[adv] Interpersonal dealbreakers 101.

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Post by Guest on Tue Feb 17, 2015 7:01 am

Off-shooting from the 'Social skills deficits' thread:

kleenestar wrote:you can get a very long way by avoiding deal-breakers rather than spending your energy trying to be awesome. Avoiding deal-breakers is often just a matter of following a simple rule, like "Ask before you touch someone," as opposed to doing something complicated that requires skill.

Define 'long way'....er, don't answer that.

Anyways, apart from uninvited touching, what are some other social 'dealbreakers' that novices like me should keep in mind?

Off the top of my head:

  • No crude/macabre/sexually charged humour until a stable rapport and a good sense of the other person's mileage has been achieved.
  • No shit-talking behind other peoples backs(?)
  • Getting too personal too early (exactly when do you determine the appropriate time to probe further into a person's life anyway?)
  • Revealing your personal negativism too early

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Post by UristMcBunny on Tue Feb 17, 2015 10:00 am

I'd say, keep in mind that how you treat people other than the person you're interested in also matters.

If someone's nice to me, but rude to waiting staff, or makes fun of others in ways that are cruel rather than mutual, or has a mean streak that comes out in how they respond to stressful situations (like someone who reacts to dealing with an angry customer by turning around afterwards and calling a co-worker or underling something nasty) then I notice. And I'm painfully aware that what separates me from the people that individual is cruel to is a thin, shifting barrier that could evaporate in a moment.

Also, honesty helps. You can go a long way by being honest about your difficulties - I don't mean long, emotional confessions of how terrible social skills are, but just in-the-moment accepting and acknowledging when stuff happens. Like if I have a moment where I get flustered and stuttery and incoherent with someone, I'll stop trying to disguise what's happening, pause, take a breath, smile and apologise explaining that I was getting overexcited/nervous/whatever before continuing. If I find myself getting awkwardly inside someone else's physical space I'll laugh and step back and say something like "woah, sorry, I just realised I was almost on top of you for a moment there!"

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Post by KMR on Tue Feb 17, 2015 10:28 am

Try not to interrupt or talk over other people too much. I've known a few people who do this a lot and it gives the impression that they believe whatever they have to say is far more important than anything I might have to say. I also start to wonder if they're even listening to me in the first place or care at all about anything I'm talking about.

I'm on the opposite end of this spectrum, in that if someone starts to talk over me or we accidentally start talking at the same time, I'll be the first to back off and let the other person speak, which can lead to some one-sided conversations if the other person isn't willing to return the favor for me. If this happens, make sure you take a moment after you're done saying your part to pause and say, "Sorry I interrupted, I believe you were about to say something too?"
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Post by Caffeinated on Tue Feb 17, 2015 12:13 pm

HermitTheToad wrote:Anyways, apart from uninvited touching, what are some other social 'dealbreakers' that novices like me should keep in mind?

Off the top of my head:

  • No crude/macabre/sexually charged humour until a stable rapport and a good sense of the other person's mileage has been achieved.
  • No shit-talking behind other peoples backs(?)
  • Getting too personal too early (exactly when do you determine the appropriate time to probe further into a person's life anyway?)
  • Revealing your personal negativism too early


Those are some good ones you've identified already.

I would add that if someone reveals a sore spot of some kind, not teasing them about it or poking at it. It can be easy to fall into doing that because it gets a reaction, but doing that and having it be a good reaction is an advanced skill.

As for determining the appropriate time to get more personal, some of that will vary by culture and location. Some places and cultures are more reserved than others, or are more reserved about certain topics.

