The Value of Bantering

Banter among friends

First guest contribution published on Self Stairway by Bob Reynolds. We hope you enjoy his writing and take value from his experiences.

What is Bantering?

Whether you are the richest person on earth or homeless in Seattle, every human being seeks (and deserves) intimacy. However, remember that intimacy is not always sexual.

Bantering with strangers can be a form of intimacy. When you stop at a convenience store along the Interstate to get a coke, the five-second conversation with the cashier can be intimate. I usually see bantering used among adults and the elderly, but about 3 months ago I met a guy at a QuikTrip who had mastered the art of bantering. He was about 22, Hispanic and confident.

As I was paying for my drink, he mentioned that he liked my watch. It was a simple statement, but it led to about 15 seconds of kind words to each other. There is a history to my watch and it interested him.

Usually, “bantering” is a method to joke with a stranger to bring happiness to their day and it is far removed from flirting. It is an admission between two people and it is like saying, “This is a great life and a great planet. I am happy to chat with you.”

You have zero hidden agendas in this conversation. That is the secret of a successful banter.

Benefits of Bantering

Yes, it can develop into more, but the initial chat is safe and friendly. That is the beauty of bantering. It is a tension reliever in a situation where you only have 30 seconds together and there is always potential for friendship.

For example, every week I go to a concert hall where I have season tickets for the Friday evening entertainment. The event is called the Cruise Ship Show and they have entertainers who often work on cruise ships as comedians, singers, magicians, and so forth.

The ushers all dress up in their cruise ship attire with the vest and tie and little cap with an anchor on the bill of the hat. I have a seat in the very back row on the aisle. The job of the usher is to check your ticket and help you find your seat. So each week, when I get into the performance hall, I stand at the back of the hall and I hand my ticket to the usher and ask if she can help me find my seat. She looks at the ticket, thinks for a few seconds, and then her concentration turns into a smile. That brings a smile and a laugh to both of us and we have a 15 second conversation before she goes to help the next customer.

Ninety nine percent of the time it stops right at that point. But the potential for more conversation is always there, especially if there is a chance of repeat encounters.

Bantering Leading to Long-Term Friendship

For example, there is a Mexican restaurant in the city where I used to live. At that time I had discarded my TV and the only time I watched TV was when I went to a restaurant or sports bar with several TVs. The Mexican restaurant was perfect and I ate there 3 times a month. Usually I just sat by myself and watched the sports event on the screen.

There was a series of letters above the bar that made no sense. “I I T Y W I M W Y B M A S.” My curiosity got the best of me and I asked the bartender what it meant. He replied “If I tell you what it means, will you buy me a shot?” I told him I didn’t want to buy him a shot, I just wanted to know what it means.

And then he smiled and slowly repeated his previous sentence. We laughed because he had fooled me. We chatted for a while and I learned he was new to Oklahoma and had some medical issue that required late night trips to the hospital.

I worked for myself, out of my home and I had no concrete work schedule. So I ended up giving him a ride to the hospital at midnight or 2 in the morning, whenever he would call and tell me that he was in a bad medical situation and needed a ride.

We are still close friends 12 years later.

But either way, whether the banter turned into anything more than a smile or not, that smile (those 99.9% of the bantering conversations that ONLY result in a smile) is very important for emotional and social health of every person on earth. Every person needs a smile or a hug or a kiss or a back massage.

No exceptions. And by being confident and comfortable (and non-threatening) enough to take the first step to the banter dance, you are helping two people.

Try it. Learn to banter. Combine bantering with the recognition of their name on their nametag (if they have one.) People LOVE hearing their names because it is the sweetest sound to them. It will reap great rewards and put you in a much better frame of mind. From my many experiences, you may often get a free beer or a free Dr. Pepper from the situation.

Or you may even find a friend and/or a lover.

Question: How has spontaneous banter led to a relationship you can still count on today?

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Bob Reynolds

Bob Reynolds is the owner of Click and Learn, a wonderful free geography software, and lover of life. Bob plans to travel all across the 50 states in the near future and form many meaningful friendships along the way.

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39 responses to The Value of Bantering

  1. Great topic. I’ve had a relationship with a new friend for about six months now. We live 100 miles away from one another. Online and phone calls that include bantering have helped to keep us in touch and moving ever so slowly forward as friends.

    • That’s great how you are able to keep in touch and maintain that comfort even with that distance between you. Did you two meet through bantering with one another?

    • Dan, I’m glad that you like the topic. It sounds like you and your friend are developing a friendship that will last. I am not sure if I could banter in online conversations because I think of bantering as being a quick give and take. With my slow typing fingers, my online conversations are pretty slow. You must be more agile!

  2. Thanks for writing this, Bob! Glad to have you as my first contributor.

    A GREAT t.v. show that includes a lot of clever bantering is “Suits” on USA. It’s a great lawyer show that has its moments of seriousness and suspense while still maintaining its humor (especially through the characters’ back and forth.)

