I have many great abilities and talents, but social skills are not one of them. The concern about this has been present since I was very small. The school thought I was very bright and wanted me to skip kindergarten. My mother, while she agreed that I was smart, declined the offer. She didn’t think I was ready socially.
It can be argued that I’m still not ready socially.
I do much better online than in person. I’m very comfortable with words, reading and interpreting them and using them to communicate. I get the opportunity to pick my words more carefully and say exactly what I mean. In person, I feel under pressure to communicate so things don’t always come out right. Not to mention that whole lack of tact thing I have going on. Through writing I can at least catch more of those gaffes.
I’m better when I’m with people I know and am comfortable with. There’s less pressure to communicate because these people know what I mean and if they don’t, they’re more likely to ask what the hell I’m talking about or call me out for being tactless and make me rephrase my thoughts. I’m not as concerned with not knowing how to socialize because those people KNOW I don’t know how to socialize and they forgive me (or at least tolerate me).
With new people, the pressure is on. I come across as rather shy at first because I’m trying to figure people out, trying to see what I can get away with humor-wise. I’m watching the new people to try to figure out how to appropriately interact with them because I honestly don’t know. I’m terrible at reading social cues. I have no idea the best way to end a conversation with someone when I’m done talking. I’m not always sure when another person ends a conversation with me. And when the conversation is over, hours later, I’m wandering if I did okay or if the person I talked with thinks I’m weird. I am weird, but I don’t want to come off as creepy weird.
Part of my problem, I know, is that I don’t interpret information like other people. My roommate loves to point out that I don’t think like normal people and she’s right and I think that’s part of my socialization problem.
The rest of it, I think, has to do with insecurity. I am insecure in places. I know myself too well not to be. I know my faults and when I’m interacting with people, it sometimes sets off that part of my brain. I wonder why these people are talking to me and what they really think about me. I know I shouldn’t care about what other people think of me, but in a way I do. I don’t want them to misinterpret my awkwardness and lack of social skills as something else. I have plenty of poor qualities to turn them off, but I want them to be turned off by the qualities I have, not the qualities they think I have.
I try to practice socializing. I keep thinking that if I keep using what little skills I have, they will develop and I will get better at it. When I was working part-time at Wal-Mart, the regular interaction with other human beings really helped. Since then, there is so much rust that’s built up and my once thriving skills have atrophied with disuse. When you’re not a social creature by nature, force is the only way you can build up these skills and keep them working. I haven’t been forced to use them and haven’t been forcing myself to use them.
And it shows.
I’m going to keep practicing, though. I’ll find ways to force myself to use my social skills and then I’ll force myself to use them. No doubt I’ll still be awkward, but if I could be less awkward, I’d be happy with that.
After all, communication is important.