1. Tim

    This is a worthy read, Caroline. I’m trying to put it into perspective for me. Perhaps you can offer me some of your insight? I’d appreciate it.

    All my working life I have been told how I should “network” and “work the room” in social situations. I have found it difficult. I am also poor at it. Luckily that part of my life is very much in the past, but I still have no idea how to perform in that strained and strange pseudo-social situation.

    My son, by contrast, is excellent at it. And he has no clear idea how or why that is.

    I am naturally reserved, though most people would not guess that on meeting me. I can meet and talk to people without restoring to Her Majesty’s stalwart of “Have you come far?” I know how to ask them about themselves and how to listen actively by asking useful questions. I know to talk to and about them in an interested manner, and not to blow my own trumpet.

    I just hate it when I have no interest in nor common ground with the person I am meeting for the first time.

    I am, probably, more outgoing that one might wish. I suspect this is overcompensation. I should think you can see already a huge portfolio of neuroses that beset me.

    Are you able to give me some pithy thoughts on how to be “me” and also make a better success of socialising? My natural inclination is to hide in the corner and wish it were over.

    • Caroline Black

      Hi Tim,

      I’m glad you found some good takeaways from the post. I don’t wish to belittle your situation at all but this sounds like something that affects more people than you might think. Strained social settings are something that a lot of people don not relish so firstly, do not beat yourself up about it. Easier said than done I know.

      Just be confident in yourself, you do have something interesting to contribute and they are going to be interested in what you say. This comes with time and practice. Talk about things to you know and have a genuine interest in where you can, “you” will shine through.

      Also remember you aren’t going to have common ground with everyone and that’s OK. Just keep it polite and maybe invite someone else into the conversation, to change up the discussion topics or dynamic.

      • Tim

        I understand about time and practice, Caroline. I can simulate enjoying the situation while cringing inwardly. But, at 64, I would expect to have had enough practice and time to fill a container ship. My problem is that I also get it wrong very often.

        Now I know this is down to me and who I am. I have also lived my life in an unpleasantly macho world, that of IT sales and marketing, the world where Donald Trump like salesmen, 99% men, preen and pose and posture.

        In set social situations this environment neither helps nor hinders. The “Business Cocktail Party” is forced rubbish that is, I think, universally hated, and allegedly necessary. In the office, though, that is where it all goes wrong for me.

        I’m retired now. I volunteer for organisations. There is still an office of sorts since my volunteering takes me out of doors a lot. Co-volunteers are mostly old farts like me, fortunately now split about 50:50 male and female. Weirdly, the men gravitate to the men and the women to the women. Actually, not so weird. Men have never understood women. Women have never understood men. Or maybe each understands the other far too well!

        My problem arises because of me. Like everyone else I am unique. My own uniqueness includes my being married to a lovely lady and also being homosexual. I am neither in the closet nor ‘aggressively out’. I am who I am and I am content with it. But the problems start in two ways.

        There’s the “Phwoah! Lock at that gorgeous girl, I’d like to [Trump her?]. What do *you* think of her, Tim, I bet you’d like to as well?” Ok, I’m overemphasising.

        I can say that it is inappropriate. I do. I can then decide what to do next. What I *want* to do is to berate them with the fact that not everyone shares their aggressively macho approach to people, that not everyone sexualises everyone they meet, and that anyway I fancy chaps in that age group anyway.

        Then there’s the casual disparaging, “There’s a café in town run by two poofs.” That is something I will not let go. And, when I open my mouth to remonstrate, there always seems to be a lot more that comes out than I expect, ‘sometimes’ to the point of rudeness.

        At work, in Macho IT Sales Land, I had to conceal who I am. You get fired a lot for being gay. There are always other reasons, bit you know why they allowed you to leave. The fact that I choose no longer to hide means I am renewed in social ineptitude because I am always trying hard not to react incorrectly. I try so hard that I fail badly. SO badly that I was asked to be ‘in charge’ of one voluntary organisation until I challenged a bigot, and then was told that, simply because of that, I was not appropriate.

        They were probably right!

        • I am also grateful for your insight and lived experiences, shared here, Tim.
          I wonder, what do you think those ‘pseudo’ situations would have been like for you in the absence of significant analysis, introspection, effort?
          If I were to meet in this, or any situation or context, I just want to trust I’m engaging with someone who is who they are, regardless of my own judgements.
          If I can simply observe what is, my judgements and mindreading become less obvious. Compassion for perceived or actual ignorance; perhaps seen as opportunities to view how others see the world and those within it, and accepting that not everybody has same heart, same knowledge, values, or beliefs, then I can allow myself with full heart to be who I am. As the old saying goes, “others opinions of me are none of my business!” *Caveat. Unless they’re paying me or are a partner????
          I just wonder what all those dreaded experiences would have resulted in for you if you’d cared a little less?
          By the way, I have also been in receipt of same. It is always possible to observe more, judge less, I have found. ~ Bob B

          • tim

            It is very hard to care less. I am me. I care. I detest the shallow pool of business. I despise bigots of all flavours. I’m not even sure I analyse the occasions too deeply.

            I take folk at face value until they show me a different side to their nature. I am generous with my engagement despite being sometimes uncomfortable in the situation. She Who Must Be Obeyed suggests I am too generous to the point of overbearing loudness, and that I embarrass her. She’s probably right. I do grab hold of a conversation.

            Smalltalk is anathema to me. The royal “Have you come far?” is not something I enjoy deploying. Or, I am not good at it.

            I think I may be babbling.

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