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Thread: Social dynamics: how well acquainted are you with awkwardness?

  1. #1
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Social dynamics: how well acquainted are you with awkwardness?

    Dan's remarks about his recent WNY APA experiences were a little disturbing. People finding themselves participating in the wallflower scene at these sorts of gatherings is not at all surprising, but the thing is, Dan tends to be something of an extrovert and that's what makes it a little remarkable.

    Based on all the personality type tests that have floated around here and exposure to numerous conferences of these sorts I'm convinced that the majority of planners are by nature introverts. Not extreme introverts, mind you, just introverts. And that's what this thread is about - to what degree are you an introvert or given to exhibit a certain social awkwardness? How do you conduct yourself in various social settings?
    - weddings (say you only know the bride or the groom - do you leave the reception as soon as the father/bride dance, or bouquet toss, or garter belt is done?
    - family reunions (talking about Big Ones where you meet total strangers you know nothing about except they're related somehow - do you endeavor to find out how everyone there is related to you?)
    - conferences (apart from an obligation to network, do you ever approach anyone you don't know to strike up a conversation?)
    - retreats (do you ever feel you approach anything resembling a 'comfort zone'?)
    - work parties (okay, no one actually likes them, but what percentage of time do you think you spend talking shop?)
    - friends parties (are you comfortable enough to ever find the proverbial lampshade on your head?)
    - funerals (do you willingly approach some sobbing individual to offer your condolences or does it feel like pulling teeth?)
    - class reunions (do you find social intercourse with your peers actually easier now than when you were a student?)

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    Conferences and work parties are especially awkward for me. As for friends parties, weddings, I do not feel nearly as awkward. One reason: alcohol.

  3. #3
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jammers View post
    One reason: alcohol.
    Ah, that ever-handy universal social lubricant!

    [Career advice 101]Never mix intoxication with a work party. These functions may bear superficial resemblances to a 'party', but make no mistake one is still at 'work' while in attendance.[/career advice 101]

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    I don't ever strike up a conversation with strangers at a conference unless I'm forced to at lunch or at a roundtable discussion. I know it's the wrong attitude but it seems weird to me . . . almost like hitting on someone at a bar.

    The worst thing about big conferences is lunch when you scan the giant room for someone you know and if you don't spot anyone you have to plop down next to a bunch of strangers in defeat.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian SW MI Planner's avatar
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    I am more outgoing now than I ever have been, but still find it hard to "network" either socially or professionally.

    I don't know that I would ever just randomly just go up to someone and introduce myself and start talking. Pretty safe to say that I *wouldn't* do this. But if I'm sitting at a table with someone, or in a line somewhere, or at the store, I might strike up a random conversation or something though... With people I know, I think I'm really sociable and extroverted.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    I wouldn't consider myself introverted at all. But I also don't like meaningless chit-chat (weather, how do you like the conference, yada yada yada) just for the sake of having it. At conferences, etc., I usually just stick to myself, but more out of the desire to not have chit-chat, as opposed to me being introverted.

    I probably sound like a jackass, but I'm really not!
    Last edited by btrage; 27 May 2010 at 11:40 AM.
    "I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany"

  7. #7
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by SW MI Planner View post
    I am more outgoing now than I ever have been, but still find it hard to "network" either socially or professionally.

    I don't know that I would ever just randomly just go up to someone and introduce myself and start talking. Pretty safe to say that I *wouldn't* do this. But if I'm sitting at a table with someone, or in a line somewhere, or at the store, I might strike up a random conversation or something though... With people I know, I think I'm really sociable and extroverted.
    I think we showed Mt. Pleasant a nice time! What was the name of that bar that we made everyone go to? The one that kid didn't think we would like. The Bird or something?
    "I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany"

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    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    I've learned to get over being awkward at social functions. Yes, there are times that are more awkward than others but I've learned to just go with it and not over think the situation. Professionally wise just work on a 2-3 minute spiel about who you are and what you do and how you relate to the event that you are at or the person you are talking to.

