The art of conversation with almost-strangers

Generally speaking, storytellers do well at dinner parties. Like, sometimes I hear myself talking to someone I barely know, and I think, “Seriously Jo, you should shut up and tell normal stories.”

But I love telling stories, and I love hearing them. And I have a guilty pleasure in matching the best stories from my archive to the conversation at hand. Conversation should be like streams flowing into the same river. It’s like a game, and I imagine it’s a similar pleasure to that which people get from gaming.

But I realise four things that come up frequently;

1. I have too many stories to tell.

2. I always manage to bring anyone’s story back to something I know about coffins, cemeteries, or human remains.

3. I have pets that are considered weird.

It’s okay. All these things make for fertile storytelling earth, the kind of soil that grows a good tale and brings out the best anecdotes in the people around you as well.

Suddenly your fellow dinner party punters become compatriots in weaving the tale — the story of life and all the little things that make us who we are — human, flawed, beautiful, complex, priceless, unique and full of experiences.

Did you notice I said four things? And gave you three? Here’s number four;

4. Everyone has amazing stories to tell, but most people don’t believe they do.

You have stories to tell. You have lived a fascinating life. You’ve done crazy things, seen crazy things, your family is weird AF, your job brings with it some unusual characters, your music taste is unique, and those things you like doing in your spare time? Knitting? Gaming on your original Sega Mastersystem? Collecting tattoos? Planning tattoos! Sorting your underwear draw into ROYGBIV? Binge watching all the Netflix series you can find with the word “dark” in the title or description? Or even just eating cheese, lots of cheese?

Embrace it, celebrate it, share it. Don’t be ashamed of all the weird and wonderful things that you are.


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