Talking to people can be hard. It can be scary. It can be daunting. And even if you muster up the courage to approach someone, what are you supposed to say? What’s good to do in conversation, what’s bad to say, and what’s restricted only for close friends?
The Support Conversations of Fire Emblem: Three Houses, while there to promote the characters’ relationships, are a good case study for learning how to approach conversation. The game’s not the end-all, be-all resource, but by observing what the characters say to one another and considering how you yourself react to their behavior and phrases, you can figure out how to make people like you.
Mild spoilers ahead.
Rude First Impression
Cyril is deeply unpopular in the Fire Emblem community, and it’s not hard to see why. The first time you meet him, he says this to you:
“I’m real busy, so could you please move along now? Thanks.”
Very first thing. He doesn’t even try to bother with a greeting. You go out of your way to meet him, and he basically says, “You’re not worth my time.”
A secret trick to making people like you is making them feel special. Not necessarily special in a romantic way, but devoting your time to someone, even five minutes of it, is enough to make them feel worthwhile. Linhardt makes the same mistake when he gives you the following greeting:
Cyril doesn’t recover from his bad first impression when you talk to him again during your second exploration of the Monastery. He greets you by saying, “I’m a little busy,” prompting one of two possible answers from Byleth. If you reply, “Oh, sorry,” he says this:
“If you’re looking for the greenhouse, it’s right there. See it? Looks like a greenhouse? That’s it.”
Asking him, “Can’t we talk just a little?” gets you this:
“I really can’t right now, I got a lot of things to do. Work and stuff like that. Why don’t you look at the flowers in the greenhouse instead? They’re pretty.”
For Cyril’s part, these are terrible responses. The first half of his first response (“If you’re looking for the greenhouse, it’s right there.”) is fine and helpful advice, but it’s that second half (“See it? Looks like a greenhouse? That’s it.”) that grates nerves. It’s condescending and shows that he places no trust in your intelligence.
His second response is better, because if you are busy and don’t have time to talk, the proper response is to tell the person you’re too busy to talk at the moment. His suggestion to look at flowers botches his follow-up because, again, he comes off as condescending, with his note that the flowers are “pretty” treating you as a simpleminded child. If the person you’re turning away is someone you do want to talk to, give them a time and place for when you’ll be available.
This is the shortest route to making people dislike you, and Sothis speeds down it. Without bothering for context, these are some of the lines she throws at you:
“It is most rude to interrupt a moment of repose. Very rude indeed.”
“What are you accomplishing with that little stunt?! It’s like you’re trying to get me killed, you fool!”
“You really are quite troublesome.”
“What is wrong with that head of yours?”
“Your memory is worse than mine! The library! We came across that name within the library, right where the prince had been. Don’t you recall?”
An important note is that Byleth is a near-silent protagonist whose possible responses are undiscerning, so the tongue-lashings Sothis gives them are undue, the equivalent to blowing up over a minor lapse in memory.
What’s worse is that not long before the halfway point of the story, Sothis looks back on her criticisms of you with fondness. A talent for pointing out people’s flaws and hurling insults at them is not an attribute one should take pride in. It’s better to praise a person’s merits so that they take pride and endeavor to show you those best parts. Criticism isn’t something that should be avoided completely, but it should be done in the context of helping to improve a person rather than belittle or bring them down.
A trick is to use the word and. Suppose you have an artist friend who makes great artwork but has the habit of objectifying women in their paintings. A frequent mistake when convincing this friend is complimenting them but using but as a conjunction for the second clause, which holds their criticism.
“You make great paintings, but they would be better if the women didn’t show so much cleavage.”
But is a contradictory conjunction, so it seemingly invalidates the first clause and makes the compliment come off as insincere. When you swap out for and, however…
“You make great paintings, and they would be better if the women didn’t show so much cleavage.”
That simple change maintains the tone set by the compliment and doesn’t make you come off as two-faced. You’re honest with your friend and showing them that you have their best interests in mind by encouraging them to improve.
Listen to the Other Person
There’s a stern difference between hearing someone and listening to someone.
Hearing them means you’re aware they’re talking.
Listening to them means you’re paying attention to what they’re saying and filing away what they say.
Not listening is a frequent issue of Bernadetta, who twists people’s words so that she takes them as insults, criticisms, and even threats. A few examples:
Bernadetta: It’s no good… I can’t run anymore!
Hubert: That was quite a sprint. A shame you lack stamina. Now, to my duty.
Bernadetta: You’re going to execute me, aren’t you? Please, let me compose my last will and testament! Or at least a swan song? The creak of a door… Sorrow like a needlepoint… Bernie’s gone away.
