It is amazing how people talk about the weather. I don’t believe that anyone is ever satisfied. In the winter, it is too cold (which in Mississippi is not very cold but below 50 gets the fire going at our house). In the spring, people are looking for the warm weather but this spring it got too hot too fast and we were experiencing upper 80’s in March and April. The fuss was about it being too hot for this time of the year and who knows what to wear when it is 80 and it’s just March (you know, all that no white or sandals until after Easter and other clothing etiquette). So now, we’ve had a “cold spell” and it’s in the 60’s again and you hear frustration with the chill. I can guarantee you that when it hits 100 in July, it will be way too hot and people will be talking about how they want it to cool off–as long as it isn’t too much.
I have my personal frustrations with it as I travel around the country facilitating the Bud to Boss classes for the Kevin Eikenberry Group. I’ve been trying to decide whether it will snow when I am in Denver next week and if it will be cold a week later in San Francisco. I’ve decided that we, as a people, are too obsessed with the weather.
So why is that? Is it because it is something that everyone has in common and everyone can relate to in some way or another? Is it because of the fact that it is a relatively safe subject and you can discuss it with your friends and co-workers without getting into some kind of discussion about differences of opinion on the subject? I just trained a class of managers who are preparing to conduct interviews and performance reviews that it was one of the subjects that was acceptable for “building rapport” at the beginning of the session because you probably wouldn’t get into trouble over discussing it.
Or, is it because we don’t feel comfortable discussing other subjects? We’ve all been told about the three subjects that we should never talk to others about: politics, religion, and sex. I would agree that with all the controversy about the political situation in an election year, the vast differences of opinion there are about religion, and the ? ……about the other subject, that these should be off the table. There are, however, a lot of other “safe subjects” to discuss without being obsessed (and apparently) dissatisfied with the weather.
Here are some suggestions:
- Talk about the latest book you’ve read. Now, I know for some of you that may take you back a few years. Just think about how much more you could add to your networking conversations if you’ve read the latest business books or what’s on the best seller list. It has been interesting to me to find out how many people I have been able to discuss The Hunger Games with since someone talked me into reading the book (I think I will pass on paying to see the movie though). I’m positive that you can find some book that you’ve enjoyed that will increase your repertoire beyond, “what do you think about this weather?”
- Discuss your favorite sports team. That’s another safe subject. This subject has started conversations with several participants in my classes. Since I grew up with three brothers who are sports fans and have a husband that is an avid sports watcher, I can hold my own on many of the major sports. Sports are much more interesting than the temperature.
- Share your favorite recipe, menu item, or restaurant. People love to talk about food–and most of us can find something interesting and positive to talk about in this area. We are generally interested in new menu items and places to try. That would be a change from always complaining about the weather.
- Ask about where someone is from or grew up. I’ve been amazed at how accurate the concept of six degrees of separation really is. A couple of weeks ago, I had a participant in a class in Philadelphia who had been coached by a coach who shared the philosophy of a basketball coach that coached at a high school that was in the same conference as my high school and whose biography I had on the shelf in my library. For my friends and relatives that read my blog–it was Jack Butcher of Loogootee High School. When I said I was from Indiana, the class participant asked me if I had ever heard of him.
My point is that there are so many things you can talk about besides the weather. No one ever seems to be happy about how the weather is at any given point. I thought it was great when it was so warm in April. I was guilty, though, of saying that I wondered how hot it would be in August if it was this warm now. It’s just like with everything else–if you can’t say something positive about the weather (like how it was an absolutely gorgeous 65 degree day in central Mississippi today) don’t say anything about it at all. Find another conversation piece. Expand your horizons. Think outside the box. Find something that you are completely satisfied with and talk about that–for a change. You will be surprised how much more positive your outlook will be.