Have you noticed teens or 20-somethings at restaurants, in a group, but not talking? Instead you may see them looking down at their phones.
I saw an article at the WSJ that talked about boot camps for college students to learn small talk. One professor noticed her students from Caltech weren’t getting interviews or jobs. (Caltech is a school for brilliant kids and very difficult to get into.) Other lecturers from other colleges noticed a similar trend. They decided to get involved and help teach skills that previously were taken for granted.
In the article “We Now Need College Courses to Teach Young Adults How to Make Small Talk” by Tara Weiss, she said:
Professors are teaching elementary chitchat skills to students who are woefully behind in the basics.
Everybody seems to have a theory about why many young adults have trouble with so-called soft skills, which include the art of persuasion and civil conversation. Blame smartphone addiction, Covid cocooning or helicopter parenting. Regardless of cause, a growing number of college professors in various disciplines around the U.S. are trying to keep professional chitchat from becoming a lost language.
Claire Ralph, a Caltech computer-science lecturer, said when she started at the campus in 2016 she was surprised that a fifth of her students had spent five months looking for a job—not even getting interviews. She asked to see copies of their cover letters. One began, “Hey wazzup y’all.” The student explained that “someone said a cover letter should be friendly,” Ralph recalled.
She talked about students’ communication shortcomings with colleagues. Everyone came to the same conclusion: “It was a hole people knew existed,” she said, but “didn’t know how to plug.”
I’m glad these professors are working on basic communication skills with their students. I had to go through chit chat training when I worked for a couple years with my husband at Merrill Lynch. They called it speed dating. We had different scenarios or roles to play. We lined up in two lines and had to go down the line having a few seconds to find out as much as we could about the other person across from us. There were a number of other exercises, and although they were nerve wracking, they were useful.
I remember serving on a scholarship committee for three high schools in the Palm Springs area. Along with four or five other women, we’d go through applications and have in-person interviews with our top prospects. The three high schools had different socio-economic demographics, but one stood out. That’s because somebody in the faculty told the girls how to dress, shake our hands firmly and look us in the eye. They had training that put them ahead of the kids who were left on their own. We were impressed.
What are your thoughts about chit chat class? Do you think the art of small talk is getting lost in today’s society? With just our youth or with everyone and why?
I wrote this when my daughter was 19. It’s my most read post. I am currently going through similar feelings with my daughter being annoyed with me. Maybe it’s the stress we’re all going through.
I understand how she feels. After all, I was once 19 years old. I remember it very clearly.
Everything my mom did, I found unbelievably annoying.
I’ll never forget sitting with her in the car, getting ready to shop at Bellevue Square. She had parked the car. She was fumbling through her purse, making sure she had what she needed. She reapplied her lipstick. Dug through her purse for her wallet to look through credit cards. Searched several times to check where she placed the keys.
Would we never leave the car? Would I be stuck all day? I must have said something to her quite snippy, or flat out mean. A few tears rolled down her cheeks. Which made me more upset with her.
Isn’t it a sad feeling, transitioning from a mom who could do no wrong—from changing diapers, to cooking their favorite spaghetti, to taping treasured colorings on the fridge that were made just for you—to being the person of their abject disdain?
It’s a tough new role. Let me tell you.
But, having gone through these feelings myself, I understand. I’m visiting my mom this week in her assisted living center. I talked about it with her, what I’m going through now, and what I felt like when I was 19. Fortunately, she doesn’t remember me ever being a snarky 19-year-old.
For some reason, I’ve gained more patience throughout my life and that has been a blessing. I’ve also learned forgiveness.
Something else, I’ve learned through the years of parenting: this too shall pass.
It’s called independence and freedom. We want our children to grow and become separate human beings that can stand on their own. Sometimes they need to separate from us. A good time to do that is during their senior year of high school, or their freshman year of college. It’s a good thing. I keep telling myself that.
However, we also want to be treated with respect, and once again—someday—to be cherished.
I wrote more about separating from our kids and the experiences we go through when they leave for college HERE.
What are your thoughts about adult kids being annoyed with you? Is it deserved or is it growing pains?
Do you think when people close to us are going through rough times, it’s easy for them to take it out on those closest to them?
I had to share these lovely blooms in a planter in our backyard.
If you watch news, you probably heard about two employees at Lululemon who were fired for calling 911 when a robbery occurred. They also recorded the thieves in action on their phones.
Jennifer Ferguson and Rachel Rogers told local outlets they reached out to authorities after a group of robbers came to their store in Peachtree Corners, despite company policy that says employees should not intervene in robberies.
“We didn’t really feel very protected or know what else to do,” Rogers told local TV station 11Alive.
“We are not supposed to get in the way,” Ferguson told the outlet. “You kind of clear path for whatever they’re going to do. And then, after it’s over, you scan a QR code. And that’s that. We’ve been told not to put it in any notes, because that might scare other people. We’re not supposed to call the police, not really supposed to talk about it.”
I learned that this was the fourth or fifth robbery at that store by the same men.
Both my son and daughter have worked retail, my daughter at Lululemon in Scottsdale during a Christmas season. My son worked for the now defunct American Apparel while a student at UC Santa Barbara. When he moved to the Bay Area he transferred to the store outside Chinatown.
The manager who approved my son’s transfer was gone when he showed up. Nobody knew that he was supposed to be employed there. A massive robbery occurred one night after the store was closed and they lost $50,000 in denim. The alarm never went off and the manager, who hired my son, was fired.
Then my son was robbed while he worked there. The policy was not to interfere with the criminals for employees’ safety. I heard about this much later because it was one of those “Don’t tell Mom” events.
Yes, I was terrified when I found out about it. I’m thankful my kids have moved on from retail in their careers.
It is said that theft in stores is a victimless crime.
