. . .
Well, that was awkward.
Talking with the human species is one of the many basic requirements of being, well, a member of said species. Some conversations can be productive, like directions to the nearest Subway. Some can be irritating, like trying to figure out a good time to meet for a group project.
Some, however, can be just downright weird. Whether the weirdness is on a first Tinder date, from a prolonged Midwestern goodbye, or by overhearing a very public breakup, people and their words can inspire a feeling that only the stereotypical nails-on-a-chalkboard sound can capture.
I've been working in retail for the past seven years, so the average duck would think, "Wow, she must have that whole customer service voice down pat. I bet she can small talk with a horse, she's so good at it."
Well, the average duck would be incredibly wrong.
I'm TERRIBLE at speaking to random people candidly. Sure, my loved ones think I'm endearing and tell a good joke every once and a while. Yeah, I can discuss the snot out of a novel to my English Lit professor. I can debate educational theory like an undergraduate that knows just enough to sound convincing.
Talking to a customer about literally anything? Forget it.
I don't know if it's the fact that I work the night shift and everyone's just a little too tired (especially me) to make a decent conversation or if it's literally just me and my weird self, but I have a particular knack in making even the most mundane conversations seem as pleasant as hearing a loud, drawn-out fart in a quiet exam hall.
So, if this seems like the type of skill you'd like to implement, here are seven tips to do so. I'm speaking from my experience in retail, but since awkwardness is fairly universal, I see no reason you can't rock these in your daily life.
1. Say just a little too muchGiphy
I'll admit, I'm a pretty long-winded individual. I'm not one to hit people with a one-word response. In fact, I generally have a 10-word minimum.
So, when people come up to the shop and ask me, "How's your day going?" I'm not going to hit them with a simple "Fine." No, odds are I'm going to say something like, "It's going alright. I'm a little tired, but I think it's because I stayed up last night writing a paper. At least I got it done, though. It was kind of a close call there at the end, because my computer died right when I was. . ."
The conversation continues, with me accidentally babbling and the customer trying to politely inch away from my endless tirade.
2. Say just a little too littleGiphy
Sometimes I get a customer who actually wants to have a conversation. They'll come up and ask something like, "Are you here alone?" or "Do you work every night?" which are both super good introductions into a perfectly good customer-barista exchange.
Then I ruin it with either a short "Yup" or just nodding, thoroughly killing any future conversation opportunities.
It's not their fault. I'm just a derp.
3. Use super obscure slangGiphy
Which brings me to my next point. Weird words and phrases will come out of my mouth and they're either misinterpreted or missed altogether.
I once said "Alrighty dighty" to a customer, a weird rhyme-thing I say throughout my own life, and the horrified customer thought I called him "daddy."
Trust me, the five embarrassing minutes it took to explain that I'm just weird, not trying to slide into his DM's was awkward for both parties.
4. Comment of their life decisionsGiphy
Look, I'm typically not a judgmental person. I'm in college too, so if someone comes up to the shop and orders a latte with five extra espresso shots, I'm making that drink with extra love and sympathy.
That being written, I'm terrible at making random comments about orders that make people feel weird about their purchases. I don't do it all the time, but when I do, it's pretty bad. I once told someone that a Clif Bar was good for his colon because of the fiber.
Yes. That is indeed a true story.
5. Fail quite spectacularly at reading the roomGiphy
I typically have a high-output happiness level. Combine that with the fact that I'm in retail mode at work, and you have one happy Marisa running around.
Some customers, then, will come up, dragging their feet and looking very dejected at the thought of spending yet another night at the library, and I'll greet them with a highly unwanted "Hi! What can I getcha!?"
6. Sprinkle in some song and danceGiphy
Okay. I close alone. I get bored. When I'm bored, I'll start singing and dancing like I'm in "Barista: The Musical." I've been surprised by many a people who've witnessed me making up my own line dance to some random Italian song.
I don't know what it's like to experience it from the other side of the counter, but I'm sure it's quite awkward.
7. Add in lots of noisesGiphy
Sometimes, especially when I haven't had another customer in a hot minute, I forget how to use the English language. So, when someone comes up and says the inevitable, "Hi, I'd like a Rock Chalk latte," I might respond with the incredibly eloquent, "Rock 'n roll, and what shize ish . . . I mean, what size didcha, did you, medium?"
Then I cap it off with a hysterical laugh and try the sentence again, ignoring my customer's wide eyes and slow nod.
If you've ever suffered from one of the above at my hands, just know that I adore you and that it's not because I mean to. I'm just awkward.