Tag Archives: conversation tactics

Not Cool

11 Jul

I’m sick and tired of hearing myself say “That’s cool,” multiple times, in nearly every conversation. I take issue with myself on this matter for two reasons. First, what you ate for dinner last night does not merit the same response as your strategic plan to solve the global water crisis. And second, it’s inarticulate.

A young Dickens

Let’s face it – American slang is getting raggedy. Actually, it’s been that way for a while. So I can’t recommend replacing “cool” with “that’s keen,”  or “neato.” Reverting to old-fashioned terminology won’t fix the collective inability of us Americans to express ourselves. In fact, it might be inherent to our culture. When English author Charles Dickens visited America in the 19th century, he believed “a love of trade” made men less than chatty, for fear of tipping off a competitor. This overly quiet stereotype continued into the 20th century, with cultural icons such as the strong and silent leading roles in Western films. And today, our increasing absorption with technology has caused us to veer further from talking. How many times have you been to dinner with someone and their phone is out on the table, and being accessed as much as their water glass??

Stephen Miller’s book, “Conversation: A History of a Declining Art”

Well, what if we viewed conversation as an enjoyable activity,a fun yet challenging one, rather than as an aspect of everyday life? This approach would likely make us shy away from moments when “that’s cool” is all we can muster. In an interview with CBS News, author Stephen Miller said, “I think a lot of people look at conversation in what I would call instrumental terms. They want something out of it: They want guidance, they want advice about how to deal with their teenage kids, how to deal with retirement, whatever. It’s not about just the pleasure of conversation itself.”

Good conversation should be breezy, effortless-seeming, delectable even. But how do we get there? Roman philosopher and political figure Cicero, writing in 44 BC advised, among other things: don’t interrupt, speak easily but not too much, speak about subjects of general interest, and don’t talk about yourself. Those are good tenets to hold to, but more important is keeping it interesting. Here are my thoughts on how to do that:

– Pop in a newly learned vocabulary word, just for kicks: Not to be obnoxious, but for your own personal amusement. First, can you use it correctly? Second, how will people respond – eye rolling, pretending like they know what it means, asking you to clarify? If nothing else, it could be an educational experience. The last new word I learned was ‘extemporaneous’ (admittedly 3 months ago), and I’m still working on workin’ it into convos!

Pronounced: “mah-MOOD ah-mah-DIH-nee-zhahd (A subtle one, I thought)

– Be playful: This will allow the conversation to get a little quirky. If, for example, you’re reminiscing with someone about the books you read when you were kids, take it one step further. Perhaps you will find yourselves creating a line of books to educate kids about important political and historical concepts, playing off of classic book titles. (Goodnight Moon becomes Goodnight Platoon to teach the kiddos about pacifism…get it?)

– If tempted to say ‘that’s cool’: Default instead with some Aussie – “Ace!” or Brit – “Gobsmacked!” slang or “I like your idea to effect world peace. But what if Mahmoud Ahmadinejad isn’t responsive to hypnotherapy?”

I’ve sufficiently beat down the use of “that’s cool” in speech. But it’s hot outside! So here’s a little cool for your tummy:



– 1 waffle cone

– 1 peach

– 1/4 cup blueberries

– 1/2 cup cool whip


Skin the peach and slice it into small pieces. Assemble the treat: Layer cool whip, peach slices, and blueberries into the waffle cone. Eat!!


Tweak, Tweak away – alternative fruits? A substitute for cool whip? Let’s get the conversation going.