Conversation techniques – Part II

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                             Conversation techniques – Part II

        Situation 4  – How to go about it when you encounter the opposite sex who is a  
                               total stranger?  See, how Balan manages it.

       The venue is Professor Sudarsan’s house.  Two of his old students have decided to call on the professor one evening. Balan has entered first and is sitting comfortably on a chair while the professor is in his Study room.  And IN walks an young lady about the same age as Balan.

Balan :  ……….
Lady  : ……….

             Total silence in the Sitting room.  After some 3 minutes of status quo Balan decides to break the ice.

Balan:  Come to meet the professor?
Lady:   (Very softly) Y  –   e    –  s.
Balan:  Chennai has become very hot, hasn’t it?
Lady :  …..h’m  ….
Balan:  Are you Professor Sudarsan’s student or something?
Lady :  Yes.  Ex-student.
Balan:  Oh, what a coincidence?  I am an ex-student of his too.
           When were you in Presidency college?
Lady:  Years back, you know?
Balan:  English literature?
Lady:   Of course.  How did you guess?
Balan:  Well, it’s your accent.  See what I mean?
Lady:  Don’t tell me my accent is all that great?
Balan:  It is indeed. Many Tamilian students just can’t get rid of the Tamil slant in their
Lady:  I am sure, you are a Tamilian too.  Correct or not?
Balan  Well, it’s  a  secret….

         At this stage the Professor enters in.
 Prof: (Facing the lady) Hello, Mohana?  When did you come?
Moha: Some 5 minutes back, Sir.
Prof:  By the way, have you introduced yourself to each other?
Moha: Am afraid, No.
Prof:  Well, Mohana, meet Balan, Balan Menon, Asst Manager in Harry & Co.
          (Turning to Balan)  Balan, she is Mohana Rajan.  My ex student.  She is
            an MA Lit.
Balan: How do you do, Miss. Rajan?.
Moha:  How do you do, Mr. Menon. Never guessed that you were a working person.

1.Here is another situation where the Gent has to be the first to speak.  Balan just couldn’t ignore the presence of a lady inside someone else’s sitting room.  So, he throws a very innocuous question which just cannot be misinterpreted at all. If she was the Professor’s daughter, the lady would have just gone in. Whereas, she too took her seat in the room. So, Balan thinks that she is also a visitor like himself. 

2. See the way Balan has phrased his first question. “Come to meet the Professor?” This is the short form of  “Have you come to meet the Professor?” Framed in other ways like, “What have you come here for?”  “What’s the purpose of your visit?” etc would indeed sound rude.  Nor does he greet her.  It would  have looked awkward too  to say, ‘good evening’ after such a gap of time.  So, Balan skips it. He could have wished her immediately on her entry. In which case, the conversation would have taken a different angle altogether.

3.The lady doesn’t respond positively at all.  Balan doesn’t leave the matter there.  He is determined to make her talk. His next question is not only appropriate but also totally unoffensive. “Are you the Professor’s ex-student or something?”  What’s this ‘something?’  This is another end phrase, that’s all.  At this juncture, the lady gets interested and replies him with a positive note.  Another trick Balan has followed is, “giving a compliment”. All of us like to be complimented over something or the other, such as, your dress, the family members, the school/college where we studied , our work place etc. Here again, don’t overdo it.  Your compliment must be suitable to the occasion and completely acceptable to the other.

4. Have you also noticed that Balan doesn’t introduce himself to the lady?  He waits for the Professor to do it.  It would have been different had the visitor been a gentleman like himself.

5. When introduced, Balan addresses the other formally by her surname – Miss. Rajan.
Mohana also addressed him as Mr. Menon.  Don’t ever use the first name on first introduction;  use only the formal names.

6. “By the way” is another good opening phrase which means, “Incidentally.” Some people would say ,“By the by”.  Wrong. This is  a wrong phrase.

    Situation 5 – James comes in contact  with an elderly gentleman at the
                                  entrance  to a cinema theatre. 

