Friday, December 09, 2011

It's no small thing

Small talk is one of my worst things.

I am 34 years old and I'm still learning things about myself. That's what I love about my 30's, because I discover things about me that are inherently true, and then I just accept them, whereas I spent my 20's stumbling on to self-discoveries and then attempting to squelch them. "What's that, self? You don't want to go to Super Saturday? Well, that just can't be right because everyone in their right mind needs an adorable, hand-painted turkey! Even if your stenciled squares ARE crooked!" I just refused to listen. But now I do. And my self has made me realize that small talk gives me anxiety.

Case in point. When I go to the school, I get into the elevator with all the other parents and kids and look down, avoiding eye contact. I focus on giving compliments to the kids on their rain boots, their Spiderman shirt, their fancy hairdo. When we get into the classroom, I smile at people and say hello, but I don't know what to say to them. I just don't. If someone starts a conversation with me, I will certainly oblige, but I often say strange things that I regret later. In the play yard after school, I hide in a corner of the playground to avoid small talk. I try to call Lisa or Rachel, or I get Mila involved in an intense conversation (it isn't difficult these days, all I have to do is say "Katniss" or "Food, Inc." and she's off.) I will sometimes approach a mom or group of moms I know and awkwardly eavesdrop on their conversation until I hear a jump-in point: "I know! Baking pies from scratch IS crazy hard!" but that's definitely only if I'm feeling brave.

I've always tried to tell people that I'm shy, but they never believe me, especially after I've just spent the last 30 minutes telling them my life story. But I know now that there's a difference between being shy and feeling comfortable with people. I just don't feel comfortable approaching someone and discussing the weather or where they grew up, or how many children I have (which is actually QUITE the icebreaker, let me tell you.) What I really want to do is to be able to walk up to someone and say, "How crazy was that episode of Walking Dead?" or "Chris kicked my butt in Zumba last night," or "I'm starving, let's go get Diet Cokes and Thai!" I crave familiarity.

I've tried getting better at it, but it's just not really my thing. Do people think I'm a snob? Well, yes. That has happened many times. Do I give negative first impressions? Indeed I do. I feel sometimes like maybe I should carry a card that says "Friend me on Facebook" and pass it to people, so we can get to know each other online first. Is that crazy? I actually have quite a few friends on Facebook that I know more online than I do in real life. Don't get me wrong. I love and value my real-life relationships. They are everything. I am so grateful for the many, many friends that I've made here in NY, that have accepted me and broken through my shell, as it were. By not opening my mouth, I guess I'm probably missing out on lots of other potential friendships. But then sometimes I get burned when I make an attempt. Like the mother of Mila's friend who indirectly reamed me for pulling my kids out of school the week before Christmas break (I'm sorry, but where else but New York do kids only get a 1 week Christmas break? Redonkulous!) That ended that pleasant conversation at Starbucks pretty dang quick.

It's funny, because I see this shyness/awkwardness in some of my kids as well. Mila just downright ignores people when they say hello to her. It's almost comical. I have to say, "Mila. Mila. MILA. So-and-so just said hi to you. Did you hear her? Oh, you did..." That's probably a little more of her dad's anti-socialness/I'm-on-another-planet-that-exists-in-my-mind, though. Ethan is the most social person in the world, so who knows where that came from, then you get to the twins, and their teachers tell me they are the quietest ones in the class. "Are they always so nice and quiet at home?" they ask. After I've finished laughing hysterically, I say, "No, no, in fact, they are anti-quiet." So, you see? It's all about who you feel comfortable with.

14 comments:

April Fossen said...

We live in the same boat, my friend. No small-talk abilities here. And frequently taken for a snob.

lynda said...

i'm exactly the same way. i sometimes feel that it has kept me from making friends, because i don't know how to make small talk, and because i really don't care about the small things. when people greet me and say "how are you?" i usually answer pretty honestly, and i almost never ask how they are. oops. i have no idea if people think i'm a snob.

