Exceptional conversationalists carry a host of useful tools in their social tool belts. One of the most useful is the Meta-observation. Meta-observations are the Swiss Army knives of conversational tools.
A perfect example of a meta-phrase is when an actor speaks to the audience directly – as if they stepped out of the play for moment and removed the illusion of the act. This technique is often employed in comedy and is referred to as “breaking the fourth wall.” The actor typically makes a comment about the audience or play itself, as if they are an outside spectator watching the play with the audience.
I have witnessed many a theatre production that promotes these incidences. Not surprisingly, the phrases that often receive the most laughter, are the meta-phrases. For example:
“We figured this would be a good time to dance!”
“There is no reason for us to be doing this, but we’re almost out of time.”
“I wasn’t supposed to tell you that until Act Two.”
Act like you’re observing the play of life and make statements about the conversational interactions, people and scenarios themselves. There are many types of meta-phrases and they are grouped, primarily, into these categories: Actions, Voice, Words and Internal Thoughts.
Examine the following examples to garner greater understanding of what meta-phrases can do for a conversation.
Comment on a behavior or action.
“Did you just do the come hither gesture?”
“I totally just did the finger point at you.”
“That probably doesn’t look very good does it?”
“I don’t know how I can top that presentation, but…”
“Is this the point where you’re supposed to ask me out?”
“Look at him trying to pretend that didn’t happen.”
Comment on their voice.
“You kind of sounded like an old gypsy woman, just then.”
“Did my voice just crackle? Maybe I’m still going through puberty.”
“Pat almost did a full laugh there. It was kind of like a baby laugh or a half laugh.”
“Did I sound like a teacher just then? Saying, ‘good question,’ like that.”
Comment on their word choices.
“How did you go from Cheez-Its®, to Matt in the same sentence?”
Nice tie by the way. I figured I’d start with a compliment before I asked you a favor.”
“You can make anything sound perverted can’t you?”
“Was that a real laugh or a pity laugh?”
Comment about your own internal thoughts, feelings or intentions.
“I wasn’t going to ask you at first; because I thought you’d think I was crazy!”
“I was hoping you would wear something like that.”
“I’m just being dramatic, hoping people feel sorry for me.”
“Yeah! I was thinking that too. Like ‘what is going on here?’”
“I wasn’t expecting it to be this cold over here. If I knew that, I would have warn my wool coat!”
“I had a feeling you were going to ask me that.”