What are your thoughts? Is shoplifting a victimless crime? Do you think employees should be allowed to call the police? What can be done about the current crime wave?
My toddler daughter at Aliso Beach in Laguna, California.
My daughter called and asked me about a letter from her best friend that I never gave her. I had forgotten all about it. But wouldn’t you know, my husband on a separate phone call with her, brought it up.
“Why would your dad say anything about the letter?” I asked instantly upset.
“Mom, I’m 27 years old. I can handle it.”
At the time of the letter, my daughter was 13 years old. My daughter and her best friend had been together since birth. We (my friend and I) helped each other out with our second children by taking turns having them together several times a week. That gave one of us time to clean, shop or sleep! The older siblings were in half-day preschool.
I homeschooled our daughter sixth through eighth grade when our son began high school. Our daughter’s best friend was at a public middle school and we agreed to pick her up once a week while her mom was at work.
The plan was to have a craft or art project each Wednesday. Sometimes my daughter wanted to hang out with her best friend and not have a designated project. I thought everything was peachy when my friend said she had a letter to drop off from her daughter to mine.
She told me to read the letter before I gave it to my daughter. I was shocked. My daughter’s best friend was ending their friendship and said she was promised an art project on Wednesdays. She hoped my daughter would understand if they saw each other that she wouldn’t speak to her. She was never speaking to her again. I can’t remember exactly what else was in the letter, but it was mean and there was no way I’d let my daughter read that letter and be hurt.
I threw the letter away.
Of course my daughter wanted to know why Wednesdays were off and why she wasn’t going to her best friend’s house on Saturday, or having her over to our house.
I explained as best I could that her friend was going through some troubling times and to be patient and things would go back to normal. There were three major upheavals in the girl’s life that she was struggling through that I won’t share. But they were major and beyond what I thought my daughter needed to learn about at the time. I do think this rejection from her best friend without explanation has affected my daughter’s relationships today.
Their friendship was never the same again, although later in life they became civil.
Question. Would you have given the letter to your daughter or thrown it away like I did? Why or why not?
It’s been a few weeks since our vacation to Utah and I’m already feeling the need to get away. There’s something about the heat of the desert, being stuck inside because of 100-plus degree temperatures that gets to people.
I remember in my former life in Palm Springs that controversy always bubbled up mid-July to early August. Especially with our swim team. You take a bunch of over-involved parents who are competitive about their kids — put them on a hot pool deck — and you have a recipe for a few outbursts.
Once the former president of our swim team told me “Take this team and shove it up your A**!”
Then he walked off the pool deck with his kids and started his own team, taking about 30 or 40 swimmers with him. I stood in shock. As a board member, I had been in the middle of a power struggle between our coach and him. He wanted to be the coach and was actively trying to discredit our current coach.
It was an ugly episode in my parenting years. We noticed every summer around the same time things began to boil.
I don’t thrive with conflict. I try to avoid unpleasantness in my life.
Last week, a club meeting rivaled the “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.”
A woman who I consider a friend acted horribly out of anger. I don’t know where the anger came from. But what should have been a nice night of having dinner and friendship turned into a battleground. I feel especially bad for the woman who opened up her home, prepared dinner and dessert for the club.
Now I feel caught in the middle. It’s a bad place to be. I want to get along. I am willing to give people a second chance and the benefit of the doubt. Even when they lose their temper and act badly. We are all human and make mistakes.
I’m going to distance myself from all these clubs for awhile until my emotions settle down. I can’t wait to get out of the heat and out of town, which is in a couple weeks.
How do you handle conflict? Do you forgive people for bad behavior or write them off?
I remember while growing up, my parents would talk politics over the fence with neighbors as easily as they’d talk tomatoes. It was polite, civil and people’s opinions were all over the place.
I’d get into heavy discussions about religion with one of my best friends. We sincerely wanted each other’s opinions.
Those days are over.
In fact, in a Cato Institute survey self-censorship is the norm:
A new Cato national survey finds that self‐censorship is on the rise in the United States. Nearly two-thirds—62%—of Americans say the political climate these days prevents them from saying things they believe because others might find them offensive. The share of Americans who self‐censor has risen several points since 2017 when 58% of Americans agreed with this statement.
These fears cross partisan lines. Majorities of Democrats (52%), independents (59%) and Republicans (77%) all agree they have political opinions they are afraid to selfshare.
The survey found that only very liberal democrats feel free to express their opinions. Middle-of-the-road Democrats self-censor as do Independents and Republicans.
Why do you think this happened? Is it because the political divide is wider than ever before? Or lack of civility? Is it because people are getting their news from separate universes? Do you share religious or political beliefs? Or do you self-censor?
I have been avoiding a difficult conversation for months now. It’s been eating at me. I’ve prayed to find the right words. I received an email yesterday that I needed to answer — and I realized I was being handed the perfect opportunity. I decided on the outset of the day to call right away and get it over with. But first I took my morning walk.
I think by procrastinating, literally for months, I was building the call into something it wasn’t. I was making a bigger deal out of the call than it was. I knew I’d be anxious all day, so I chose to make the call in the morning.
By putting off the inevitable, I was stressing myself out and generating needless anxiety.
Yes, I did it. I feel like a huge weight is off my shoulders. The person I talked with is very reasonable and understanding. That helps.
I remember working as a financial advisor, I hated some calls more than others. I could easily put some calls off on the back burner — until they absolutely had to be made.
I have a sign sitting on my desk that says “Live now. Procrastinate later.” I should look at the sign a little more often.
What do you do when faced with a conversation you don’t want to have? Do you tackle it right away? Or avoid it at all costs? Do you do the same thing with chores or things you don’t want to do like taxes? Or do you face the monster and end the nightmare?