Esther said...

I am the same way. It's probably what kept us from talking to each other when you were in our ward years ago. Thank goodness I read your blog and we are friends on facebook!

Morgan said...

i am the same way. i always feel like i say the dumbest things in small talk and thinking about it gives me anxiety. and i have had multiple people (close friends) tell me that they thought i was a snob when they first met me. you definitely have to break through a shell. great post!

Sharon said...

i'm just a snob! haha good post.

Hannah S said...

Hahaha. You're right, I have thought of this too. I didn't get to know you until Facebook and we had something (other than acting) in common (the law thing). I felt more comfortable with you online, not as intimidating. Dare I admit that I thought that you thought nothing or very little of me back at BYU? You were like an idol to me, haha. There, I just said it. But you probably already know that snobby side of me too, or maybe not, it comes out more in person, that I am tactless. That's my social flaw.
My hubby hates small talk too, one side of my family suffers from it more than the other, so we avoid them. I try to do the small talk thing but I'm not so sure how I fare. I have to force myself to do it, unless there is some sort of self-interest involved (like I want to know where they go their purse or perhaps I stalk their blog or something immature like that). And there, I just said too much. Okay, so you make me laugh. And isn't it sad/scary/funny how our social traits are passed down to our children? Eek.

AzĂșcar said...

This explains SO MUCH. Like how we'd just smile and nod at each other for YEARS instead of actually talking. And why I wondered why you weren't a little more outgoing when our kids were meeting over t-ball. Or how I (and I'm so sorry to admit this) thought you might be a little snobby. I should have KNOWN that you were just socially pathetic (heehee.)

Lizzy said...

Please let me come be friends with you!! We will be in NYC this summer (and hopefully for a long time more come summer 2013.) And I won't know anyone - And I love Diet Coke and Thai and Starbucks and Zumba! Pick me!!

Natalie said...

I love this post and it made me miss you so much and I would go get Diet Coke and Thai with you anyday of the week. And my butt is killing from spin class today and Up All Night slayed me last night, along with the Office. We were just catching up from last week.

Really, I love and miss you SO much.

Hailey said...

Thanks, guys. You all make me feel so unweird. I appreciate it.

Heidi said...

I SOOO relate to this! I adore you Hailey and am so glad we're friends! Let's grab a Caramel Apple spice hot cider at Starbucks after Zumba next time and continue this incredible self-awareness discussion. Love ya!

Will Rubio said...

As a professional small talker and someone who even enjoys talking to the checker at the grocery store, I can't relate directly. But your post gives me insight into my girlfriend who would rather eat cut glass than talk to someone she doesn't know. She very much prefers familiarity. Soooo Question for the ladies in the small talk aversion boat: Is your spouce similar or are they more outgoing in that regard? Do you feel it's better to be alike in this way? what's easier? Could an outgoing partner possibly breed resentment at some point?

Great post Hailey, I'm sure more than one of my involuntary Latin hugs made you cringe at some point during our budding friendship. ;)

Jewels said...

You know what, my love? I can totally relate to this. I tend to be quite shy and quiet myself. People find that surprising when I say I'm an actress or hear me chatting it up with someone I know. But if Cody takes me to a work party I cling to his arm in hopes he won't leave me alone at the punch table (do they still have punch tables?). I mean, once I get started talking to someone I don't know it gets easier. It's just not easy to get started. Someday I will come visit you and we will go get beverages and Thai food and talk to no one but ourselves. How does that sound?

Hailey said...

Hey, Will! I love it when the guys stop by! As for spouses, Ben is not big on small talk, either. It's not that he doesn't know what to say to people, he just doesn't talk unless he needs to. Even in situations when I feel comfortable with people, I will do a lot more talking than him, and he seems to be fine with it. I think it should be fine, as long as you are aware of your girlfriend's personality and sensitive to it! If she's fine with you taking the limelight, then that's a bonus!