Conversation More Painful than a Kick in the Balls

This was several years ago now….

… but I pulled a muscle and had to go to a sports massage place.

To get it, well, massaged better.

You know what?

I should have just put up with it.

Because the conversation with the guy doing the massaging was a million times more painful than my pulled muscle could ever have been.

A kick in the balls would have hurt less.

I walked into the place, and was greeted by a man who looked like a PE teacher. You know the type, right? Never done anything other than sports in his life. I think he said he was an ex-American football player or something like that.

Imagine this…

You’re lying on a bed topless with someone who looks like a PE teacher rubbing his hands all over you.

Now, in this kind of situation, I don’t want to talk.

Just shut up and keep rubbing, right? But no. This guy obviously feels like he’s got to chat with clients. And he’s trying really hard… which would be fine, only he’s not very good at it.

The first thing he asks me:

“What football team do you support?”

I don’t.

I’ve got about as much interest in kicking a piece of leather around as I have in sticking needles under my fingernails.

“What sports do you do?”

I don’t.

At that time I didn’t even run.

“Favourite musician?”

I don’t really have one. I listen to a lot of different stuff, from Techno to rock… but to choose one?

I said Peter Murphy in the end. Which was stupid, because of course, he had no idea who Peter Murphy was.

I tried, honestly I did. I even tried to comment on the only football match I’ve ever watched (in the pub, because my local was closed and I wanted a pint).

It was an awkward, painful conversation.

Here’s the important thing: it didn’t have to be.

A good conversationalist can have an interesting chat with almost anybody… even someone as awkward as me. But there’s a way to do it. For example. when it comes to making small talk, asking questions is a good idea. But there are good questions… and then there are bad questions to ask.

The questions he asked were very much the wrong type.

Why do you think this is?

Read the questions he asked me again, and try and work it out.

In Small Talk Superhero, I’m going to talk in detail about small talk and casual conversation, as a second language speaker. Yes, including what kind of questions and good to ask, and what kind of things you should avoid. If you find chatting with new people in English easy and natural, you probably don’t need to come. Though it’s worth it anyway just because you get to meet me (and who wouldn’t want that). But if like me you find talking to new people painful as hell, coming would be a very, very good idea.

It’s January 27th (that’s this month) from 6 pm, Tokyo.

Details and sign up here

The price of tickets goes up tomorrow at 11:59 pm JST.

Click here to join us.


Julian Northbrook
The Language Punk

P.S. I never went back to my second appointment. I went somewhere else, instead. It was just too painful.

Are you losing business for the same reason?

Worth thinking about.

Join us at Small Talk Superhero

Meet the Author

Julian Northbrook

Julian Northbrook is an unconventional punk of the business English learning world. A leading expert in English education and direct response marketing, he’s fully equipped to drag you kicking and screaming from English-mediocracy to speaking at an outstanding level. After being turned down for his dream job in the art industry, Julian suffered three long years as a crap Japanese speaker. He understands exactly what it’s like to feel like a total idiot every time you speak. But Julian overcame his language problems, mastered the language, and went on to work first as a freelance translator, then as an executive member of a Japanese company. But he soon grew sick of the corporate world and left it to pursue something infinitely more satisfying — running his own business helping small business owners and entrepreneurs get so good at English that they forget that it’s not their first language. He writes the infamous Doing English Daily Newsletter which you can (and should) subscribe to.