I have made the discovery that I am socially awkward.
Well, wait. It wasn’t really a discovery. I already knew that, have known it for a long time. Parenthetically, it always freaks me out when I tell somebody that about myself and they argue with me about it, as if they think I don’t really mean it and am just looking for reassurance.
News flash: I do really mean it. This isn’t a sad cry for reassurance. I’m usually much more direct than that. If I want reassurance, I will come right out and say, “I’m insecure about this, please reassure me?”
It doesn’t particularly bother me that I’m socially awkward. What bothers me is the people who don’t believe me when I tell them that or think they’re doing me a favor by “helping” me to overcome it, so that they drag me into those social situations in which I feel terribly uncomfortable and awkward.
Networking functions were kind of interesting once I got myself used to them because I could listen to people talk about their business endeavors forever. It was a bit like conducting an interview for my newsletter, so that made it easy. And I can talk shop forever, particularly if I like and am interested in what I’m doing.
Neither of which is the case at this particular moment in my life.
But one thing I can now safely say is that I really hate dinner events professional development conferences, where you’ve spent your day in seminars and workshops learning things and hearing intriguing case studies, and then you crown your day sitting at a table full of people you don’t know and won’t recognize tomorrow, swapping stories about kids (mine are much too old to be cute anymore) and television shows (I don’t watch television) and golf (which I don’t play).
By dinner time, I’m already so exhausted from being around people all day that all I really want to do is crawl back to my room, locate some food, and maybe do some earnest journaling while my favorite tunes whisper through my earbuds, right up until I indulge myself in the shower and then go to bed.
(I like staying in hotels because my space is cleaned daily and meals appear with no real effort required on my part. But I can never seem to get a decent night’s sleep in a hotel. It’s just not my bed.)
Being socially awkward is … well … awkward but it’s a fact about myself that I have accepted and feel no urgent need to correct. Don’t get me wrong. I’ll come to your house for dinner and enjoy myself hugely. I’ll meet your friend and, if it turns out that he or she is a kindred spirit, I’ll be talking to them as if I’d known them for years before the night is over. In a room full of people — well, four or six people — I’m completely fine if only one or two of them are unknown to me.
You see, in those situations, I feel bound to the other people in the room by something or other. If I’m in your living room meeting your good friend while you hope that they become my good friend, or that we are at least good for entertaining each other for an evening, I can feel connected to you (because you’re my friend) and to your friend (because he’s your friend, too). Same goes for that small group of people.
But to sit at a table full of people with whom I have nothing in common except that we are all at this particularly conference, at this particular table — well, that isn’t much of a bond, is it? And it’s very rare in a situation like that for me to find myself in conversations that inspire me with a yen to add this person to my circle of peeps. I almost certainly won’t recognize any of the people at my table the next day, and I’ve never ever made a friend like that.
- I am an introvert.
- I am socially awkward.
- I am not socially awkward because I am an introvert.
- I am not socially clueless just because I am socially awkward. (Don’t try to label me as an undiagnosed autistic, please.)
- I don’t especially mind that I am socially awkward. If you do mind, that’s too freaking bad.
- Like most normal people, I tend to avoid situations in which I feel uncomfortable.
- If you are going to try to drag me into social situations in which I have reason to believe I will feel awkward, expect that I will resist your well-meaning but diabolical attempts.
- I don’t hate people.
- There is nothing wrong with me.
Of course, I am aware of the fact that human beings are social animals and, as one such member of the species, I will occasionally actually want to socialize. But the kinds of circumstances in which I actually feel comfortable socializing are very severely limited. And that’s okay.
Every now and then, I manage to make a friend. A real friend.
That is the important part.