  3. I never thought of it before, but I guess I’m a GREAT ‘banterer’! I’ve once offered 2 elderly women a ride to their aging sister’s home on an airplane because I found out their sister lived just blocks away from my home! I think a smile is often an invitation to banter 😀 Great post!

    • That’s a great favor you did for them! I’m sure you made their entire week! Thanks again, Bob for the wonderful contribution.

    • Your experience helping the two ladies may have begun with bantering, but it also included a great deal of trust (which Vincent discusses in another article). Your story describes a nice experience that you (and they) will remember for years. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Ahhh this post just made me smile. It’s one of the amazing things about humans, the ability to converse in such a light manner. I absolutely love it.

    And that acronym got me so bad, wow!

    • I think the best part is just observing the potential for more. It’s like watching a movie, you hope for the guy to somehow magically win over the girl, living happily ever after. Watching others banter is just as amazing because then you get to root for them. Root that they will develop a bond over a simple compliment.

    • Thanks Sam. I always walk away from a bantering experience with a smile because it is a friendly and safe conversation. And it doesn’t matter who instigates the banter because both parties know that there is no pressure for more interaction. We banter… we smile.., and we move on, knowing that we just connected with another human being.

  5. Well that hit close to home. I love the idea of the friendly banter, and whenever I see it among others, I can do nothing but smile. It’s great to see such wonderful human interaction (maybe I should have chosen sociology), I don’t know what it is – it’s just a real heart-warmer!

    I do practice this myself, but when you get people my age going beyond the limits (where it seriously p**ses someone off) and excuse it with banter, that really gets me. But oh well, some people just do that, smile and move on. Have an epic day! 🙂

    • Whoops, I was reading your and Sam’s comment at the same time, which is why I made that comment about watching banter is like watching a movie. My bad, Nick!

      As for your second point, everyone is going to make an excuse to justify their actions. It’s a defense mechanism and it can be upsetting to others because you know exactly what they’re doing, but you have to remember it’s just natural for some people to be like that. Now unless they are conscious of what they’re doing and just making excuses to irritate others then yeah, nothing you can do but smile and move on! You have a great day too, Nick!

    • You bring up a good point, Nick. Those of us who banter can appreciate when we see others bantering. It makes me smile when I overhear others bantering because I recognize that both parties are simply sharing the joy of being alive. It is heartwarming.

  6. Bantering has made me some great friends in my program at college that I would not have otherwise made. Basically, I think it just makes people feel good all around. I especially try to make more of an effort to engage in conversation if someone is providing a service, such as a waitress, cashier, etc. It can really make someone’s day a little brighter.

    • Yup! I’m glad you brought up the part about conversing with people who offer services. Can you imagine how often they work for at least an hour serving one or more people only to not get a single smile, greeting, or anything? I’m exactly like you, I try to engage in conversation and have a cheery attitude because I know that it makes their lives a lot easier.

    • I find it easier to banter with those providing a service because they usually have a nametag and I know that I will end the conversation by saying “Thanks [their first name]” as I am leaving their store. Also, in a college setting, you are likely to run into the same people often. So light bantering can evolve into deeper conversations as you find that you have more things in common.

  7. I have a friendship that started out with bantering. OK there was some alcohol involved but we were just swapping banter. I’ve known the guy now for 23 years, we’ve visited one another’s homes, worked together on contracts, and shared troubles and joys like brothers. When you banter, you get to be yourself, and I guess that’s what we like about one another.

  8. This is a great post, Bob. So glad to see you here on Self Stairway!

    Banter is truly one of my favorite things in the world. My husband and I frequent a coffee shop where I am able to engage in daily banter. Since we are there writing for a couple hours each morning, I am able to strike up little conversations – usually at the coffee urns. Since my husband and I work a good portion of our day from our home, I enjoy the light conversation and connection I feel with others.

    I love how banter evolved into a long-lasting friendship for you!

    • Like you, I also work mostly from home. But I make a point to get out into a wireless situation every day. There are just a few places I visit regularly so I know the names of the staff at each location. I don’t always banter with them, but I always thank them when I leave. They know that I am just looking for a quiet place to work.

  9. Great article! The line, “This is a great life and a great planet. I am happy to chat with you.” particularly stuck out to me. Related to the law of attraction, if you are putting out positive interactions into the universe with no ulterior motives, positive results will come out of it. Although not a lot will often come out of bantering, when something does, it is usually positive. Sure beats the alternative of doing nothing, plus it is fun! Thanks for the article Bob!

    • You are correct. It is really fun and I come away with a smile. Actually, smiles appear throughout the bantering because both parties know that we are enjoying the opportunity to interact… even for just a half-minute or so.

  10. A terrific article, Bob. We are huge fans of banter, repartee, palaver and prattling on.

    In fact, banter is a staple of our marriage of 15+ years. It is far more than safe or initial, however. It is a habit. It is part of the intimacy itself. Playful banter, rather than receding into the background giving way to serious conversation, ought to be kept alive and nurtured as a priority. It keeps the fun and levity in our marriage. There is a time and a place for serous conversation, but it should not be very often.

