People want to hang out with positive people. A corollary: surround yourself with positive people. 

Test the waters with a potential new friend: “I’ve never been biking – I want to do that sometime.” “I can’t wait to see that new movie.” It gives them the chance to make the leap and suggest an outing without the awkwardness. 

During dinner parties, introduce people to each other. "Mandy, did you know that Joanne makes handbags? They are so totally your style"; "This is Gary. He's the one who I was talking about that worked at the steel mill." In general, remember that you're responsible for everything: make toasts, ask guests if they need anything, and if it's silent, joke about it. Change topics when one is about to die out. Offer them drinks, don’t make them feel guilty about having one. 

For texts and emails: "For some reason I was thinking about you today. How are you?"

When you’re at an art gallery, you don’t have to talk about the art.

Unless you’re good friends with someone, avoid patronizing them by pointing out their flaws.

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