I am a 30 year old programmer, and I feel like becoming more and more a "program" myself.

When talking with friends or families, except for a certain group of friends with whom it's always fun and games, I don't ask much and I don't tell much.

So, when I'm being asked things, I just use short answers and if they want to know more, they have to ask more, like in the example here

Person: Did you see the soccer game yesterday?

Me: Um, nope

Person: Why? What were you doing?

Me: Playing games, as usual

Person: What games?

Me: Game 1, game 2 and game 3

Person: Yes, as usual indeed...

So, the main problem here is, I don't know when I began to act like this, but I just don't tell anything unless being precisely asked to, like an SQL query, and that behavior makes me more and more socially awkward, and annoying for my family as well.

When it is questions about my job, it is like in this question, but what is worse, my job is just boring lines of code and I have nothing exciting to tell them.

How can I revert back to a more social behavior?

Note - I am mostly asked questions by my aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews and nieces as my parents already know how annoying it is to try to start a conversation with me, as our talks lead to absolutely nowhere

Edit from comments and answers - My bad, my soccer game example is not a very good one as I enjoy soccer (like I would have prefered if they told me their highlights of the game instead of asking me what I was doing instead), but I just have my video games at a higher priority in my hobbies - plus, I didn't switch on my TV for a long time (over 10 years?)

Edit for more clarification - No one asked for this (hey, I can do it when I'm writing) but as a context, most of them tend to investigate on my private life as I am now the only single person among my cousins (and still am) - In case you wanna know, my everyday life is waking up, preparing for work, going to work, at work, picking up my mother when she finishes work, going home, having dinner (sometimes asked questions during dinner), spending about ten minutes on social medias to know if my pals are preparing some weekend plans, playing games, and go to sleep... And if my friends have some plans, either my parents don't need me at home and I'm able to attend the plan, or I stay at home, hanging out with my parents and playing games

Another note - I live in a developing country, I am part of an association who wants to promote esports in the country, and I am a leader of a certain community who plays a certain game that I enjoy playing at

  • 1
    Are you some kind of shy / introvert person, or just someone who doesn't like small talks?
    – OldPadawan
    Commented Mar 9, 2018 at 14:53
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    Please don’t write answers in comments. It bypasses our quality measures by not having voting (both up and down) available on comments, as well as having other problems detailed on meta. Comments are for clarifying and improving the question; please don’t use them for other purposes.
    – Tinkeringbell
    Commented Mar 9, 2018 at 14:55
  • @OldPadawan I don't think I'm that shy or introvert, I even play with a band and when we perform, I have no stage fright at all and I don't mind being talked to by people from the audience afterwards - and it's not that I don't like small talks, maybe I don't know what to say when the talk is not around things I have something I can talk about
    – prout
    Commented Mar 9, 2018 at 14:56
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    So just to clarify, you are a reasonably social person (that might be a bit overworked) that is scared to become awkward because you don't engage in conversation you have little interest in? I'm not saying this is not something one can address, just establishing who you are. A complete shut-in has to be treated differently from someone a bit bored by their aunt (just an example). What happens if they ask you for example about how your gig went or about your last date or the last, carefully selected book you read? Something you have passion for. The same short answers?
    – Raditz_35
    Commented Mar 9, 2018 at 15:08
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    @Raditz_35 I mean, if you have a load of questions to ask, I can answer them all, even for hours AND if I feel your questions are leaning towards some topic I'm interested in, I can begin to elaborate without being asked to in the first place...when asked about our last gig, I can detail (even if there's nothing really important to say except it was fun), when asked about a book I just finished recently, I prefer recommending it to them, and as for my dates, it is quite private until something that may involve the whole family happens
    – prout
    Commented Mar 9, 2018 at 20:47

7 Answers 7


I personally like a direct answer and a short explanation why. In business that is definitely preferred.

It frustrates my when I get the explanation before the answer. Or worse yet they try and address why you asked the question and don't even answer.

A good answer might have been:

No I did not watch the game. I was playing some of my usual (computer) games.