    • Having been single all of my life, I hadn’t looked at bantering as a form of communication between husband and wife. For me, my usual bantering with strangers is a way to feel close to someone without getting too close. It is a way for me to share a smile at arms length.

  11. If George Costanza had a self-improvement blog, it would look a lot like this one. “Ya know what’s good? Bantuh. Next week: airing of grievances.”

    • Bob may have missed this comment, but I personally don’t watch much Seinfeld. Sorry to disappoint!

    • Actually, I did see this comment but, because I ditched my TV for 23 years (and missed the entire Friends/Seinfeld/HalfMen and other TV series’), I didn’t know who George Costanza was (until Vincent gave me a clue below). But thanks, Ernie… and Vincent for the interaction. Now Ernie’s comment makes sense!

    • I’m a Seinfeld fan from way-back – so I had to LOL at your comment about George.

      I love this article, as I have been engaging in banter for years, and love it. Every day I find at least one person to banter with – and if it’s someone I see fairly often, it becomes an ongoing banter-fest. If I’m feeling a little depressed over something – a good session, however short, lifts my spirit – regardless of who starts the conversation.

  12. To answer your question: I have started pretty much all of my lasting relationships by bantering.

    I guess the initial topic of conversation doesn’t really matter as long as you apply the positive attitude very well described in your article.

    I’m happy you guys at Self Stairway take the time to speak about those daily habits that can change the world 🙂

    • Hey Gael, the fact that you have so many relationships that began with bantering shows the power of bantering. And you are correct… the topic doesn’t matter… what matters is the friendly, confident attitude of the two people involved.

      And the thing that attracted me to Vincent’s website was, first, his topics, and second, his friendly writing style. It was an honor to be allowed to contribute.

  13. What a lovely, surprising post – I just love bantering, I reckon it makes the world go round – it oils the wheels of working relationships, loosens people up, makes us smile – what a boring old place the world would be without it. I often have a bit of banter with friends on social media – it’s a great way to get to know people.

    Thanks very much for this life-enhancing article!


    • Thanks, Sue. The comments in reply to my article on bantering has caused me to do a little introspection about where and when I banter. And I find that I do it without thinking. Today, for example, at an outdoor sports tournament, I went up to the vendors and asked for a Dr. Pepper. They only had Coke, so I began a little banter about their soft drink selection … and the cool thing is that the guy behind the counter bantered right back. We both ended with a smile (and me with a Coke). As I was walking away from his tent, I realized that I had shared another smile with a stranger.

      • I just realized today that one of my employers is a master of banter. We went to his office and went to his floor to pick up some mail. The moment we entered, he greeted a new employee that he didn’t recognize with a joke.

        “What are you doing here?”, he asked with a serious tone, only to flash a smile a moment later.

        She reciprocated and they exchanged a series of joking remarks. I don’t recall the exact dialogue of this back and forth, but it’s one of the best exchanges I’ve seen in a while. Similar to what you’d see in a witty television show.

        Without a doubt, this banter made her day a whole lot more interesting because I am sure she doesn’t get something like that very often in a business setting. Thanks for the amazing piece, Bob!

  14. Absolutely true, and so often misunderstood! Thanks for your insight and a great post.

  15. Cool stories Bob. I’ve always been good at those quick random ice breakers but was never good as developing some banter past the opening line. That part is a work in progress, but the value is there. And I suppose like anything else, the more you do it the better you get.

    • Thanks Matt. I very seldom get beyond the initial 30 seconds of banter. And I banter best with people I am not attracted to. But when I am attracted to someone I pretty much freeze up and can’t think of much to say. I think I need to learn the methods from the other articles that Vincent has on this website so that I can get to the next level of conversation with people.

      • The reason we freeze up when speaking to people we’re attracted to is because we sort of have this “outcome dependence.” That’s a concept term I stole from my short readings on pickup artists, but they definitely have a great idea.

        We want something when we talk to these attractive people, whether or not we consciously recognize it. Maybe they’ll give us their number, maybe they’ll think we’re cute if I say the right things, etc. When you talk to other people you don’t find as attractive, you aren’t out to impress anyone because you banter for the love of it.

        Now, that’s not a bad thing at all to “want” something when talking. That’s perfectly natural. The key is not letting those intentions hinder your social skills.

  16. This is a very relevant post! Thanks Bob for this slice of wisdom. It was a very inspiring read. From experience, I have performed my fair share of “bantering” and have seen positive results. The problem, I think, is that most people are afraid to initiate conversation. For one, they maybe fearful of the reaction that they might receive of coming off as socially awkward. It is healthy to routinely banter. Some of my closest friends have been a direct result of a random banter.

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    […] a personal thing, but I truly find humans to be incredible, and it’s even better when they’re bantering, as long as it’s not […]

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