The Art of Witty Banter: Be clever, Be quick, Be Interesting — Create captivating Conversations

4 min readDec 2, 2022
Photo by Tengyart on Unsplash

Yet again another book summary. The following section is a copy of the cheatsheet provided by the author, with my slight editing of some of the details.

Chapter 1. HPM, SBR, meet EDR

HPM, SBR, and EDR are all frameworks for knowing how to respond to people. They introduce conversational diversity, and allow you to regulate how much you speak versus ask questions.

HPM stands for History (Reply with your personal experience regarding a topic), Philosophy (Involves your personal stances, take or opinions) and Metaphor (Invokes what the conversation topic reminds you of).

SBR stands for Specific (Asking targeted questions regarding the topic you’re talking about), Broad (Asking broad questions to create context and are great springboards to sub topics.), and Related. (Asking something that is either directly or broadly related to the subject of your conversation).

EDR stands for Emotion (state someone else’s emotion), Detail (you ask for details), Restate (summarise what the other person said).

Chapter 2. Never Speak in Absolutes

Speaking in absolutes, especially with questions, makes conversation very difficult for other people. An absolute question is very difficult to answer, and leaves the other person feeling vulnerable to judgment. You can improve upon absolute questions by giving options or asking a specific question based on an assumption.

Examples of absolute qns: What is your favourite movie?

Improvement: What are your top few movies? Any comedy movies you consider pretty decent and can recommend?

Chapter 3. Think Before You React

Reacting is important. You shouldn’t be a passive listener if you’re not speaking. When you react, make sure you do it slower, bigger, and find the primary emotion that is being expressed.

Chapter 4. Practice Free Association

Conversation structure is very simple — you speak on the same topic, or you bounce to a similar or related topic. Getting good at free association mimics structure and trains your brain to think outside of the box.

Chapter 5. Break the Fourth Wall

Breaking the fourth wall is when you make an observatory statement about the conversation or interaction itself. You are stepping outside of your role as a conversant, and into the role of an observer.

Chapter 6. The “Us Against the World” Technique

This technique is premised on the fact that everyone likes to be a part of an inside joke or in group. This technique teaches you to make a comment or question that immediately creates that feeling based on a similarity that only two people apparently share.

Chapter 7. Create a Conversation Resume

A conversation resume functions just like a job resume. It lists your great confidence and conversation moments, and lets you disrupt your narrative of the type of person you are. Review and update regularly for best effects.

Chapter 8. Set Boundaries on the Conversation

Boundaries are when you state at the outset of a conversation that it must be kept short. You have a reason to keep the conversation short, which lowers people’s guards, allowing engagement and attention.

Chapter 9. Derail Your Train of Thought

Give other people the floor more often than not. Stop speaking and go with the direction that someone else wants to go in, and do this proactively.

Chapter 10. Use Fallback Stories

A fallback story has four components and is self-contained, which means that you can drop it into conversation whenever you want. Relateability is key, because the fallback story is about the discussion that occurs afterwards.

Chapter 11. The “Thought Experiment” Technique

The thought experiment technique allows you to get past people’s guards and makes it okay for people to feel like they can engage and say yes on interesting and sometimes taboo topics.

Chapter 12. Make the Other Person an Expert

There is a way of reacting where you put people into a role — if you can encourage a feeling of knowledge and sharing, then you create the role of yourself as a student and the other person as the teacher.

Chapter 13. Master Saying “What were you saying?”

You should be using this phrase more often than you currently are, because it signals a lot of self-awareness as to the equity of speaking in the conversation. When you interrupt, speak too much, or want engagement, use this and similar phrases.

Chapter 14. More Effective Compliments

Compliments are universally positive, but some are more impactful than others. More effective and impactful compliments are about people’s choices that involved active decisions. When you do this, you are validating their choices and thoughts.

Chapter 15. Use Double Explanations

Double explanations are statements you can prepare before a conversation to go in prepared. The first explanation is a short, pithy answer to a question. Oftentimes, this is all that people are looking for. The second explanation is the more in-depth look at the answer.

Chapter 16. Witty, Good-Natured Teasing

There are good and bad topics to make fun of, and better and worse ways to tease people. Delivery is key, and you have to make sure that people can take it in stride.

Chapter 17. The Witty Comeback Machine

A witty comeback is based on two steps. You take the insult, you agree, and then you amplify it to an outlandish and absurd degree. It makes you appear confidence, like the insult doesn’t bother you, and is usually humorous.

Chapter 18. Go Beyond the Literal

Don’t take statements and questions at face value. Don’t take them literally, and seek to purposefully misinterpret them in ways where you initiate a joke or humorous scenario.




𓆉︎ 𝙳𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚖𝚎𝚛 🪴𝙲𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚝𝚘𝚛 👩‍💻𝚂𝚘𝚏𝚝𝚠𝚊𝚛𝚎 𝚎𝚗𝚐𝚒𝚗𝚎𝚎𝚛 ☻ I write & reflect weekly about software engineering, my life and books. Ŧ๏ɭɭ๏ฬ ๓є!