    I will be going to a wedding of a dear friend of my in June. He's the only one that I will know and this is a Colombian-Puerto Rican wedding. It's going to be interesting but I speak Spanish reasonably well that it will be a lot of fun. I've found that making an effort, even it is imperfect, is often rewarded.
    "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" Jeremiah 22:16

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Mud Princess's avatar
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    This thread is particularly timely, as I just finished a great book called Introvert Power. As the author accurately notes, introverts are not all anti-social and depressed; it's just that big social gatherings drain our energy.

    Over the years I have gotten much better at dealing with social situations, though. There was a time when I would simply avoid them. Sure, I am often more comfortable seeking out the people in the room that I know; however, I can initiate conversation with strangers if I have to.

    Recently I attended a college alumni event. The turnout wasn't very good; in fact, I didn't see anyone from my class. While sitting at a table by myself with a drink, another woman sat down across from me, striking up a conversation. Pretty soon, we were joined by others. I met 5-6 new people that day, exchanging contact information with some of them. I was rather proud of myself, as I could have had a really lousy time!

    My older sister is far more social than I am, and often invites me to her house for parties. I really don't like going; I definitely prefer one-on-one or small group discussions. I usually make an appearance, but leave early. I hope she understands - it's just not my "thing" and there's no need to apologize for it.

    Ironically, I met my husband at a party where the only other person I knew was the friend I accompanied there!

    Quote Originally posted by Seabishop View post
    The worst thing about big conferences is lunch when you scan the giant room for someone you know and if you don't spot anyone you have to plop down next to a bunch of strangers in defeat.
    Conferences are the probably the most difficult for me. I really have to force myself to initiate conversation. Actually, lunches aren't too bad because you have to sit somewhere, and most people will introduce themselves and start talking at some point (just avoid sitting with people who obviously all know each other). I try to be prepared with a few standard questions to ask people about themselves or the event, as well as a short "elevator speech" about what I do. It's the standing around between sessions, presentations, etc. that I find more awkward.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Mud Princess View post
    This thread is particularly timely, as I just finished a great book called Introvert Power. As the author accurately notes, introverts are not all anti-social and depressed; it's just that big social gatherings drain our energy.
    ooh, I want that, especially now that I have a very introverted 10 year old. It even seems to cover some Planning issues.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    btrage hit the nail on the head as far as my response to this topic. I just absolutely abhor mindless small talk for sake of making conversation. I could give a rat's butt about meaningless drivel. If one more person tries to strike up a conversation about the weather I'm going to puke.
    Children in the back seat can cause accidents - and vice versa.

  12. #12
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    What holds me back from being more of a social butterfly is fear of rejection. I was socially awkward as a young adult, and those experiences still color my current day-to-day life.

    On paper, I'm an ENFP, but just barely E.

    The WNY APA reception: when I arrived, there were about four small clusters of three or four people talking amongst themselves, with no strays. I would have felt very uncomfortable bursting in on one of those clusters, like I was being a pest. As the happy hour went on, those clusters grew into circles. The planners effectively circled the wagons and built little "forts" that sent me the message of "no strangers!" That everybody ignored this lone unemployed planner desperate for networking opportunities made me feel like even more of an outcast.

    Eventually we all sat down at various tables, to hear a lecture on freight planning. I sat at my table first, hoping someone would join me. Nobody did, except a stray foreign student from UB. If she didn't sit down at my table, I would have been alone, and I probably would have just walked out. I'm reluctant to attend any more APA WWY events.

    At other conferences and happy hours I've attended, there's always more strays, and fewer "forts", which makes it easier to approach someone. I look at nametags and try to find some common ground; maybe they're from the same state, or a nearby community.

    I did well at my 25th year high school reunion, where I knew everybody. I'm good at Alefests and other gatherings of Cyburbia users, where crowds tend to stay in the 10-to-15 range. I'm fine with family and groups of friends, or small gatherings of strangers that might share common ground, like my recent docent training for a local preservation organization. At that APA happy hour, though, I felt like such the odd man out, and it seemed like a crowd that wasn't welcoming any newbies into their ranks.

