I am sure you know that feeling when you first notice something or someone and then run across it all over the place. When suddenly, the papers seem full of the one thing you are now interested and you wonder if they had written about this even if you hadn’t become so curious. Anyway: One of the writers I came across all over the Internet this year was Paul Ford. I particularly liked his piece about the hidden superpower of being really nice to people.

Here’s a polite person’s trick, one that has never failed me. I will share it with you because I like and respect you, and it is clear to me that you’ll know how to apply it wisely: When you are at a party and are thrust into conversation with someone, see how long you can hold off before talking about what they do for a living. And when that painful lull arrives, be the master of it. I have come to revel in that agonizing first pause, because I know that I can push a conversation through. Just ask the other person what they do, and right after they tell you, say: “Wow. That sounds hard.”