New skills for social gatherings [adv]

Go down

New skills for social gatherings [adv] Empty New skills for social gatherings [adv]

Post by Enail on Sat Mar 07, 2015 8:34 pm

I find myself in need of some new ideas to bolster my social skills for gatherings. Specifically, friends-of-the-family type gatherings, the kind of thing where you see many people, mostly a fair bit younger or older than you, that you've known vaguely for some time but not in depth, so there's a fair bit of small talk with people you know a little too well for 'getting to know you' small talk but see so rarely there's not much connection to draw on.

This has always been one of the toughest kinds of social situation for me (I'm bad with faces, so I can't always recognize So-and-so-'s Uncle X vs. So-and-so's Uncle Y, even if I've had multiple conversations with them over the years, I have a poor memory for aural information, I'm just generally not that good with group settings.)

But I also have some new limitations that mean a lot of my usual strategies for this kind of situation are no longer viable. I can't stand for very long, I need to find a chair and pretty much stick to it (and preferably in an out of the way place - if I'm in the flow of traffic, I risk being hurt), I can't carry food or drinks, most of the places these gatherings happen aren't easy for me to access the bathroom. I'm also usually in enough pain that I'm not at my conversational best. And the easiest thing for people who don't know me that well to start conversations on tends to land up being a  downer, even if I try to keep things light.

Which means:
-no mingling and milling about, no seeking out the people I'd find easiest to talk to
-no excusing myself to be elsewhere/get some nibblies/go to the bathroom when a conversation's exhausted itself or I need an introvert moment
-people who stop by and say hi can see I'm sort of stuck, so they feel obligated to stick around and keep me company, even when neither of us has anything to say and it's super-awkward

Does anyone have ideas for alternate tricks and strategies I can use instead?
Enail
Enail
Admin

Posts : 3997
Reputation : 2214
Join date : 2014-09-22

View user profile

Back to top Go down

New skills for social gatherings [adv] Empty Re: New skills for social gatherings [adv]

Post by InkAndComb on Sat Mar 07, 2015 11:37 pm

What kind of people are they? Can you get a feel for their interests through mutual connections/facebook, etc? My former SO's family was super super big into River Monster, fishing, light religion (they were all very friendly christians but not necessarily bythebook), and sports. While I know near nothing about sports, or fishing, etc, before we'd go hang out I'd do some "research", try to brush up on whatever people might be talking about.

Finding light conversation topics is the number one way for me to assuade my anxiety. The only other thing that goes hand in hand with this is avoiding being the factspouter (this I do sometimes, especially with animal facts *facepalm*).

On the other side, if you are easily fatigued and have issues with conversation ,hitting on these topics can require minimal effort on your end :3

volley the convo back to them as much as possible, and usually the mingling aspect will end with a pleasant walkaway and interaction with the next guest (if they come up to you). The other thing is, if everyone is related, they may also have family stories and such that get passed around. Ask them for their favorite, etc, or things that everyone knows about the family, "what's a typical bentley thing to do?" etc.

Usually when I have an introvert moment it's easily covered by everyone chatting and milling about, and finding a common topic of conversation is easier when people are family (I swear everyone has something they all like as a unit). Hope this helps a bit!

InkAndComb
InkAndComb

Posts : 145
Reputation : 38
Join date : 2014-11-11

View user profile

Back to top Go down

New skills for social gatherings [adv] Empty Re: New skills for social gatherings [adv]

Post by readertorider on Sun Mar 08, 2015 8:27 am

For me there's usually family member(s) that want to play X card game and it's easy to drift to a table near where everyone else has gathered and talk over canasta or rummy (there are also variants for groups up to 12 depending). The pauses when the conversations run their course aren't so bad because we're concentrating on the game and it keeps us in contact long enough to come up with new avenues of conversation. I think this also works if you don't mind playing simple board games with any children who are present.

Also our gatherings often devolve into medium groups seated around a table with nibblings or cards--would it be a reasonable thing to ask your host to create a table or seating area that could accommodate 5-10+ people? Then there's other people to do the work of keeping a conversation going and topics are usually more general (though where that conversation goes might be a chancy thing, but you might be able to ask someone else who looks board for assistance in going somewhere else--show me the nibbles! your aunt! these kids of yours!--if necessary?).

Hopes this helps as well!
readertorider
readertorider

Posts : 155
Reputation : 58
Join date : 2014-10-23

View user profile

Back to top Go down

New skills for social gatherings [adv] Empty Re: New skills for social gatherings [adv]

Post by reboot on Sun Mar 08, 2015 10:42 am

In your position, I might go into the more passive mode in conversation. Ask questions about them and get them telling stories. It will avoid having the conversation go downer (unless they take it that way).