    When I was synagogue shopping in Cleveland, one of the things that sold me on the shul where I ended up was how social people were after the oneg (coffee, punch and sweet pastries served after the Friday night service). If nobody approached me, or nobody said hello or "good Shabbat", it would sour me on that synagogue. The synagogue I felt was the most egalitarian and the best fit also turned out to be the place where I was given the warmest welcome during the oneg.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  13. #13
    Cyburbian H's avatar
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    I have no problem talking to anybody, anywhere, anytime, about anything. I enjoy it.
    "Those who plan do better than those who do not plan, even though they rarely stick to their plan." - Winston Churchill

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Otis's avatar
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    These days I'm finding the best ice-breaking line to be "Have you approved chickens yet?" That's been a big issue in a lot of cities around here and always good for a laugh.
    Seldom right, never in doubt

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Queen B's avatar
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    I don't think I am introverted. I don't generally pry conversation out of someone I don't know. I am a listener. If it is around people I know, it could be lampshade time, but new people I wait to see how much of me they can deal with. I don't want to make them uncomfortable.
    It is all a matter of perspective!!!

  16. #16
    Cyburbian
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    I don't go to class reunions or retreats. I'm not comfortable at either. The benefit of being introverted is that I'm content to be by myself, and will go just about anywhere by myself. I'm OK with most of the other settings.

    Funny, I can strike up conversation with just about anyone. What I find most interesting is that people, even perfect strangers, share details of their lives with me, with no prompting. It's a joke among my friends that I can learn things about people in a few minutes time. People tell me things, even the people who know that I can keep confidences. It can get tiresome, though, as I hear details that I don't need to hear, or wind up listening to bitter, unhappy people. I think it's God's way of letting me know that the bad things in my life aren't all that bad.

    I don't share the same kinds of details about my life to most people.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian Veloise's avatar
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    How well acquainted are you **with** awkwardness?

    Very.

    For practice, I go out to various functions promoted on meetup.com, which is great for meeting strangers and elevator pitching. I've noticed that many attendees use a standard opening line, a variant of "how many Meetup groups do you belong to" or "how many Meetups have you attended?"

    Not long ago I went to a pink slip party, and since the planning firm was a no-show, I worked the room. Interesting experience. Armed with a glass of water and a padfolio. I wandered around, offering a warm greeting to anyone who made eye contact. One fellow recognized me (bike club) and we talked briefly, then circled around some more and introduced each other to various folks we'd met or were standing near.

    Social hour at my church is a major pain. You'd think these folks would be more open, but they tend to stand in little forts (as Dan mentioned) and discuss the good ol' days of the long-gone veteran pastor. In their honor, I put special interest stickers on my nametag (anyone who's read more than a couple of my posts can easily guess what they might be) but I still get the obtuse questions. "Why do you have a [item] on your nametag? Do you [do that activity]?" One woman is stuck, continually amused that I ride the scant mile to get there, and for a while constantly asked, "did you ride here?" I am convinced that folks who behave oddly are feeling more awkward than I do.

    What poses the biggest challenge: big crowds where folks are wandering aimlessly, such as the stairs at the Y or retail aisles. My bum knee is not evident, but I can't easily dodge someone who's concentrating on a portable distraction or hogging the center of the available space. Cashiers beckoning me to maneuver past the cart of someone who's securing everything prior to leaving will have to wait. Vest-wearers sauntering down the middle of the retail space will not be earning a cheery greeting back (the other day one of 'em almost ran into me twice, then followed me around asking if she could help. No! Just get away from me!)

  18. #18
    Cyburbian Plus
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    Pretty much so - can you even say bordering on reclusive.
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  19. #19
    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Otis View post
    These days I'm finding the best ice-breaking line to be "Have you approved chickens yet?" That's been a big issue in a lot of cities around here and always good for a laugh.
    Along those lines I like to ask "What kind of permit do I need to build on your mom?"

    ohhhh snap!
    Children in the back seat can cause accidents - and vice versa.

