Social Skills

A friend texted me last week that he thought he’d lost all of his social skills. He was at a social event surrounded by people and didn’t really know how to engage with them.

I feel that.

Someone pops up on IM or in Facebook and says something nice and asks me how my day is going.

I immediately feel great. I engage and I over answer and find that they’ve wandered away.

Their day is busy.

It’s not that they don’t care.

Their day is busy.

I try to be grateful that they took time in that busy day to reach out. They actually do probably care. But, you know…

Their day is busy.

I’m doing better at it but I seem to lack the ability to pick up on the social cues that tell me when they ask,  “how are you doing?” what it is they want me to say.

Do they want, “Fine, how are you?” or do they want “Well, …” followed by a complete answer.

And when they walk away, did they walk away because of something I said or was the real world calling them. A deadline, a client, a co-worker, a phone call, …

Were they fitting me in on their way somewhere and I just took longer than they allotted.

Sometimes they check back in hours later with a “sorry, I got pulled into a meeting.” I understand. Really, I do.

I’m overreacting when they appear and overreacting when they disappear.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t reach out. It’s just to say you may need to be more explicit than you might think. “Hey, I’m waiting outside my son’s soccer practice and have a few minutes to catch up.”

My brother does that and it’s perfect. We talk more often and I understand his time constraints.

At first I thought my lack of sensitivity to social cues  was because it’s been a long time since I was single – but that’s not it.

First, I was no better at this last time I was single. We just didn’t have text and email and Facebook then.

Second, over the years since,  I could have shown an email exchange or a text conversation to Kim and asked “what do you think?”

She would either have shaken her head and told me, “you’re being ridiculous” or she would have paused and considered and said, “I think you’re right.”

It’s funny, because as I write this I’m listening to Jackson Browne’s “The Load Out”. He’s singing about playing big stadium concerts and traveling from show to show. Clearly, he’s doing well.

And yet he’s so dependent on his audience.

There’s a verse as “The Load Out” transitions to “Stay” where he sings:

“You’ve got the power over what we do, You can sit there and wait or you can pull us through.”

Like it or not, it’s true.

Yesterday I wrote about being more secure in ourselves. And I am.

But we still live in our heads and imagine what’s in other people’s heads.

We brighten at encouragement from others and wither when we feel ignored.


Published in: on February 7, 2017 at 10:05 am  Comments (1)