It also sounds like missing mingling will not break your heart since no one is someone you seem to especially want to get to know, so maybe bring a book and ask the host to set up a sitting area away from the flow of traffic, but near the loo, to accommodate your mobility issues and only mingle with those who approach you?
reboot
reboot
Moderator of "Other Relationships" and "Gender, Identity and Society"

Posts : 2514
Reputation : 1005
Join date : 2014-09-24

View user profile

Back to top Go down

New skills for social gatherings [adv] Empty Re: New skills for social gatherings [adv]

Post by kleenestar on Sun Mar 08, 2015 5:49 pm

It sounds to me like you need three separate skills to make this work comfortably:

1) Deflecting away from the downer topic (assuming you'd rather not discuss it with random folks). This is probably the easiest of the three - come up with a script you can practice and test. I like, "Oh, that's not really a party conversation - ask me about it some other time." Then I follow up with a change of subject.

2) Ending conversations when you can't walk away. This is another script situation, but you'll probably need 3-5 different ones you can try out. We can help you brainstorm, but I think we need a sense of your comfort level saying things like, "Thanks so much for stopping to say hi. I'm pretty pooped and could use a couple of minutes to rest before [thing of your choice ... e.g. I have to say hello to person Y]." Let them do you a small favor ("Could you just make sure my drink is within reach? Thanks!") and this may work really well.

3) Coming prepared with conversation topics that are appropriate for your level of intimacy with these people. I generally have three options on hand. Right now my first try is the "flipped classroom" (I often start with, "So, did you read that article about Khan Academy?" because there's always a recent article about Khan Academy); everyone has gone to school and many have kids in school, so most people can relate. This can lead to conversation about interesting learning experiences they've had, what they think about how kids should be learning, things they hated about school, or a number of other places. The second is about GamerGate - people who don't know about it are riveted, and people who know about it are generally interested in my opinion as a professional, but it's still a party-appropriate conversation since it hardly requires deep expertise to have an opinion. If both of those fail, I go to my trusty standby - asking them for advice about something. Right now I'm asking people what advice they'd give me as a parent based on how their parents raised them, which has gotten some SUPER responses and started lots of interesting conversations, but you can choose advice on any subject you think might interest you.

Hope this is helpful!
kleenestar
kleenestar

Posts : 289
Reputation : 204
Join date : 2014-10-01

View user profile

Back to top Go down

New skills for social gatherings [adv] Empty Re: New skills for social gatherings [adv]

Post by Enail on Sun Mar 08, 2015 8:18 pm

Thanks all, this is very helpful! Some great ideas for good discussion-starters for this level of interaction. And I didn't know one could just bring a book and read!  Shocked  Shiny/thrilled

@Kleenestar: I have to admit I'd feel a little uncomfortable trying the script in #2 - I'm pretty good at being assertive in the kind of way that involves me walking away from the other person, but less so with the reverse. But it sounds like maybe getting comfortable with that will be part of developing the skills I need?

I like the idea of asking for a favour, that seems like it could be really effective, and probably would have a softening effect on the part that seems alarming to me in your script! Asking for favours is another skill to improve - being limited in the things I can do has really brought out an aggressively independent streak in me - but that's one I'm already working on, so this will be good practice!


Perhaps y'all could give me some opinions on where I might be going wrong in deflecting the downer topic or keeping it light: I'm on crutches, which means people will ask me about crutches, and I don't mind being asked....but it was not caused by an interesting accident, it's probably permanent and has hugely interfered with a lot of other aspects of my life. Not great light chit-chat material. I currently have two main turn-off points ready:

1. if they seem interested or press for details (politely!), after a two-sentence summary, it connects easily to brain stuff that tends to be interesting to folks who are into general pop science topics.
2. more generally, I'll joke a bit about how I've suddenly got arm muscles (I do!), and segue into athletics and/or lack thereof.

I'm pretty good at adlibbing other ways to lighten things or change subjects, but the main problem I run into is that after a bit of lighter discussion, people seem to push to return the topic to my personal situation. My impression is that they seem to feel they haven't been sympathetic/politely interested enough yet and are doing it out of social kindness, but eventually I run out of ways to steer us away from a conversational dead-end, and they never seem to have anything to contribute to getting us out of it once we're in it.

Is it possible that I'm trying to lighten things up too soon, that if I let it go on a little further into dark territory, they'd feel more comfortable moving on when I offer a turning point? Or is there something else obvious that I'm getting wrong?
Enail
Enail
Admin

Posts : 3997
Reputation : 2214
Join date : 2014-09-22

View user profile

Back to top Go down

New skills for social gatherings [adv] Empty Re: New skills for social gatherings [adv]

Post by kleenestar on Mon Mar 09, 2015 6:39 pm

Here's my question. What is the dead-end you encounter and what is the "getting us out of it" technique that seems to work? What would someone else "getting you out of it" look like? Because I think that will help backtrace to how to avoid getting into that situation.