  20. #20
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Growing up, I was undoubtedly an extrovert--and my two sons inherited the trait. But after graduating, beginning my profession career, and maturing, I've evolved into an introvert. Because I'm out there in the public eye, it might be a protection device to guard my privacy.* I think the woman I live with can confirm my current condition.

    *Just today, a guy approached me at the gas station and asked, "Where do I know you from?" He asked where I worked...I lied. I told him I worked for the post office.


    Quote Originally posted by jammers View post
    ......One reason: alcohol.
    Oh, yes. The great equalizer.
    RJ is the KING of . The One

  21. #21
    Cyburbian SW MI Planner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by btrage View post
    I think we showed Mt. Pleasant a nice time! What was the name of that bar that we made everyone go to? The one that kid didn't think we would like. The Bird or something?
    Oh! The one that was really quite dangerous and we really shouldn't go to?! I had tons of fun at that conference and glad we met up. If not, my avoidance of talking to new people would have had me in my hotel room renting $20 movies by myself. And not the naughty kind either!

    Quote Originally posted by btrage
    I probably sound like a jackass, but I'm really not!
    Omg, not at all. You are kind of a smart ass though, but I happen to appreciate. I'm pretty sarcastic myself and I'm sure for people I don't know well, my sarcasm probably comes across as b!&%$yness.

  22. #22
    Cyburbian fringe's avatar
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    Hmmmm.

    Maister, I have to say that based on the comprehensive, even exhaustive array of test questions you posed I would turn the looking glass back atcha and say, See the extrovert in the mirror?

    The biggest trouble I have with typing is where to put those thresholds.

    Dog people or cat people?

    BTW, I am not a degreed planner and ergo have no standing, but planning is one of my interests, along with everything else.

    My recent immersion in Jung has me all stirred up with questions like this, but I am way still assimilating. He divides psychic activity into four "functions", thought, feeling, sensation, and intuition, one of which will be favored by an individual while others are relegated, but the whole approach to them all is based on intro vs. extro.

    Trouble is we are all rich blends of all these types, whcih is why we are indivuduals.

  23. #23
    Cyburbian Tom R's avatar
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    awkwardness

    Social dynamics: how well acquainted are you with awkwardness?
    I invented it.

  24. #24
    Cyburbian Plus Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    I'm a complete introvert unless I go into a social situation where I know everyone. Like last week, RJ and I met up with a bunch of my co-workers from 15 years ago, I was fine, he wasn't. A "cocktail" party kind of situation is my worst nightmare. I can't do small talk.

  25. #25
    I don't know if I really can say that I'm extroverted. But then again, I'm definitely not shy. I waited tables for three years (and will continue to do so until I get situated in grad school).............in that line of work, if you can't/won't open up to people and be their friend for 45 minutes to an hour, you don't get paid, period.

    With that being said, I have little or no reservation about speaking in public or even walking up to a stranger and initating conversation. Again, it's my job. With that being said, 9 times out of 10, if I'm at a social function and I don't talk to you, it's because I don't want to, not because I'm afraid or nervous about it or anything like that. It's not necessarily anything personal; I just may not feel like talking to people. Nothing to do with shyness or anything like that.

    But.............I did grow up shy. Really shy. In elementary school, I used to hate how adults always commented on how shy I was. The way that they said, they made it sound like it was a disease or something. But somewhere along the way, as I moved into my late childhood and adolescent years, I grew out of it. In high school, I was on the debate team. And I was good at it. By then, any shyness I had was definitely gone. I was (and still am) a fairly confident public speaker, and loved the positive attention I got from debating and publicly speaking. I came into college majoring in political science with aspirations of becoming a lawyer for that very reason.

    So.............with all that being said, I find professional conferences to be MUCH easier because I know everybody there more or less has the same interests. Again, I do know how to relate to people who appear to have nothing in common with me, but it is easier when you know up front that everybody around you has the same interests, etc. You don't have to go fishing around for a conversation topic or try to figure out how to break the ice, because the ice isn't nearly as thick. That's the kind of thing you have to encounter at weddings, family reunions, etc.

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