Sunday, September 19, 2010

Under The Influence

Everyone has something they do well. Hopefully I have at least a few things that others think I'm particularly good at. One of them, I feel confident in stating, is writing. I love to write and it's a skill that comes so naturally to me that it doesn't even feel like a skill - it's just a little thing I can do well enough without much effort - enough to hopefully entertain others and satisfy me.

So it's somewhat funny to me that, since I can write well (that is, communicate effectively through the written word), I am not at all good at speaking well. And I'm not only considering public speaking. No, I can't even always speak one-on-one with a good friend without stumbling over words or just plain not knowing how to transition from one topic of conversation to the next.

I am just a bad, bad speaker. Too quiet, too quick to get nervous/turn red over the tiniest of (self-perceived) "things", and not enough up on current events to meaningfully engage in/begin even a bit of small talk with someone.

I remember in college, in fact, thinking that my Humanities discussion class in particular was just a huge lie in that surely none of these college peers of mine truly had any real interest in discussing the philosophy of Socrates or the lessons of Camus. I saw their classroom contributions as pure BS, knowing that out in the Real World they'd much rather talk about beer and sports and the opposite sex and whatever other subject of nothingness going on immediately around them. And I - just didn't talk in class. Because I didn't care either! Or I did, but I didn't want to come off as a nerd. But either way, I didn't want to be a liar - so I just didn't say a thing.

All, I believe, contributing to my current inability to hold an interesting conversation with someone now.

Hubby wouldn't mind me saying that he too is not the best at speaking with others in social settings, and certainly not great as the sole speaker in front of many. In fact we joke together that, when at large family gatherings or other party-type situations, we often find that the people we choose to migrate toward to speak with usually roam away from us within just a few minutes.

We're obviously really that bad. It's pathetic.

So after a recent family (family!) small (small!) get-together where he and I (well, at least I, as far as I'm concerned) spent way too much time sitting in silence while others around chatted, I mentioned to Hubby that I wished there was either a course to take or a book to read about how to Learn to Make Small Talk. He agreed that that would be great for him as well.

I searched the 'net for any books on the topic, but could not see that any in existence could be found at our small public library. Oh well. Maybe someday I'll pick one up at the store.

In the meantime, another thing I know about myself is that I am able to rather comfortably speak with others after imbibing in just a glass or 2 of wine (or other some such alcoholic beverage). Mind you, I'm not saying I have to be completely drunk - just a tad bit loosened up and tipsy. Catch me then, and I'm happy to speak with you for as long as you'd like - and I'm sure we'd both find each other's time very well spent.

With this in mind, and a quick Google search yesterday successfully leading me to "12 Easy Tips for Making Small Talk," - a list of tips I shared with Hubby as well - I felt somewhat prepared to go to - and enjoy - an event last night at our church.

Wait! No... that doesn't sound good at all! Change that to "with the realization that I feel more comfortable after a drink or 2 (but not after having actually had the drinks), and with the Googled tips, I was able to go to the church function knowing what I had to do to more easily engage in small talk."

I just had to act like I was under the influence.

And you know what? I rather think that worked!

We found a small group of friends to sit with, and I felt pretty good about the give and take of our conversation. I was able to ask questions, offer information, and entertain as much as I felt entertained. At least I hope so, anyway.

And again at coffee hour today. We tend to leave pretty soon after getting a quick coffee and snack. But today we stayed and chatted with some friends we hadn't seen all summer - along with a friend of theirs they brought along for a visit. I had fun today and really enjoyed both catching up with our friends and learning something about their friend who was there with them.

So that's the trick! All I have to do is remember how easily conversation comes to me after having a few drinks - remember how I'll happily contribute stories and opinions without worrying that they don't really fit in with what's being discussed around me, but are close enough anyway. And I'm good! By no means the life of the party, but an interesting enough member of the gathering whom others actually wish to stay and speak with.

Hmmm... come to think of it... maybe I should have had a swig or 2 back in college before my Humanities classes. Then I'd have been a fascinating contributor to the class instead of a wilting wallflower.

Maybe that's what my classmates did. Yep - they weren't thinking about drinking - they were drinking!

Ahhh.. it's all so clear now. If only I'd been a bit of a wild child, how different my life would be...


Anonymous said...

I tried to send you an email and it wouldn't deliver it. I recently found your website and had some questions about my spina bifida and having a baby.

Amy Linder said...

Oh, Anonymous! I am so, SO sorry! Just a case of me being too quick to put my email contact up and my mind going too fast/not double checking what I wrote. I've now fixed my email information under About Me, but here it is again anyway: I really hope to hear from you and, again, I apologize for my silly error!


Anonymous said...

thank you! :)