But a way to determine the timing with a particular person is to mirror their speed. Like if personalness of information is on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being "how about the weather" and 10 being stuff you'd only tell your closest confidant. If the person you're talking to is keeping things at the 2 level of early small talk, you are fine keeping it there also, or it's ok to move it up a notch to level 3. Skipping up a couple levels will generally be a bad idea. And if you move things up a level and the other person doesn't follow, then move it back to the previous level.
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Post by LadyLuck on Tue Feb 17, 2015 1:06 pm

I think it would be more helpful to frame some of these in more absolute terms - for example the first one on the OP's list, how is a novice supposed to know when a "stable rapport" and "good sense of other person" have been achieved? And even then...if someone is really new/inexperienced at this, they're probably going to be wrong about their estimations of the other person fairly often. A more helpful phrasing would be "No crude/macabre/sexually charged humour", period. I suppose you could get away with "Don't do potentially inappropriate jokes until the other person does one", but even then, you're going to run into problems if you mistakenly say something WAAAY more scandalous then what the other person led with. For another - Getting too personal too early could maybe be restated as "don't volunteer information about yourself that relates to controversial topics/things people have strong opinions/emotions about. Controversial means things like sex, religion, politics."

Though this kind of makes me me think of a more general rule - don't initiate any "hard mode" stuff. Either follow the lead of the person you're talking to, or just don't do it at all. Now it does seem like it sucks to not ever talk about any of the hard mode stuff as a novice, on the other hand, most of it is just not going to be appropriate topics for most of the people you might interact with. That's why its hard - its things that you can't assume the other person will be receptive to, and thus requires building some social calibration and people-reading skills first.

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Post by Enail on Tue Feb 17, 2015 1:28 pm

I'd say "don't initiate hard mode" is a good strategy for people who want to err on the side of safety, so it could be a good initial strategy if you're working on having surface interactions without making people uncomfortable, but it does also make it harder to learn to develop connections, so you could easily get 'stuck' and stop progressing if you stick to that until you're super-confident about your social calibration.

So I think Caffeinated's scale of 1-10, stay on the same level or try no more than 1 level higher, is still a good one for a lot of people, and it works for "less to more controversial" and so forth as well as "less to more personal."
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Post by Werel on Tue Feb 17, 2015 2:42 pm

Caffeinated wrote:But a way to determine the timing with a particular person is to mirror their speed.

Yes! I like the 1-10 scale. Mirroring your partner's level for casual interaction, bumping it up 1 level higher than them (and backing off graciously if they do not bump up with you) to try to initiate a more personal connection.

A big "dealbreaker"* for me is "makes no effort to even feign interest in what I'm saying." Sort of like not interrupting: if you're clearly using the time while I'm talking to plan what you're going to say next (and these things are pretty visible), that's a whole lot of points off. Listening, and demonstrating that you're listening, is a skill very much worth building.

*Note that in most cases, any one or two of these "don'ts" in an interaction wouldn't be a dealbreaker in the sense of not wanting to talk to a person anymore. A pattern of these behaviors might be, but I'm unlikely to slam the NOPE button for single instances. I have a fair bit of patience for social missteps if someone's intent seems good, and misstep-tolerance varies a lot from person to person. A 101-lesson should also include the caveat that any given failure is not necessarily catastrophic.
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Post by fakely mctest on Tue Feb 17, 2015 2:47 pm

PSA time: there's actually a really good breakdown of the levels concept in Katepreach’s Friending Guide (linked originally in the "Helpful Resources" thread in the news, rules, and community section). I know it's been a minute since we opened the forums, so I thought I'd go ahead and point it out. Grin

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Post by reboot on Tue Feb 17, 2015 2:56 pm

Werel wrote:
*Note that in most cases, any one or two of these "don'ts" in an interaction wouldn't be a dealbreaker in the sense of not wanting to talk to a person anymore. A pattern of these behaviors might be, but I'm unlikely to slam the NOPE button for single instances. I have a fair bit of patience for social missteps if someone's intent seems good, and misstep-tolerance varies a lot from person to person. A 101-lesson should also include the caveat that any given failure is not necessarily catastrophic.

I think this is an excellent point (among all the excellent points listed) and applies to most of the deal breakers mentioned that have to do with conversational interplay/dynamic (less so with the cruelty/rudeness to others ones). Everyone has off days, off moments, etc. where you flub, so one time interrupting is not such a big deal. A pattern of talking over people, not paying attention to your conversational partner, etc is a different story.
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Post by LadyLuck on Wed Feb 18, 2015 1:22 am

if you're clearly using the time while I'm talking to plan what you're going to say next (and these things are pretty visible), that's a whole lot of points off. Listening, and demonstrating that you're listening, is a skill very much worth building.

