Thursday, August 12, 2010

Five Quirks About My Social Skills

I have always paid attention to how I interact with people. I constantly wonder why I do what I do in social situations.

When I was a kid, I talked non-stop (my second grade teacher called my parents on the first day of school to let them know that she couldn't teach her class with "Motormouth" in there). As a teenager, I hit a pretty good balance of things. In my early twenties, I shot my mouth off a lot. Now, in my mid-twenties (actually considering myself a real-life adult for the first time, since last summer anyway), I've tried to examine a balance of loud and quiet in me. I'm extraordinarily more patient, understanding and reserved while being less vulgar, obnoxious and all-around hectic.

And, in this examination, I've begun to notice quirks in the way I interact with people in my life. I don't know if they've all always been there, but some of them seem more prominent now that I'm an adult and not some wily, mouthy teenager or early-twentysomething. I mean, I'm not saying they're severe or terrible or anything. They're just things I've noticed in myself within the last year.

Some musings...

1. [Awkward] Silences kill me.
I have been like this since I high school. I don't know what it is, but I can't sit through them. As a kid, you and all of your friends are talking non-stop for the most part. You're a rambling anarchist until high school, I think. Then, once you discover all the quieter things you didn't know about (such as poetry, heartbreak, regret, goth music, the color black, etc), you realize that you can have an entirely new half to you. But the problem is that so many teenagers sink into that and they get quiet. But that didn't really happen for me, so it started making me uncomfortable when my friends became quieter folk. They were or wanted to seem distant, moody or abstractly philosophical. Well, I started talking through those car rides and hang outs and it became somewhat of a compulsive thing. Awkward silences get me all anxious. I think I have the unrealistic fears of being a bad talk show host.

2. When my brain breaks, it sort of really breaks.
Someone will say something like, "Well, it's different now that I have a new car." As I'm about to ask, "When did you get a new car?", I interrupt my own brain with another question, "Did I already know this person had a new car?" Soon, I can't figure out if the person has a new car or not. Then I start thinking of people that have recently purchased new cars and who exactly I was getting this person mixed up with. By the time I have reached some inane mental conclusion, I have appeared awkward to everyone present or the conversation itself has moved on without me ever figuring out when said person got their new car. Later, someone will pull me aside and say, "Hey, why'd you get so weird about the new car?" I won't know what they're referring to, because I didn't get weird about the new car, so then, instead of explaining it, I'll make up an excuse or a joke that sounds even crazier. I believe this has caused people to think I've gotten uncomfortable or saddened or surprised by something when I have, in actuality, just stopped working.

3. I space out, like, for real.
It happened in college a lot. I'd be paying attention to the professor and then I'd be distracted by an attractive woman or a funny-looking meathead jock or some goofy t-shirt I was reading and then, all of a sudden, it was five minutes later. I space and it's like space where nobody can hear you scream. I think I've creeped out a lot of people with this, probably women especially. I don't where I go during those minutes, but I go full speed ahead into the nothing.

4. I ask a stupid amount of questions.
I'm intrigued by people. I know what's going on my life. That's old news, so I want to find out what's going on with everyone else (work, school, free time, romance, traveling, etc). So, as a habit almost as much of an interest, I ask a possibly annoying amount of questions. I believe I've always done this, but it probably accelerated when I began writing a lot in my free time in the later years of my teenage stint. It wasn't just social curiosity, as it was sort of research too. I can only hope that it's improved my ability to write characters because I'm able to pull from so many stories and little detailed nuances of people I know. I'm just generally very interested in people. I just like hearing what's going on with them. However, I've noticed that I also do this about things/activities that I find interesting but don't want to really do (surfing, rock-climbing, etc). I want to know every little thing about it, and so I ask about every little thing, but when I'm offered a chance to do it, I politely turn it down. I'm just very interested in knowing everything that's going on around me and those in my life.

5. If I'm not prepared for a compliment or some kind of attention, I don't know what to do.
If I did something that I think might garner later compliments or attention (say, if I got a poem published or I discovered alien life in my backyard), I'm ready and the interaction goes wonderfully. But if I'm not ready for it, I have no idea what to do and come up with a response as quick as possible. When it's attention, I say the first joke/thing that comes to my head (not thinking it through). When it comes to a compliment, I either compliment the person right back about something else unrelated, shrug it off awkwardly, try to make an endless string of jokes about it or say something that is meant to be a joke but comes out sounding like some declaration of insanity. I have no problem with compliments or attention (as people shouldn't), but, man, when a person or a room focuses on me without any hint or notice, I swear there's an office fire in my head and all of my brain cells are running around to find the one document that they're supposed to save. Wild.

1 comment:

jason daniel said...

You really do ask a lot of questions.

I enjoy it though, as I enjoy you.