Aug 302010
Authors: Molly Ungerer

For the most part, we were all raised to be polite and have common courtesy toward others. When you bump into someone you know, it’s been imprinted on us to react with something along the lines of: “Oh hey, how have you been? What have you been up to? How’s the family? Are you still working at that place that you’ve been working for the entirety of our friendship? I don’t know why, out of nowhere, you would suddenly have switched jobs, but it’s something to ask in case you were fired for threatening your boss or something spastic like that.”

I would like to think that many of your encounters are with acquaintances that you can stand and actually somewhat fancy the company of. I wish I could promise you an awkward and painful-conversation-free year, but I can’t do any such thing. You will run into people you cringe at the sight of and you will have to be somewhat polite (if you were raised correctly) with the not-so-chatty small talk.

The range of people you cross paths with is wide. These people could be coworkers, friends from high school, an old boss, a present boss, a long-lost childhood friend, some character you met through another friend, that drunken lunatic you met at that party last week who wouldn’t stop asking for your number, someone you had a group project with in some class, some kid who lived on your hall freshmen year, the personality you met down in the laundry room earlier this afternoon, and the list goes on.

I hope you’re listing off some randoms in your head that you’ve recently met. I also hope that you have the pleasure to experience the occurrence that I referred to in the preceding paragraphs, just so we’re all on the same page. These happenings are usually easy to spot from afar. The faces of the participants usually consist of the false-front smile and a slight cringe from trying to think of a closing line to get away from the engagement.

It’s the uneasy feeling of “Eeeehhh … that guy.” 

You both almost try to get by with just a halfway smile and an acknowledging wave but know that you should actually chat for the sake of knowing each other.

Then plastering a phony smile on your face to come up with something like, “Hi, how are you?” when you really couldn’t care any less. But remember, you’re being polite. You’ll also definitely notice that this other party is not so enthusiastic either.

You continue on with the polite, yet not-so-animated bull session. You’ll notice that in this, there will probably be a lot of hesitation in between the two of you madly searching your mind for the next mindless, surface-scraping question to bring up.

We should all just come to some kind of unspoken agreement. If both parties undoubtedly resist approaching the other only to drag out clumsy conversation, it should just be understood that it is fitting to get by on that half-smile and slight wave of acknowledgment and allow the other to carry on his or her way.

Now I don’t want you thinking that this is my roundabout way of letting people know that I hate conversation, cause I don’t.

I’m now also kind of hoping that this doesn’t end up biting me in the ass, and I end up losing a lot of people who I thought I had a mutual friendship with. I just don’t see the point in extracting conversation from others when I don’t want to be there just as much as they don’t.

It’s great of you to be oh-so-pleasant to someone you know and come across, but if it feels like more of an obligation or task there’s no need to carry it out. If you’re both in pain, spare one another. Smile, nod and send the wave.

Molly Ungerer is a sophomore journalism major. Her column appears Tuesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to

 Posted by at 2:57 pm

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