To be fair, you're kind of defining "real listening" as "Using 100% of your brain space on me and what I'm saying." This is regardless of whether you/your words actually require 100% of that person's attention. This has a number of interesting implications. For one, truly doing this in every single conversation you have with anyone ever is pretty much impossible. Sometimes people will talk about things that aren't interesting, or that you already know, or that are just plain stupid. With that being said...its still not very nice to tell someone "What you're saying is so dumb that I don't even need to try to listen, and I'm totally going to spend all my brainpower on something other then you because you're clearly not worth it". So you should still try to make sure that's not what you're communicating with your body language/actions, and where appropriate, use words to affirm that you are in fact listening.

What I'm sort of getting at here is, no, you can't actually stop someone from "using the time while I'm talking to plan what you're going to say next". It's not completely reasonable for people to expect someone to shut all other aspects of their brain off just because you're talking. What is reasonable, is for individuals to nonetheless make efforts towards doing the required social performance as a means of demonstrating respect for the person they're conversing with. So even if you aren't really focusing on the other person/what they're saying, its still expected that you pretend that you are.

This kind of gets into the larger point that your brain isn't always going to operate along socially-approved lines at all times. But even if a certain form of social performance isn't easy/natural for you, its still important because that's part of how you can loudly communicate respect for those around you. Lack of such performances is interpreted as "I can't be bothered to do required thing X because I don't care about showing respect for you" by default, regardless of the actual reason.

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Post by Werel on Wed Feb 18, 2015 4:08 pm

LadyLuck wrote:
if you're clearly using the time while I'm talking to plan what you're going to say next (and these things are pretty visible), that's a whole lot of points off. Listening, and demonstrating that you're listening, is a skill very much worth building.

To be fair, you're kind of defining "real listening" as "Using 100% of your brain space on me and what I'm saying."

Oh, haha, I didn't mean that at all-- everyone's got about ninety things going in their brain at all times, and that's good and right and normal! And everybody uses part of their brain during others' turns to construct a response, which is also good and helps the conversation flow efficiently. I just meant the extreme version, broadcasting the message
LadyLuck wrote:"What you're saying is so dumb that I don't even need to try to listen, and I'm totally going to spend all my brainpower on something other then you because you're clearly not worth it".
Or the old Fight Club trope (oh God am I really quoting Fight Club?), "just waiting for your turn to talk." I like the way you put it here:
LadyLuck wrote:What is reasonable, is for individuals to nonetheless make efforts towards doing the required social performance as a means of demonstrating respect for the person they're conversing with. So even if you aren't really focusing on the other person/what they're saying, its still expected that you pretend that you are... its still important because that's part of how you can loudly communicate respect for those around you. Lack of such performances is interpreted as "I can't be bothered to do required thing X because I don't care about showing respect for you" by default, regardless of the actual reason.

Yes! Bingo on "loudly communicating respect." All I (and most folks, I think) generally ask from people is that they feign a bare minimum of polite listening (can't reasonably ask others to always be legitimately interested in what you have to say). If they are clearly just doing the bare minimum of polite listening, I try in turn to be polite and wrap it up/change topics/leave them alone without using too much of their time. But turn-taking, and giving the impression that you care enough about your conversation partner to process and respond to what they're saying, are really crucial 101 skills.
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Post by LadyLuck on Thu Feb 19, 2015 2:05 am

Another cool thing about practicing such "performances" is that it can help you recognize and interpret them in others. Feigned interest is definitely better then showing no interest at all, but it is still distinctly different from actually being interested. One is "I respect your desire to speak, but what you're saying really isn't engaging me", the other is "FASCINATING, SAY MORE", and each has a different "correct" response, as Werel touched on. If you've actually "performed" both of these, you'll have a conscious idea of what separates them, and thus can have a clear idea on what to look for. This can help prepare you for more 102-ish topics, like reading a person's feedback on your behavior and adjusting for it.