If you want to engage them:

No I did not watch the game. I was playing some of my usual (computer) games. Who won?

If you are just not a soccer fan:

No I did not watch the game. I am not much of a soccer fan.

It is a polite explanation and you are telling them soccer would not be a good subject to engage me.

  • so, most of the answers here are suggesting me asking something related or not to the topic I'm being asked about, so I'm selecting this one as the answer just because it was chronologically the first answer to suggest me that, but all of your answers are awesome, thank you everyone
    – prout
    Commented Mar 13, 2018 at 12:05
  • @gl_prout thanks for that clarification Commented Mar 13, 2018 at 19:58

One thing missed by other questions: reciprocity. If all your communication is one way (they ask, you answer) that can get pretty annoying and boring quickly.

Imagine that your partner in chat doesn't really care whether you've "seen the game", or not, but rather cares learn something about you and feel connection. If you start telling them history of your life, that will not establish strong meaningful connection.

Next time you find yourself in dialogue, try to answer by asking another question, thus throwing ball on the other side of the court.

Person: Did you see the soccer game yesterday?

Me: Um, nope. Who was playing?

Person: Such and such and such.

You: Cool. Do you folks go somewhere to watch games, maybe a pub? I only play soccer video games but never was to a stadium or even seen one on TV because :-)

Person: LOL. No we just get here in the living room, got some snack and chips. You should join us next week.

Another important point: it seems from your description that you feel bored with your regular life or maybe not excited to share it with others in question (aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews and nieces). That might be solved by one of the following:

  1. Find new friends who you will like to talk to. Do you have any? Do you have a boy-/girlfriend?
  2. Get excited about something. What are you trying to achieve in life? Are you working toward best score in VideoGame1? Are you designing something challenging at work? Remember, that challenge and pursue of a goal is a bit part of being excited

PS: Sorry, i missed that:

When talking with friends or families, except for a certain group of friends with whom it's always fun and games, I don't ask much and I don't tell much.

Well, next time you with them, try to notice what makes the conversation flowing. It is definitely not just the particular topic.

  • 19
    To put a different perspective on why the OP needs to ask questions: people who initiate the small talk might not really be interested in how the OP is doing. They socialize to tell their stories.
    – svavil
    Commented Mar 9, 2018 at 18:57
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    Missing? I included "If you want to engage them:".
    – paparazzo
    Commented Mar 9, 2018 at 20:16
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    @aaaaaa "Well, next time you with them, try to notice what makes the conversation flowing" beer... whenever we meet, we all sit around a table and drink that beer that made us pals, teammates, co-workers, nearly brothers
    – prout
    Commented Mar 9, 2018 at 20:52
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    @gl_prout "beer... whenever we meet, we all sit around a table and drink that beer that made us pals" is terrifying. Commented Mar 10, 2018 at 7:15
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    not so much “answer by asking another question” but “answer and then throw them a question of your own if you want to keep the conversation circulating”. Of course, you can also steer the topic of conversation if their question doesn't quite interest you … Commented Mar 10, 2018 at 18:49

Small talks are some kind of (sometimes) boring but very useful social skills. As you mentioned: when they want to talk about something I don't care at all, I do find these boring - if they're instigating on something I am fond of, I can be unstoppable on the matter tho.

It seems like you're willing to share, but can only get involved when you know or like the subject.

As someone who's been like you (and, somehow, still is...) my advice would be to deflect. For instance (you don't like soccer, and someone starts to talk about it...):

Person: Did you see the soccer game yesterday?

You: No, I was playing game #1. It was scheduled with my team online. But anyway, I would rather have watched [ you name it ] because I love this [ show / movie / sport ]

From there, you try to drag them into your "comfort zone". If they don't like what you're talking about, you may discuss it. Tell them why you like it, listen to them if they argue.

If it looks like a dead-end, both of you will realize it's one. Then, you may want to try and find another field where both of you will find interest. I do that, it works pretty fairly well...


Your description of your time usage in your day-to-day life sounds like my daily life a few years ago. Get up, go to work, coding on a computer, go home, eat supper, play games, go to bed, repeat.

