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September 14, 2010 / Darrell

Social Psychology’s Guide to Avoiding or Aborting Conversations with People Running for Union Elections.

Are you sick of hearing “Fresh we can” or “more Change in your pocket”? With the union election happening this week, there are increasing numbers of campaigners out for their respective parties. And they all seem to have several misconceptions.

  1. That I would love to stop and have a chat to them about their promises.
  2. That I would love to take one of their flyers.
  3. That I would love to take another flyer, even though they saw me take one from another person from their party 2 meters to the left of them.
  4. That I care.
  5. That their flyers are a good use of trees.
  6. That I would love to take and read one of their flyers rather than a flyer from the competing party that I just got.
  7. That I spend enough time at uni to want a boost juice.
  8. That I want another flyer.
  9. That I like Grill’d enough to bother to vote.
  10. That I think the subway they put in was the awesomest thing in the whole freakin universe (sidenote: they should learn to bake bread properly).
  11. That I want another flyer.

So for those of you who are well informed and know who you’re going to vote for anyway, or simply don’t care, i have compiled a list of techniques to avoid conversations, or make the other person feel so uncomfortable that they will end the conversation with great haste.

To avoid a conversation all together:

  1. Lower your eyes to the ground while walking quickly. Looking at the ground is also a great way at being adaptive, so you’ll be making Darwin proud too.
  2. Fill your hands up, with anything from library books, to food, to coffee, their competitors flyers.
  3. Pretend you’re campaigning yourself for a party they’ve never heard of. They’ll then perceive you as one of the “outgroup”, hence they automatically hate you. I hear the socialist alternative alternative is running this year.
  4. Walk past them with the angriest scowling face you can possibly muster.

Or, if they fail to pick up on your hints that you don’t want a conversation and they start one anyway, here are some other tips to make them feel awkward and hopefully end the conversation faster than cheetahs hunt down their prey.

  1. Stand less than a foot away from them. If they step back, keep stepping forward. People feel very uncomfortable when you invade their personal space.
  2. Look just over their shoulder or at your feet when they are talking to you. Typically a listener should be looking at the speaker about 90% of the time. When it is less than 90% it is a nonverbal signal that they should stop speaking.
  3. If you make eye contact with them, try and keep it going for longer than 3 seconds. Any longer than that and they will start to feel really really uncomfortable.
  4. If in the rare event they let you get a word in, look at their eyes the entire time you speak to them. It’s quite creepy.
  5. When you speak put your hand over your mouth.
  6. Touch can be awkward. Inappropriate touch isn’t advised, as while you end the conversation quickly (in some cases not) you will probably get hurt. But if you are bold enough, see Figure 15.7 (below) for where strangers find it unpleasant to be touched.

Well I think that is enough tips to make your next encounter with election campaigners briefer, and more awkward than a flight of the conchords episode.

Happy voting (or not voting).

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