Also, @ Werel - I don't think you ever meant your post harshly/negatively. However, when I was younger and less mature, I definitely did see certain common phrases about social expectations more negatively then they were meant, and that includes the "you shouldn't be planning what to say next" thing. I took it rather literally, as someone trying to psuedo thought-police me. Also, given that I identify as ASD, its always been unusually hard for me to follow such advice literally. Also, I thought things like "How is it my fault that you've said something wrong only 2 sentences into your speech?" I assumed everyone else really did follow such phrasing literally, which to me meant everybody else was just too stupid to think about what they're listening to as they're hearing it. All of this of course is pretty inaccurate, but hey, I did say less mature.

But as mentioned, it wasn't ever meant 100% literally, and it was never about what a person was thinking, it was about their mindset towards others, and how their actions showed that. The point I'm getting at though, is that such figures of speech with non-literal meanings are a lot more subject to interpretation. Those of us who have to work with social skills tend to be the type that have to take extra time to digest nuance. As such our snap interpretations are likely to be surface-level ones. That's why I said in my previous post that its better that these sorts of rules be concrete with little ambiguity; the average socially unskilled person doesn't deal well with ambiguity, and will tend to miss unstated assumptions. That's why I followed up to add on, so fewer other people make the stupid snap calls I did in my youth.

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Post by celette482 on Thu Feb 19, 2015 10:31 am

I'm gonna add getting too clingy. Just like romantic relationships can have jealous partners who get pissed or pissy when their partner has a life, it can happen in friendships too. Especially at the 3-5 level, when it's clear that you're starting to be more than just acquaintances but you haven't reached the point where you feel comfortable really saying what you want (general you here.) It can be tempting to compare the behavior of a person you like (in a friend way) toward you to their behavior toward other people and feel, well, jealous. If you've ever had a person constantly trying to insert themselves into your conversation with someone else, for example, that can be clinginess. Demanding people's attention is not a very attractive trait.

At higher friend levels you have a higher expectation of attention, but you never get to the point where there isn't a possibility of demanding attention from someone else. The bar might rise, but it never goes away entirely. If I insisted my best friend call me in the middle of the work day because I'm bored or because I hate that she's talking to be not me, that would be the exact same fault.
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Post by kleenestar on Fri Feb 20, 2015 1:00 am

For the novices reading along: people have had a lot of good ideas, but I want to reassure you that you don't have to master all of these at once. If you show you are working on one or more of these, people will often be more patient with the others.

If I had to pick a place to start working, it would be learning how to apologize for mistakes (which includes ways to correct the behavior). There's a real skill to it, but it's a very specific situation so it's not overwhelming. And it helps you with learning all the other skills because it gives people more patience with you, and lets you recover from your inevitable learning errors more effectively and quickly. Most important, it shows people you don't intend to make a pattern out of the troubling behavior.
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Post by Hirundo Bos on Fri Feb 20, 2015 12:58 pm

kleenestar wrote:For the novices reading along: people have had a lot of good ideas, but I want to reassure you that you don't have to master all of these at once. If you show you are working on one or more of these, people will often be more patient with the others.

If I had to pick a place to start working, it would be learning how to apologize for mistakes (which includes ways to correct the behavior). There's a real skill to it, but it's a very specific situation so it's not overwhelming. And it helps you with learning all the other skills because it gives people more patience with you, and lets you recover from your inevitable learning errors more effectively and quickly. Most important, it shows people you don't intend to make a pattern out of the troubling behavior.

Sounds like a smart skill to start with... Just wanted to add that for me, at least, the first thing I've had to learn towards that skill has been how to not be overwhelmed – by guilt, shame, embarassment, self-reproach – after I've made a mistake. I mean, all those emotions have a place, they play a role in learning for the future, in guiding you through the present, and a very direct role when you make a sincere apology.

But if you don't keep them at a manageable level, or at least that's been the case for me, it becomes difficult to cope at all, and you can end up reacting with anger, or withdrawal – not the best responses when an apology is required – or you can end up overdoing the apology, putting pressure on the people you're apologizing to to comfort you rather than take care of themselves.
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