Ferdinand: I do not wish to hurt you. Actually, I—
Bernadetta: No! I’m done for! You’ll be the death of me for sure!
Linhardt: Say, aren’t you usually holed up inside?
Bernadetta: Ah! I’m sorry! I’m sorry for coming here! I’m sorry for bothering you! You’re mad, aren’t you? You look really mad! I’ll just pack up! I’ll be gone before you know it!
Edelgard: You were following me quite conspicuously, so why attempt to hide now?
Bernadetta: I… Um…
Bernadetta: Ah! Please don’t hurt me!
Edelgard: Calm yourself. I have no reason to harm you.
Bernadetta: Forgive me! I beg you! I’ll go straight back to my room and you’ll never see me again. I swear!
Bernadetta isn’t the only character guilty of not listening. During their B-Support conversation, Mercedes and Annette are out shopping when a Rogue attempts to rob them. Annette tries protecting her, but Mercedes takes offense and jumps to the conclusion that her friend perceived her as weak:
Rogue: Wait a minute. I think you’re shopping with money you stole! No need to worry your pretty little heads. I’m just gonna have to take it back for us common folk!
Annette: Step back, Mercie. This could get dangerous. Listen here, you! There’s no way you can win against me. I don’t want to fight you, but I will if I have to. So just…back away!
Rogue: You think you can talk to me that way?! I’m gonna—
Mercedes: Oh! The knights are coming!
Mercedes: Annie, run!
[The girls run.]
Annette: This is far enough. We should be safe.
Mercedes: I hope so…but what were you thinking? That sort of behavior isn’t like you at all!
Annette: I just… I thought you were in danger, Mercie!
Mercedes: You’re actually blaming me for this? It’s like I don’t even know you anymore!
[Mercedes runs off.]
Annette: Mercie! I was just trying to protect you…
Don’t jump to conclusions. Never jump to conclusions. Mercedes assumed the worst from her best friend, and Bernadetta assumes the worst from everybody. But most people won’t give you their worst. If you suspect someone, especially someone you’re close to, is treating you poorly but you’re not entirely sure, ask them for clarification. Just like with Annette, you might learn that they only had the best for you in mind.
Admit When You’re Wrong
Humans are imperfect creatures, so it only stands that we’ll make mistakes or wrong someone. It can be tempting, and alleviating, to pin the blame on a foreign object or shove responsibility on another person, but it’s better when you’re wrong and you know it to admit as much and apologize, like what Mercedes does after her slight against Annette:
Mercedes: Annie…do you have a moment?
Annette: Is this about what happened when we were shopping? If so, it’s fine. Don’t worry about it.
Mercedes: Not so fast! I haven’t properly apologized yet! So, I’m sorry. I just… I got scared. Imagine if something had happened to you because of me…
It’s as simple as that. Apologizing can be hard, because you have to admit fault and confess your own weaknesses, but people are more forgiving if you’re upfront about your error than if you act as though you never did anything wrong in the first place.
Men are likely to see this when seeking romantic advice, but it applies to friendships and casual conversations as well. You see it aplenty in conversations: two people discussing a topic without stuttering, hesitating, or getting embarrassed about it. You can point to most of the cast and call them confident, but an example who sticks out in my mind is Balthus.
Balthus is an easygoing guy who makes fast friends with anybody he meets. He’s comfortable in his skin, is upfront with his motives, and isn’t afraid of criticism. Take a look at this exchange between him and Yuri, where they’re betting on gladiator matches:
Yuri: …All right, Balthus. Check out…those two Myrmidons.
Balthus: The two who were eating together earlier? Huh. Who knew they were opponents?
Yuri: I kind of figured. Thoughts?
Balthus: Well, that one’s pretty beefy. Quick on his feet too. Clearly a seasoned fighter. His opponent’s OK, but a bit showy. Compensating for being newer at this, would be my guess.
Yuri: Mm-hmm. So? Make your choice.
Balthus: Thank you. First guy, no doubt about it. You can see from a mile away… that… HE LOST?! Wow. That was quick.
Yuri: Not everything is as it appears. For example, were you and I to go at it, perhaps you’d bet in favor of yourself over me. And you’d lose. I’d use my cunning to ensure my victory. By any means necessary. Maybe I’d slip something into your food—level the playing field. You see now?
Balthus: Point taken. I’ll keep that in mind for this next one. Gotta put that great advice to the test, right?
Yuri: Heheheh, ever the bold one. It seems we must continue these games until you finally concede.
Balthus is on a losing streak, and one might call him foolish for not cutting his losses, but you can’t call him diffident. Imagine if that was Bernadetta losing her wagers. Her pessimism would sour the mood, and her constant whining and complaining would annoy you. Balthus is the butt of Yuri’s jokes, but you have to admire his unwillingness to back down, because that’s the sort of attitude that lets you know that a person is reliable.
