So What’s it all About When You’re Trying to Make Conversation?

By Marc Abraams

So…… in this era when so many people use the word “so” to begin so many of their sentences, one scholar has written 3 studies analysing what happens when people begin their sentences with the word.  Galina Bolden’s first “so” study in 2006, explains that some people use the word as a way of “moving on with a conversation that has been temporarily stalled” (“So, how are you?).
Her 2nd “so” study, in 2008, is called “So what’s up?”:  Using the Discourse Marker So to Launch Conversational Business.  Bolden, as associate professor of communication at Rutgers University in New Jersey, expands on the earlier idea.  Yes, “so” is good for kickstarting a talk that has stalled.  But it can also be a strategic weapon for launching a conversation directly at its intended target:  “So, are you looking for a job?”
If you use “so” as a strategic response to a strategic “so” opening, explains Bolden, “it may suggest your undersanding that both parties have equal rights.”
(sic this is also a mirroring strategy)
If you are on the receiving end of a “so” strategic phone call, you can use “so” to clarify the caller’s aims, or to redirect the conversation.
Bolden’s 3rd “so” study, in 2009, explores how people use “so” to bring a conversation back to some topic that was getting unfocused or over-looked.  She calls this “emergence from incipiency”.
(sic “so” began in the UK as a stalling strategy)

So, how are you?
So, how are you?

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