Okaerinasaimase goshujin-sama, ojou-sama! (Welcome home master, milady!)
One of the first things I learned when I became a meido was how to talk to people. I’m not saying that I was ever anti-social. In fact, I’d say I was fairly good at talking to people in most social circumstances (or at least I like to think I was!). But one key thing I learned when I started working at a maid café is:
Conversation is truly an art form.
And some people are naturally blessed with this talent. Others have to practice and work hard at it. It was then that I realized… I fall into the latter group. Being nice and talking to someone that I have NOTHING in common with, but still being obligated to show I care… that’s hard. But being able to hold a good (but short!) conversation with guests is essential to being a meido.
The second key thing I realized when I started working at a maid café is:
Exiting a conversation is an even more intricate art form.
Once I got into a pretty good flow of small chitchat with guests, I noticed that I would often get sucked into the vortex of unwanted, time-consuming conversations. These types of conversations can be exhausting. And distracting. (I still need to work!) As a meido I want you to feel at home and relaxed, but I also need to make at least ten other people feel the same way.
So here are two lists that I comprised (with some help from my fellow meidos!) that can help people in any social situation:
The Art of a Conversation:
- Eye Contact – Anyone in customer relations will tell you about the importance of eye contact. Did you know that people who maintain eye contact are perceived as more reliable, warm, sociable, honest, and confident? When we look someone in the eye we show that they are the center of our attention and that you’re interested in what they have to say.
- Smile – This should be a given, but sadly for some people it just doesn’t come naturally (guilty as charged!). A smile is welcoming and invites a person in.
- Ask Questions – Asking questions shows that you are listening to what the other person has to say and are invested into the conversation. By asking questions you can convey an understanding in what the other person is saying, even if you really don’t get it at all! Even tiny questions like “Is that so?” show that you are at least trying to follow the topic of conversation. However, be warned, do not ask detailed questions if you are not ready for the follow-up answer.
- Compliment – Everybody loves compliments. It makes you feel good about yourself. Little things like “That’s an interesting story” or “Wow, you know so much about that” are great conversation boosters. Just be wary, piling on the compliments too thick will run the risk of everything sounding fake or making the other person uncomfortable!
- Take turns – Conversation is all about give and take. Don’t perform a monologue. Don’t interrupt the other person. Respond to what the other person has to say. A conversation has to be balanced between two people, or else it’s not really a conversation at all.
The Art of Exiting a Conversation:
- Avoid the “Cut and Run” – This is just about the rudest way to exit a conversation, short of saying “I don’t want to talk to you anymore”. A ‘cut and run’ is literally cutting in the middle of a conversation and bluntly saying things like “ok bye” then dashing off before the other person has a chance to respond. For reasons that should be obvious, just don’t do it.
- Don’t make it seem like a rejection – Ending a conversation with lines like “Well, I’m really busy so I have to go” can make it seem like the person you were talking to is not worth your time. Instead, try ending a conversation with compliments like “That was a funny story”, then closing with “Well, I don’t want to keep you, I hope you enjoy the rest of your time here!” This suggests that you are leaving the conversation for the other person’s benefit, not because you’re trying to get away.
- Wait for the lull – This may seem obvious, but it’s often a lot harder than you think. When the other person pauses in a conversation, or uses filler words like “ummm” or “so”, take this as a cue to use a polite exit line (see below for some examples!). But remember, you must be quick about it! The chance will likely pass by quickly and you’ll find yourself stuck again.
- End with appreciation – Closely related to number 2. Make sure to end things on a good note. However, be sure to word things in past tense, to indicate that the conversation is coming to a close. Try lines like, “It was great getting to talk with you” or “This was fun”.
- “Just” and “Anything else” are your friends – If you’re having a hard time trying to find an exit line, turn to the words “just” or “anything else”. They indicate that you are getting ready to leave the conversation, while still showing attention to the other person. Lines like “Well, I just wanted to make sure everything was ok over here” or “Is there anything else I can help you with?” are great ways to indicate that it’s time for you to go, while still making sure the person feels appreciated.
- Buddy Support System – Sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures. This should only be used as a last resort, and only works in a group situation when planned ahead. Have a friend as an “emergency escape”. Create a subtle signal (often eye contact is all that’s needed) to let the person know you are having a hard time exiting your conversation. Your friend can then come over and, with just as much politeness as you, relay a message like “Hi, I’m so sorry to interrupt but so-and-so needs to speak with you”. Caution: This only works if your friend is pleasant and avoids being rude!
- If all else fails, try these basic exit lines:
- “Well, I hope you enjoy the rest of your time here!”
- “So, it’s been great getting to chat with you!”
- “Thanks for telling me about ______. It was interesting, maybe next time you can tell me more.”
- “I had fun talking to you, I’ll be sure to message you on (enter mode of communication).”