Monday, July 17, 2006

Social finesse

I couldn't help focus in on a comment Nicky wrote about an allergist she knows.

"He really doesn't have very nuanced social skills, but he's a nice guy. We had a pretty good conversation about it. He's smart, and although socially abrasive, has decent instincts."

At a distance, I couldn't help wonder if this is how people view me. I say that because I feel like I still struggle with making good conversation. I don't know anything about the allergist, but guessing he studied more than socialized for many years of his life, I could empathize with not being polished.

I still can recall times when I have spoken in a most awkward fashion. One example happened during my high school graduation trip to Europe. I tried to make conversation with this British couple by saying, "They say people should visit the U.S. before the killer bees spread further north."

This comment came from the fact that six months earlier, the news had talked about the migration of killer bees from Mexico into Texas and how people feared their spread because of their integration into the local bee hives. Of course, I haven't heard much about killer bees since, but they made it sound pretty serious at the time. My logic? It seemed like reasonable advice to share. It's unfortunate that I thought that would be an good conversation starter.

In fourth grade, we were having a show and tell session. When our teacher asked if anyone else had something to share, Kristen rushed excitedly back to her desk and raised up a coloring book she had been given as a prize for having a creatively disguised turkey drawing (Thanksgiving drawing contest). My immediate reaction was to downplay her achievement by saying others of us had received the same prize. The light in her eyes disappeared. I wasn't trying to belittle her. In my own mind, it wasn't a significant achievement (in the eyes of my parents), so I couldn't comprehend why she would share this. Come to think of it, maybe this explains why my citizenship grade was never an "A" in elementary school. Did my parents ever learn from my teachers that I needed guidance?

Absolute horror crawls through my veins when I think about instances like these. The nuances of social etiquette were never something taught to me by my parents. It took years for me to understand the inappropriateness of those comments. I learn as I live, and the delayed awareness adds to my frustration. Old habits are difficult to change. Hence, why I still struggle with the little details. It doesn't come to me naturally, and, at this age, people expect good social skills. It's not something people think to tell you or help you with unless you ask because it would appear rude to point out. It's awkward.

So if no one is willing to tell you you've committed a faux pas and you don't realize anything is wrong... how is one to become a better person?

This is what I struggle with constantly. I know I need to think before I speak. People don't want to hear my opinion when they're not seeking advice. This is why I fear people will misunderstand me and not befriend me for long. I am doing better. It's a slow process.

I pray that I will find a man who can overlook this and see the better things about me (like Tim). Ideally, he would also be patient and help me overcome this social handicap.

1 comment:

zerodoll said...

We all have things to work on, I believe, but I think the fact that you worry about this at all means that you're probably ok.