Wednesday, July 23, 2008

How To Relate To People

Is there a book out there with this title? Can I have one for free? Please?

Do you ever feel like you don't have anything to talk to people about? At least...nothing interesting? I think this is the thing that keeps me from being totally comfortable around new people. It's not that I don't WANT to talk to them, or that I'm AFRAID to talk to them, it's that I honestly have no idea what to talk about.

Remember how between the ages of about 18 and 25 people are always breaking the ice with one question? " you go to school?" What happens when you try that one (even though you realize it's lame and overdone) and then the conversation flops? Also, I tend to believe that strangers don't want you asking them lots of personal details about their lives.
"Are you on good terms with your parents?", "Have you always treated people that way?", and "When did you stop wetting the bed?" are just a few every day examples.

Worst of all, though, is that I feel like I don't fit in a highly populated mold. I'm not very old, but I am married now, so that makes it a bit harder to relate to some younger people. (Hahaha...did you hear me just use the words "younger people"?)
I mean, I still FEEL like I understand that period of life...until I remember that 9:30 is my bedtime and my biggest stressor this week was how badly I needed to clean out the refrigerator. I can listen to what they talk about, and remember it from yesteryear, but I don't really have a lot of recent experience to throw into the conversation.

Then there is the other side of the spectrum. A lot of young married people I know are either having, or working towards having kids. I find it hardest to carry on conversations with parents I don't know well. It's not because they aren't interesting, or totally fun to be around so much as I don't think I have anything to say that would be relevant.
I think this is mostly because everything I do, parents do...only times 100. So if we are talking about dishes, I'm thinking "oh yeah, I had to do almost a week's worth of dishes and it took me an hour and a half" and they are probably thinking "I wish I had time to do dishes at all."
And you know that look you sometimes get (at least, I really HOPE I'm not the only person to get this look), where you can just tell by their facial expression that they are thinking, "yeah, I'll humor you, but deep down I know that this is nothing compared to what I have to do." and they get that plaster-y looking grin and nod a little... (I'm picturing it right now...dang, I feel stupid)
And then I just figure that I need to stop talking, because I obviously sound ignorant.

Maybe that all sounds mean...but mostly I just end up wishing I knew what to talk about.

I have way too many examples of trying to talk to moms about their kids, and the moms end up slightly offended and surprised at how much I just don't GET what they are trying to do. do you bring THAT conversation back to normality?

...maybe that's why they don't ask me to babysit anymore. hmm...ponder ponder...

Anyway. What do you do when you feel that way? Are you happy to just leave people alone and not go out of your way to talk to them? Or do you just ask whatever questions you like so that you can find out more about them? OR, do you do your best Hugh Grant impression to stun them with your charming British accent? (you never know...)


Shawna said...

My good old standard, is what do you like to do for fun? or what keeps you busy? what do you like to do in your down time? That kind of thing. I had to laugh at your synopsis on what people with kids think when you talk to them. I am genuinely interested in married with no kids people, their lives fascinate me. It all sounds do leisurely. I think the only time I inwardly (or outwardly if I know them well) smirk is when they talk about going on dates. Isn't every night a date when you don't have kids? lol I know there is a difference. Really I do, but it just makes me laugh.

Jenny said...

I used to feel just like you do and then I went to beauty school. There's nothing like being a cosmetologist to give you a crash course in talking to people. Did that make sense? Then, I started to actually enjoy talking to my clients. Finding out about other people's lives is totally fascinating! Everybody's led such different lives and people definitely love to talk about themselves. I usually just ask question after question until we get a conversation going. I'm not really a social butterfly by any means. My husband always jokes that I'm not nice to people and they don't like me. Totally joking. But it can be really true sometimes. He on the other hand is totally a social butterfly. Everybody always loves him!

tsbjf said...

You made me laugh out loud with your examples of everyday personal detail questions. Those were hilarious! I totally know where you are coming from though. Honestly, that was the time in life for me as well that I had nothing to talk to people about. And sadly I have no advice for you. Isn't that horrible?! Well, I am not a good conversationalist to begin with, and then being in that stage of life is weird, and so the best thing to happen to you is to find other young married couples, wherever they are. The ones that don't have kids. When you have kids, you'll be golden in the conversation department! And then suddenly when you have kids, young married couples without them will appear out of thin air. But it'll be ok, because you'll be hanging out with the moms. But for right now, maybe you could develop some weird hobby to talk about. Like studying banana slugs or taking a fun class like ceramics! I did that when I was pregnant with Hayley, the ceramics class, and it bought me some time in the convo dept.

Joy said...

Rachel is an old married woman. and.... um.... so... do you go to school?

Reagan said...

I totally know where you're coming from! I can be a really awkward conversationalist. Especially when I don't see or talk to my conversation partner a lot. I think I just generally stick with "where people live", "where do you work?", "do you like to play tennis (or other sport)", "what baby names do you like". :)

You know, stuff like that. I think I used to come off as really stuck up because I didn't know what to say to people or how to engage them in conversation.(and maybe I still come off this way) It's still a daily struggle, but I am deffinately not as bad as I used to be (I try to blame it on the fact that I was homeschooled till 9th grade)

In response to what shawna said about thinking it's funny for married people with no kids to have date night every night... it just doesn't work that way! Jere and I see each other every night and a lot of times we're out and about doing stuff but that doesn't mean we:

a) communicate
b) actually spend time together
c) have fun together

I am actually looking forward to when we have kids so we can have date night at our house, by ourselves!

Everyones lives are different and you just have to find out how they are different. No one likes the same 10 things and if you do, then you've found your soul mate! (just kidding)