My son, Magne, is taking a driving course this summer. In his first day of class he became fast friends with Jared, a fellow-student who sat in the desk next to him and asked, “So, have you ever been in jail?” My son looked him in the eye, did a double-take to figure out if he was serious, and responded bewilderedly, “No…”
Somehow Jared lighted on the perfect question. Seriously, I think we should all start conversations this way. Consider what this sixteen-year-old already knows:
First, it is never acceptable to begin a conversation with, “Hello. I don’t know you, but I would like to. Tell me a little bit about yourself, beginning with your name.” No, the direct approach renders the speaker socially despised and vulnerable to swift rejection.
Second, household dependents, like children, don’t have the experience in life to ask the variety of introductory questions that most ask on meeting someone new, such as, “What do you do?” or “Where do you work?” Okay, so adults don’t really vary from the occupation question. And that leaves sixteen-year-olds at a disadvantage.
Third, once the stranger responds with an answer, Jared has an inside track on this friend’s potential. Sixteen-year-olds who have been to jail are generally less likely to retain their driver’s licenses, meaning they are less likely to be the friend to call when you need a ride somewhere. (Let’s face it; a car doesn’t magically appear once you get a license.)
I doubt Magne thought about any of this at the time. He was just happy to find someone in class who was willing to break the ice. Jared’s approach was somewhat mystifying, but the end result was satisfactory for both boys. Magne now knows there’s a good chance Jared can drive him somewhere.