James:  (The  sweep of the pedestal fan in the hall is  very strong  and suddenly he     finds  his cinema ticket has flown off  and is resting on a gentleman’s shoes a couple of meters away)  Excuse me.  Excuse me
Elderly Man:  (The other person turns around to see who is calling him.  He is an elderly gentleman, well dressed;  appears to be over 50 years of age). Yes, may I be of any help, young man?
James: Yes, Sir.  My cinema ticket is stuck on your shoes?  May I trouble you a little, Sir?
Elderly : Oh I see?  (He bends down, picks it up and shows it toward James)
James : (steps forwards and  collects the ticket from the elderly man) Thank you, Sir.  Thank you     very much.
Elderly: You are welcome, sonny.  What you doing?
James: Just finished my Plus 2, Sir.
Elderly:  What are your plans ahead?  Engineer or Doctor?
James:  Oh No, Sir.  Neither. Intend going for a degree in Commerce.
Elderly: Good. Any qualification is good enough, you know? Study hard, work hard and you will   flourish in life.
James: Thank you, Sir.  The gate has opened.  Shall we get in, Sir?


1.“Excuse me” is one method of attracting the attention of another person if that person is not looking in your direction.  Never hail anyone, “Hullo?”  or “Hey?”  This is not only rude but completely uncouth as  well.

2. The elderly gentleman is one who is tops in good manners. “May I be of any
 help?” is much more honourable than saying, “What can I do for you?’

3.See, James also doesn’t say, “Please, pick up that ticket from your shoes..?” He
  says, “May I trouble you …” and leaves the sentence half way without adding the       words ?  “…… could you please pick up my ticket?”

4  When someone has done a favour for you, you must thank the other;  thank heartily;.  always use the phrase “Thank you or Thank you, Sir” and never “Thanks”.

5.The correct way of acknowledging a “Thank you” is, “You are welcome” and no         other alternative.

6.After acknowledging with  “You are welcome” the elderly gentleman adds the title  “sonny”.  This shows that the elder is very impressed with James’ s good manners and addresses him affectionately. James must take this as a compliment and talk to him respectfully.

7. When you meet an elderly person, address the other as “Sir” or “Madam”

8.  See how many shortcuts each has made in the conversation: “What you doing?”  
for “What are you doing?”

9.   “What are your plans ahead?”   “Engineer or Doctor” is for, “Are you going for
    engineering or medicine?”

Situation 6 – A  Telephone call between an youngster and  an elderly person
                   (You are James and you wish to speak with your college friend Monty) 

Tring … tring …

Other:Hello.  (The voice is deep and resonant and you know that some elder is on the line and   not Monty.  The voice is possibly that of Monty’s Uncle/father)
You : (After a small gulp).  Good morning, Sir. May I … May …I..
Other:Yes, what is it sonny?
You : Sorry, Sir.  May I speak to Monty?
Other:Who are you young man?
You :  I am James, Sir,  Monty’s classmate.
Other: Oh.  Good morning, James.  Wait, I shall call him over.
Other: (After a gap of a minute or so)  Here is James for you  Monty. (And the elderly person  hands over the handset to Monty)
Monty: Hi. Jamesy boy.  Howdy?
James: Hey Monty.  I got a shock a little earlier, yaar.
Monty: Why?
James :Was it your father or someone else?
Monty: My Uncle,  He has come here from London for a few days. Why?
James:  Oh nothing.  I got a little shaken up when I heard an elderly voice on the receiver. 
            That’s all.
Monty: You weren’t rude to him, were you Jamesy  boy?
James: Certainly not.  I observed all the courtesies we had learnt in our English class. 
            Did  he   say anything to you?
Monty: I think he was quite impressed with your  telephone manners, because he gave me
            a big    smile when he handed over the telephone to me.
James.: Thank you.  Now, about our going to a movie ……..


1.When you hear an elderly person’s voice on the line, be very cautious.  It’s always good  to address the elderly  person ‘Sir’ or ‘Madam’.  They will be impressed and would be most polite to you. Don’t ask him/her, “Who are you?  What are you doing in my friend’s house?  Are you Monty’s father or something?”  Youngsters should not exceed their limit.  Be courteous as James had done in this example.
2.”Howdy’ is a short form  of  “how do you do?”  This is a typical language of  college students. Similarly the word ‘yaar’.  This is an Hindi word, actually.  But it has become common all over India.
3.An elder can use the inquiry, “Who are you …?”  And here the elder also adds” …young man”.  It shows his affection  for the caller.  You may also say something like, “Who are you young sir?”  And the little fellow at the end would feel thrilled and perhaps address you “sir”immediately.  


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