Lacking confidence is understandable. Shyness can be endearing and possess its own charm. But whether you’re bold like Balthus or on the quieter side like Marianne, what attracts people and keeps them around is positivity, and exhibiting that, however expressly, is what makes a person confident.
Sadly, this is a criminally underutilized aspect of conversation in the game. The easiest, fastest way to warm somebody up to you is to get them to laugh. Everybody’s sense of humor is different, but if you can strike on someone’s, you’ll become fast friends. Telling jokes is a way of dropping your guard, and reciprocal laughter is the listener dropping their own guard. When you’re telling a joke, so long as you aren’t putting others down, you’re letting someone know that they don’t need to tiptoe around eggshells, and they can feel free to be themselves.
Alois is the one character you can actively joke with, as none of the other characters find amusement in your gags. When you first meet him and he asks who you are, you have three options on what to tell him: that you’re Jeralt’s kid, that you’re a bandit, or that you’re strangers. Telling him that you’re Jeralt’s kid is the straight answer, but saying you’re a bandit or that you don’t know him are what get a laugh out of him, and he likes you instantly for it.
Have Them Do Favors For You
Felix is a pretty tough fellow to like. He’s curt, he’s rude, he cares for nothing but training, and he’ll criticize others. But after completing his paralogue, did you come around to like him? Not for his battle prowess, but him, as a human being? If so, then you’ve experienced the Benjamin Franklin effect.
When getting someone to like you, it seems obvious that the solution is to do favors for them, because after all, it’s great when we have an associate who looks out for us. But the opposite is what’s true: if you want someone to like you, get them to do a favor for you.
When Felix approaches you at the start of this paralogue, he does so by saying this: “There you are. I was looking for you. I need a favor.” Felix’s request for help misaligned with his independence aside, most paralogues suck Byleth in in some fashion. This is one of the few paralogues where you’re asked for help from the get-go, so your motives for this, besides additional gameplay, story, and rewards, are helping Felix. You’re doing Felix, whom you probably dislike, a favor, and that might have made you favorable toward him.
Care For Others
Highly valuable as independence is, it’s imperative to keep in mind that nobody is invulnerable and that we should check in on those we care about by, well, caring.
Lorenz is a character who does many things wrong, such as continuously perusing girls who rejected his romantic invitations, but one thing he does do right is show concern for Byleth. In chapter 8, when Byleth experiences a fainting spell, Lorenz shows genuine concern for the professor via this address:
“How are you feeling, Professor? You look rather ill, if you don’t mind my saying so. Are you sick? If so, I would urge you not to push yourself too hard. Take some rest.”
Where everybody else effectively says, “Hey, you’re not looking so hot,” Lorenz shows a right amount of concern: not enough that he’s smothering you, but enough that if you were to faint on the spot, he would spring into action immediately.
You don’t need to go far as Lorenz, as that simple “Hey, you’re not looking so hot” will mean a lot to people, but don’t express your concern as Hapi does:
“Chatterbox, what’s wrong with you? Go home.”
She means well, but her phrasing is harsh, and it can be taken to be that she doesn’t want you around. Funnily, she juts needed to preface her demand with an observation like “My dude, you’re paler than a sheep’s wool!” and her blunt command would be better understood.
In the past, when somebody prefaced a clause with “between you and me,” did you feel special? The secret could’ve been that they think earthworms are da bomb, but there’s a certain quality given to you because they were willing to share this trivia and to no one else.
Secrets are abound in Three Houses, but one is shared only between you and Edelgard, and that’s her confession about her second Crest, the Crest of Flames, which Byleth also possesses.
Obviously, you shouldn’t go around telling strangers about your kinks or that time in the second grade you wet yourself, but this is a trick for solidifying a bond in a relationship. Once you’ve laid down enough rapport, you can share a secret with someone to show that you trust them with your secret and that they’re someone special to you.
Don’t Expect Anything
Perhaps one of the most important items to keep in mind when talking with someone, especially a stranger you’d like to date, is to not expect anything. Seriously, don’t. If you go up to someone expecting to walk away with a phone number but don’t, it’ll only lead to disappointment. This you can learn from pretty much any of the characters. When Ashe goes up to Mercedes to help her with cooking, he’s just doing so to be helpful, not to score brownie points to cash in for a late-night treat, treat meaning her clitoris. They might be of the opposite sex, but that doesn’t mean one or both of them is trying to get in with the other. Have fun talking to people. A promised date isn’t the only takeaway you can have. A new friend, a learned lesson, a funny story to share. When you set your expectations low, you’re guaranteed to always exceed them.