We sometimes find ourselves in mixed company at the cottage, where while everyone knows the host(s), they don’t know one another. Mastering small talk at the cottage—or anywhere, for that matter—isn’t an easy feat. Unless you’re a comedian and plan on doing a full standup routine the whole weekend, there are lots of other captivating ways to become and be the most interesting cottager in the room, or around the campfire:
Remember the best-selling self-help book, How to Win Friends and Influence People? In it, Dale Carnegie wrote, “To be interesting, be interested.” Part of this is learning how to engage in conversation without monopolizing it. Be curious about others; ask them questions about hobbies, their family, or perhaps what they have planned for the future.
Someone went to the trouble of creating a graph to explain the “Lazy Law.” It portrays the obvious: lazy people are boring. You might ask them how their weekend was, or what’s new in their lives, and the answers will typically be, “not much” or “nothing.” Active people interact with others; they engage themselves in experiences that encourage self development and even self promotion. And if you’re the type of active person that likes to keep your adventures close to the vest because of shyness or worrying about sounding like a showoff, step outside your comfort zone and share what you’ve done. This one time, at band camp…
Have some passion
Passionate people are energetic, enthusiastic, and dynamic about their “causes.” A cause doesn’t have to be a charity foundation, though being philanthropic is highly valuable in society and can also generate conversation and pique other people’s interest. Maybe you have a passion for trains, or collecting things. Maybe you’re a Sir David Frederick Attenborough-level natural historian (with the voice to boot) and can regale everyone with fascinating facts about and habits of local wildlife.
Become a well-read person, watch classic films, and visit museums (small community museums can be just as fascinating as the MOMA). Subscribe to a few podcasts that might pique your interest. Listen to music to “keep your brain young.” Form new opinions, see things from different perspectives, and level up your interest factor through what you have to say. Leave a few of your favourite books on guests’ bedside tables.
If you can play an instrument (especially a guitar for the campfire), bring it or keep it handy, provided it’s portable and can produce notes that your fellow cottagers can appreciate (if they’re into Zamfir, keep calm and flute on).
Say yes (at least once) when someone asks you to partake in something new, unless you have a valid reason for declining. I’m not comfortable tubing after being in a boating accident a few years ago, for instance, but I’m a willing passenger and/or driver on a PWC. As much as you can, be up for trying out something new, whether it’s stand-up paddleboarding, a round of flight tasting at a local brewery, or going berry picking.
Play on, player
Load up your phone with a few musical playlists of great northerly tunes everyone will love: 80s bangers, oldies, or Tragically Hip hits. Find out from your host (or ask your guests) what type of music they like.
Once upon a time
Humans are hardwired to appreciate a good yarn. In the book Story Proof: The Science Behind the Startling Power of Story, research scientist Kendall Haven says: “Evolutionary biologists confirm that 100,000 years of reliance on stories have evolutionarily hardwired a predisposition into human brains to think in story terms. We are programmed to prefer stories and to think in story structures.” Stories actually help our minds to focus and to picture images, facts, and concepts in ways that make them more memorable. By sharing your stories with others, you share your life’s experiences.
Read more: 5 over the campfire dessert recipes