This pattern is not healthy. When the majority of your life is spent on the computer, and even your social interaction is limited to playing games with friends, it becomes difficult to engage in conversation with anyone who is not part of that lifestyle. I still struggle to describe what I do at work to others aside from the same general description I always use, but I have since given up playing so many hours of games so that I can spend more time on other hobbies, or in-person with friends and not on a computer or gaming.

In order to be/become an effective communicator, you ought to be doing activities on a regular basis that help improve those skills by requiring you to interact with others physically, emotionally, and verbally. Find some activities and hobbies you might be interested in doing that don't involve a computer, such as playing a sport (one that is not an e-sport), going to a comedy class, or joining a book study. When it comes to having conversations with people who don't spend their time programming or gaming, having things to talk about that they can relate to is important. A comedy class gives you skill at making others laugh and gives you opportunities to invite friends and family to the events. A book club has plenty of discussion time, and you can talk with others about the books. Find a hobby that you might enjoy and take it up!

  • @mbomb007 I know, working on it, but it looks like I already have a ton of hobbies, I barely have the time for anything else
    – prout
    Commented Mar 10, 2018 at 5:49
  • @gl_prout How much time do you spend on video games? You said "I just have my video games at a higher priority in my hobbies". This may require a change on your part to give up some/most/all of that game time.
    – mbomb007
    Commented Mar 12, 2018 at 15:20
  • @mbomb007 Not really, He'll just have to stop wasting time.
    – user13972
    Commented Mar 12, 2018 at 22:04
  • I'm wasting my time? =(
    – prout
    Commented Mar 13, 2018 at 6:31
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    @gl_prout For people who do initiate, sometimes they decide to wait. If it's always them initiating, then at some point they wonder if others will care enough to reach out first if they don't. A healthy relationship requires effort from both sides.
    – mbomb007
    Commented Mar 14, 2018 at 13:19

The trick to smalltalk for beginners is to find in yourself a genuine interest* in a topic the person you're talking with is interested, and ideally knowledgeable.

Then let them do the talking.

Person: Did you see the soccer game yesterday?

Me: Um, nope. By the way, I hear you've picked up welding as a hobby. To be honest, I have no idea how that really works, but it sounds interesting. Would you mind telling me more about it?

*A genuine interest doesn't mean you have to so interested that you pick it up as a hobby. It means you need to find a topic where you're interested enough to actually listen to the answers and still retain some of the information a couple weeks later.

  • good advice as well, will apply when the time comes
    – prout
    Commented Mar 12, 2018 at 6:41

I can't offer too much to you in this because I am a computer science student and I also struggle to have good conversations. The one main advice that I get from people is to use something I know really well, like computers, and essentially practice talking about it with people who know less about the subject. For example, my computer science teacher recommended that I take a tech support class tasked with fixing others' devices to better develop these communication skills. If you use opportunities to talk to people less knowledgeable in something you know, it forces you to consider how to help them understand and thus breaks you out of purely logical conversational thinking.

  • I see what you mean, can try that too
    – prout
    Commented Mar 12, 2018 at 6:42

"Cut the small talk. Tell me a story. What's new in your life?" Follow up with "how do you feel about X?"

SQL style small talk often arises when the parties aren't very close or in tune to each other. It sucks. But realize that it's usually an honest, albeit boring, attempt to spend time with and better know you. My suggestion is basically derail the conversation. Launch it from small talk into real talk. Like other answers here, I'm suggesting you can shift the query onto the other party. But that need not be the only option. Consider,

"Forget about the game. Forget small talk. Do you want to hear a story?"

Then begin on your own diatribe that sparks your interest.

Small talk is boring but polite. It's... safe. Interesting conversation sometimes needs a bit of boldness to get there. If they don't kick it up a notch, why don't you? The fear is that if you're from disjoint cultures or mindsets, it might be difficult to communicate properly. Throw those fears to the wind, my friend.

  • "SQL style small talk" made me chuckle. In which language should I base my conversations?
    – ecc
    Commented Mar 12, 2018 at 8:59

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