My take would be to explicitly steer away rather than implicitly. So, for example, "Oh, that's not really a party topic. But at least I'm developing arm muscles!" (etc. etc.) That way people know that you are okay with them not returning to the topic in this context, but it doesn't come off like a rebuff of their attempt to build intimacy with you.
kleenestar
kleenestar

Posts : 289
Reputation : 204
Join date : 2014-10-01

View user profile

Back to top Go down

New skills for social gatherings [adv] Empty Re: New skills for social gatherings [adv]

Post by Enail on Mon Mar 09, 2015 6:59 pm

Ohhh, that's a great idea! Why didn't I think of that? Thank you, that will be so useful!

The dead end is something along the lines of "oh, I'm so sorry to hear that" (that part's fine), followed by a lot of looking very sad and awkward, and continuing to say either sympathetic things or encouraging things that rest on incorrect assumptions. When we've hit dead-end, it's almost like they're stuck in a loop, they'll keep saying the same kinds of sympathetic/encouraging things (whether or not I explain that the encouraging thing doesn't actually apply). They won't respond to my "yeah, it's not much fun. But I did discover a great restaurant near the physio - have you ever tried X food?" -type attempts to continue the conversation, sometimes they almost don't seem to have heard it. It usually takes about three tries to move on.

I'm exaggerating both the ubiquity and the intensity of the response some to try and get across the issue, so it's not quite as much like broken dolls as it sounds. But it feels like a disproportionately conversation-killing reaction for how serious the topic is - and I'm pretty confident it's not because I come across as overly upset, depressing or at a loss for how to move on (conversationally or with my life).
Enail
Enail
Admin

Posts : 3997
Reputation : 2214
Join date : 2014-09-22

View user profile

Back to top Go down

New skills for social gatherings [adv] Empty Re: New skills for social gatherings [adv]

Post by kleenestar on Tue Mar 10, 2015 6:30 pm

Okay, that's very helpful. My guess is that they are trying to behave in a way that shows you they care about you without knowing you well enough to be effective. My guess is that all you need to do is give their good intentions some guidance.

By itself, "That's not really a party topic" will help a lot - you can come up with three or four variations on the phrase. But I think you should be prepared, if necessary, to combine it with an explicit deflection. "It's such a treat to have a night off from thinking about being sick. I'd really love to talk about [insert prepared topic]." Again, you might want a couple of variations you can pull out of your back pocket - but that's a version of the favor-asking techniques that might be more comfortable for you and more effective at saying "Yes, I see that you want to be kind to me; here's how to do it."
kleenestar
kleenestar

Posts : 289
Reputation : 204
Join date : 2014-10-01

View user profile

Back to top Go down

New skills for social gatherings [adv] Empty Re: New skills for social gatherings [adv]

Post by Enail on Tue Mar 10, 2015 6:39 pm

Oh, that sounds both really useful and not actually too difficult for me to do, much less so than I feared might be needed! Woo! Thanks so much for your advice!
Enail
Enail
Admin

Posts : 3997
Reputation : 2214
Join date : 2014-09-22

View user profile

Back to top Go down

New skills for social gatherings [adv] Empty Re: New skills for social gatherings [adv]

Post by kleenestar on Tue Mar 10, 2015 10:29 pm

My pleasure!! Let us know how well it works - we can help you refine and iterate if need be.
kleenestar
kleenestar

Posts : 289
Reputation : 204
Join date : 2014-10-01

View user profile

Back to top Go down

New skills for social gatherings [adv] Empty Re: New skills for social gatherings [adv]

Post by Enail on Tue Mar 10, 2015 10:37 pm

It may be a while till I land up trying it out, since I don't attend these sorts of things too often, I just wanted to start thinking up strategies before one was sprung on me. But I will report when I do!
Enail
Enail
Admin

Posts : 3997
Reputation : 2214
Join date : 2014-09-22

View user profile

Back to top Go down

New skills for social gatherings [adv] Empty Re: New skills for social gatherings [adv]

Post by Enail on Sun Apr 05, 2015 6:11 pm

Reviving this thread to report: the "it's a treat to have a night off from thinking about being sick" worked really well! I didn't get a chance to try out the favour requesting, because my wife is much too attentive and helpful Razz But overall, having a way to deflect the downer topic plus having some more conversation-starters ready than I'd usually expect to need was really helpful, and it was a much less awkward evening than the last similar occasion. Much thanks, all! cheers
Enail
Enail
Admin

Posts : 3997
Reputation : 2214
Join date : 2014-09-22

View user profile

Back to top Go down

New skills for social gatherings [adv] Empty Re: New skills for social gatherings [adv]

Post by kleenestar on Sun Apr 05, 2015 11:57 pm

Oh, huzzah, I'm so glad!
kleenestar
kleenestar

Posts : 289
Reputation : 204
Join date : 2014-10-01

View user profile

Back to top Go down

New skills for social gatherings [adv] Empty Re: New skills for social gatherings [adv]

Post by Sponsored content


Sponsored content


Back to top Go down

Back to top


 
Permissions in this forum:
You cannot reply to topics in this forum