Posted by: jedwardswright | September 27, 2010

Conversationally Challenged

Ever have both feet in your mouth up to your ankles? Ever have both feet in your mouth up to your ankles, know it, and keep pushing them in yet further, even when that doesn’t seem possible?

I am often awkward in social situations, which is bad enough. Being the kind of person who would rather discuss the historical significance of  British colonialism, or the literary merit of Jane Austen’s novels, doesn’t help any. As you can imagine, those topics are not a hit at office parties or family get-togethers.

I stink at small talk. It is not that I don’t care about your kids’ soccer games or piano recitals…no, I take that back. I don’t care about those things, but I do care about your kids. Does that cut it? I didn’t think so.

I also have an appalling tendency to interrupt people when they are speaking, because I think that they are already done talking when in fact they were just breathing, which I suppose that they are entitled to do. When I do get the floor, I go on too long about a subject, but never seem to notice until everyone else is already half-dead from boredom. Why do I figure, having listened to all the news about your family, that I should be able to go on at length about mine? How dreadfully self-centered of me!

It is true, though pathetically sad, that I do tend to find me and mine endlessly fascinating. I have a nasty habit of thinking that when somebody says, “So, how have you been?” as if they really care, that they really care. You would think that I’d have learned by now.

The worst is when my mental health issues lead me to be so uninhibited that I let slip a remark that I will regret forever, or to be so withdrawn that I make another person assume that I don’t want anything to do with them. I have lost more friends that way. Honestly, most of the time I don’t even know what faux pas has caused a formerly warm relationship to go cold. Even if I ask, generally the other person will icily inform me that she does no know what I am talking about, before dropping me like a steaming pile of dog doo-doo. That pretty much describes how I feel about myself at that point as well.

Isolation often looks like a tempting solution. The more time I spend with people, the less time that I want to spend with people, even when it isn’t their fault. My fibromyalgia makes it a significant effort for me to prepare, get to, and participate in occasions,  particularly if there is a large time commitment involved. By the time I get into a conversation with you, I may be working hard to keep my head up; much less figure out what the correct response would be to your question. Since I already struggle in the latter department, it can feel like a losing proposition from the word go.

I like to end these blogs on a high note — maybe share a few wisps of wisdom I have discerned during my half century on this planet, or discover a bright spot that makes up for some of the gloom that writing about depression inevitably induces.

I’ve got nothing. Really, I am too immersed in this particular problem to produce any profound thoughts to enlighten anyone else right now. However, should any light dawn on me on the subject, I will certainly return to share the wealth.


  1. I think most people feel the same way you do – uncomfortable in social situations. I think one of the keys to overcoming this is to be a good listener. Everyone loves to talk about themselves. Very few people are good listeners. That’s why good listeners are so appreciated. Most people are busy thinking about what they are going to say next and not really comprehending what other people are saying or even tuning into it. Also, I think it is a good plan to focus on someone else who seems “out of the loop” (or the wallflower). They’ll appreciate someone talking to them.

    • Thanks, Pat! You know, doing more listening and asking more questions about the other person is probably what I would have recommended to someone else. I guess when I get nervous I tend to talk more than I should. I will have to concentrate more on my listening skills.
      Maybe some of the trouble is that I am more socially isolated these days, so I am too anxious to have someone to talk to!

      • You can come and meet me for lunch any time, Jodi!

      • Thanks, Pat! That’s great!
        I will take you up on that!

  2. I do exactly the same things, and am very awkward in social situations. I also find them exhausting, even when I’m with old friends whom I like and who evidently like me!
    I don’t know what the solution is.

  3. I love to mingle. But I once, while leading a small group discussion of teen-ages, asked them to tell me about their favorite pet they’ve ever had. This erupted into the touchiest, feeliest, mind-numbingest chatter I have ever heard in my LIFE! I don’t care about Fluffy and how she used to wake you up by tickling you with her whiskers!!! That being said, I can relate to your frustration with small talk. For some, it is exhausting. It just is. Perhaps instead of trying to fuel the minor relationships in your life, invest more time and energy into the major ones. Who is it that really encourages you, builds you up, and makes you appreciate life? Invest more time in those friendships rather than depleting yourself with mindless small-talk.

  4. I have to hear exactly what Dusty has to say about that 😀

  5. Yes, exhausting is a good way to describe it. I only have so much energy to go around, too, what with the fibro.
    Some of the trouble is that I have few close friends, partially because of the problems that I mentioned, and partly because of circumstances beyond my contro (including moving to a new area). You have to go through a certain amount of small talk in order to find someone who might have the potential to be a close friend.
    My best friend is my husband, and I know how fortunate I am in that. I also have a number of online friends, which is great, but not exactly handy when you want to meet somebody for lunch!
    I guess all I can say is I’m definitely a work in progress!

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