Sunday, November 12, 2006

Mea Conflagration

I have admitted to being socially inept, but the problem is broader than what I let on in the previous post about those phoney social situations. The truth is that I am pretty well out of social sync at any time or place. I'm not much of a conversationalist, but, at times I try – only to fall inevitably and ineluctably in a smoky conflagration out of the bright, azure sky.

To wit: Cuppa and I rode with a seniors cycling club a few times this past summer. Being the magnificent physical specimens that we are — okay, the truth is that they were really old — we usually found ourselves out in front, often way out in front. On one occasion, I decided to make a determined effort to hang back, try to be sociable and engage in some converse.

I found myself pedalling beside Ron, and I made an effort to connect with him in chitchat. I found that we had both hailed from Montreal, me a lot longer ago, but it was a point of commonality … or so I thought. I showed or thought that I showed an interest in him by getting him to talk about himself. In fact, I was pretty pleased with my effort.

Apparently, however, he was unimpressed, for at the first opportunity he dropped back to chat with the guy behind us. I suppose that I could have followed suit and extended my attempts at conviviality, but I decided to cut my losses and moved up to the front of the pack (would you believe the peloton?) with Cuppa. As we pedalled along, I realized that I had done all of the carrying of the conversation attempt at conversation. He had replied to my probing but never asked me one flippin thing about me or tried to extend the conversation in any way.

It's certainly not the first time that's happened to me. At one of our local dances, we found ourselves sitting with neighbours, and I made similar attempts to talk to the guy when we found ourselves shoulder to shoulder at the table. While he didn't blow me off, the rest of the tale was similar. I made the attempts; he responded and was probably pleased to talk about himself and his work, but there was no reciprocation. He answered but never asked, and I'm not very good at the whole thing and can only go so far before I don't know what else to talk about and silence ensues.

So, there you have it. If you ever meet me, I'll likely be tongue-tied and awkward. Give me break though (will ya?), and talk to me. I'm really not such a bad guy. Really.


coll said...

I would like nothing better than to meet and talk with both you and cuppa. I think we would have both a wonderful visit and an enjoyable conversation. If you are ever in Winnipeg .. be sure to let me know. And about the other two guys you mentioned.. some people are just dorks. :-)

Arctic Fox said...

I don't know you, but I am surprised by your last 2 posts. Maybe it's because you seem, through your writing, like such a wonderful conversationalist; or perhaps it is because I feel the same way. My biggest problem is that feeling this way has often affected my self-esteem. I sometimes wonder why I was born socially inept and what I can do about it. But when I make an attempt, such at the one you described in this post, I just feel worse - and I'm not such a bad person either! (just too hard on myself)

I_Wonder said...

You're intelligent, educated, have unique experiences, a great sense of humor, a dignifed stature and conduct yourself with grace, class and finesse. After we met you and Cuppa, and as we walked back to our car, Julie said "I wish they lived in Flagstaff. They are couple we could be friends with." It's not you who has difficulty with conversation; it's them!

Gina said...

Yes, conversation is definitely a two way street. And as long as only one person is driving, pretty soon everything is going to come to a screeching halt. I wouldn't blame yourself for those that lack (at the very least) polite civility in the form of reciprocating questions.

And if we were to ever meet, which would be fabulous, I think I would do enough talking for the both of us, so no worries there!

Anonymous said...

I'm with you completely! Small talk is just plain hard which is probably why so many people hate it. I'm not good at drawing people out, figuring that if they want me to know something, they'll tell me. Nor do I like being probed. There you have it! Awkward silence. Focussed conversations where the topic is already determined seems to be all that works comfortably. Perhaps that's why I enjoy author events at Borders ~ but hate parties. LOL


Thailand Gal

Anonymous said...

Anvil, response to your comment on my blog. :)

Northern Arizona generally, Payson specifically. And we wouldn't have to wonder what to talk about. Politics and religion are always safe with me. :) :)


Anonymous said...

What you write on your blog is interesting and clever, even funny at times ;) Maybe you should just write everything down when you meet a new person rather than speak with him or her.

Sarah Elaine said...

Seems to me that those other fellas were the socially inept ones, not you. ;-)

I am fascinated by the differences in how we see ourselves versus how others see us. Other comments indicate(and I would agree) that those of us who know you as a Blogger, don't find you socially inept at all. And yet, you seem to see yourself that way. Interesting.

Me? I am a hopeless klutz, not very diplomatic, a horribly slow learner and shamefully ugly.

I have been told that not all of these are true.

But everyone agrees that I'm a klutz. :-)

PBS said...

I don't think the problem is with you, either. Some people are just rude. It's rude to let someone draw you out and get to talk about yourself without asking questions to give the other person a chance to talk about him or herself. Or maybe they were just shy or unsociable.

Anonymous said...

Talk to women.


I try to get my youngest son to talk. I ask all the right opening questions, I get two word sentences and grunts - on a good day. I hear from other people all of the wonderful and exciting things he is up to. I sometimes feel we aren't talking about the same person.

Some men are just like that.

'The Husband God Gave Me' is not. Thankfully.

Judy -

Pam said...

From reading your blog I presumed that you were equally as good at conversing as you are at writing. Being that I have the same problem with people that I don't know VERY well, I should know better than to jump to conclusions.

Ginnie said...

I read a "self-help" book many years ago and it recommended that you get the other person to talk about themselves and they will think you are a brilliant conversationalist !! Sounds awfully contrived to me and I don't have the patience for it. I'd rather write my feelings than go one-on-one unless I really know the person well.
Believe me, you are not alone!

Karla said...

Based on the eloquent text that always graces the pages of this blog, I have a hard time believing you could become tongue-tied.

Thank goodness I am not the only one who gets peeved about one sided conversations. I dread visiting my brother in law because he is far too happy to talk about himself for hours on end if we ask probing conversation questions first, and I don’t think he has ever once asked how we’re doing. Hardly enticing eh?

Tim Rice said...

From my experience of you via this blog, I think we could have a great conversation were we to meet in person. But I, too, find that conversation is often hard.

methatiam said...

… and here I thought we’d had a great conversation! Well, I’m anxious to have another one, so it couldn’t have been too bad.

Bonita said...

Well, lets see....bicycling and dancing. Could someone just be out of breath? Hang in there AC!

mreddie said...

Could it be that you have only run into the shy ones that must know you a while before they will really talk? Maybe you could do like Linda mentioned and just pass notes for a while. :) ec

Cathy said...

Somebody said it above: People love to tell their story. After all, aren't we all the most interesing phenomenon in the universe?
My next door neighbor of 25 years has actually given her husband the assignment of asking at least ONE question of another person at our social gatherings. HE CAN'T DO IT. When we rarely gather as a group these days people still play muscial chairs so as not to get 'stuck' beside this fellow. He's very bright and he'll lock on some subject and discourse till your eyes are rolling back in your head.

pupski said...

I suspect that it isn't you a lot of people these days just aren't interested in other people. I think that the world would be a whole lot nicer if we just took a few moments to be interested in our neighbour - just like you were trying to!