Hi guys! I'm off to the State Fair this weekend. Time to make the pilgrimage to see the Butter Cow, which is a requirement to stay in the state of Iowa for more than five years at a pop. Actually, my mother-in-law loves the State Fair, and we're trying to make her "vacation" with us a little more fun than she had last year. I think this should do it.
I haven't mentioned yet how very impressed I am with ReaderCon's reversal concerning Rene Walling. That's democracy in action, right there, folks, not to mention social responsibility.
You know that this sends out some ripple effects. Two of the Names in SF that I Read have commented on how to do better in convention scenarios. Not that I expect creepers are reading, but still, good sound advice.
One of the things that keeps coming up in Scalzi's response thread is this: how do I know that these people are not being just awkward. Well, probably you can tell. Here's a pretty intense article discussing this very thing. And I do mean intense, so go with your trigger defense up.
All that said, one of the questions asked is about social awkwardness. I am NOT conflating predatory behavior with social awkwardness, but I do want to talk a little bit about meeting and greeting new people in less awkward ways.
After all, we all do want to get along. So, take this as advice on how to be more desirable in a group of people, and as no commentary on tolerating predatory behavior, which it is most definitely not.
You may wonder what makes a suave, sophisticated woman like myself capable of offering such tips? True confession time. I have been, at one time in my life, as socially awkward as they come. How could you not be with my background? And here are some things that I learned over the course of my life that have saved me from the abyss. This is far from complete, but it might get you started.
1. Clean thyself. This is not the easiest thing to do if you are in a poverty setting, but in the US, most of us have running water and electricity. We can wash and shave. People do not like to be around smelly people. Even if your clothes aren't the best, people will be more receptive to you if you are clean.
2. Master small talk. Sure, it's inane. But introductions, talking about the weather, the party, these sorts of things can help you ease into a conversation, and underscore facility with conversation, rather than awkwardness.
3. Be genuine. Talk about things that interest you, always with the watch word that you should be polite and considerate.
Tips for the Overly Loud and Aggressive:
1. Listen when you talk to people. Some socially awkward people have one-sided conversations. Maybe because you are socially awkward, you feel you need to get your words out into the universe, but do a quick check. Am I the only one talking? Is the other person listening and making eye contact with me? Are they responding positively to what I have to say (you know, leaning forward, nodding, smiling, stuff like that?) If you find yourself doing all the talking, stop. Maybe ask the person a question about the topic at hand. Let them talk. And listen.
2. Do not insert yourself in closed groups. Open groups are okay. A bunch of people striking up a conversation is fine. But if a group is at a party, and the circle is closed, find an open circle.
3. Have a conversation. Of course, this is partially number 2, but ask about the other person, their life, their interests. Do not offer a treatise on the smallest details of your work in progress. Talk about the general nature of writing, and let the person with you talk.
4. If it doesn't work out, and you make someone uncomfortable, leave. Like anything, getting socially graceful doesn't happen without practice, and if you're not good at it, you will fail sometimes. But you keep trying to do it right. You may have targeted the wrong social group.
Tips for the Quiet
1. Believe that you are worth while and you do have something to say. For those of us on the shyer side of the spectrum (this was me!)this is very difficult. I had been ridiculed so much and beaten down so much that I barely would open my mouth. I couldn't stand the risk. Give it a try. You don't have to say much at first. But you can do it! It does get easier.
Practice makes perfect:
1. Don't ask people at social events why they don't like you, or why you failed to keep their interest. These are questions you ask in self-help aisles, or questions you ask of close friends, or counselors. There are lots of ways to learn about how to have conversations. Read them. Join Toastmasters. Practice with Grandma.
A lot of this is really about learning how to read other people, and about practicing a skill. Yes, socialization is a skill.
Good luck, buckaroos. Transforming from Goofus to Gallant takes some hard work, but it's rewarding work, and it does improve the quality of your life.