How Do I Talk to People Who Aren't Like Me?

Hexmage-PAHexmage-PA Registered User regular
edited October 2018 in Help / Advice Forum
I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about why I have low self-esteem, and I think a large part of it is that I have severe difficulty talking to people who aren't as nerdy as I am. My level of comfort with talking to someone is directly related to how much of a geek they are, and if someone is into more normal things my confidence plummets and anxiety takes over.

I don't have much trouble talking to the people in the nerd trivia group I attend, but I hardly ever speak to anyone else beyond a little bit of small talk. I know with my friends I can talk about just about any geeky thing and they'll be interested (if they aren't themselves fans of whatever I'm talking about). With other people, though, I feel at a loss for what I could possibly talk to them about. I'll wrack my brain for a possible topic of conversation and not find anything. I usually won't speak to most of my co-workers all day. I did try to make more of an effort with talking to them earlier this year, but I quit after several negative experiences. I'm also very uncomfortable with outing myself as a nerd unless I think someone else may be one, as in my experience normal people often use it as ammunition for mockery.

It doesn't help that I have trouble retaining information beyond the things I personally find interesting. For the most blatant example, I once learned that a woman I found attractive who worked at a local store was into music, especially metal. I have hardly listened to music but spent hours a day over the next few weeks researching it, looking up notable bands in different genres, listening to songs on YouTube or Spotify, using Shazam on every song I heard while out and about to identify it, reading up on artists and songs on Wikipedia while also recording relevant information (genre, band name, particularly famous members, most well-known songs, years active, etc) in a Word document, etc. But then I happened to see her profile on a dating site where she said she wanted kids (I don't myself) and lost all interest both in dating her and in learning about music. Spending so much time and effort learning about it didn't spark an interest in me at all.

This negatively impacted my last couple of relationships as well. The former stayed with me for four months but we both decided to break up because we had nothing in common (although we both tried to look into the others' hobbies but couldn't get into them). The latter was into a few nerdy things, like horror movies, aliens, sci-fi, and the cartoon Adventure Time, so it was easy to talk to her about those things, but beyond that it was hard to feel confident while talking to her. It was enough for me to start developing feelings for her, but she must not have felt the same and ended up breaking up with me after only three weeks.

I think another thing that limits what I have available to talk about is that I wasn't very social growing up, either, and don't have many stories I can tell. I also don't have any brothers, sisters, or close family who can invite me to social events or act as support.

Not sure if this is relevant, but a therapist once said he thought I may have Aspergers as well as an anxiety disorder, although I don't think he made an official diagnosis.

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  • basic humanbasic human Registered User regular
    edited October 2018
    Hexmage-PA wrote: »
    It doesn't help that I have trouble retaining information beyond the things I personally find interesting. For the most blatant example, I once learned that a woman I found attractive who worked at a local store was into music, especially metal. I have hardly listened to music but spent hours a day over the next few weeks researching it, looking up notable bands in different genres, listening to songs on YouTube or Spotify, using Shazam on every song I heard while out and about to identify it, reading up on artists and songs on Wikipedia while also recording relevant information (genre, band name, particularly famous members, most well-known songs, years active, etc) in a Word document, etc. But then I happened to see her profile on a dating site where she said she wanted kids (I don't myself) and lost all interest both in dating her and in learning about music. Spending so much time and effort learning about it didn't spark an interest in me at all.

    Why on Earth did you do this, why did you spend so much of your limited time on this Earth researching a topic you don’t give a shit about just because a girl you’re interested in likes it too? Because you want her approval and to validate you as a potential mate? Girls don’t like guys that beg them for their approval, especially guys who pretend to know about shit they like. You would have much better luck telling her “I bet you’re really interested in heavy metal, but personally I don’t give a shit about any kind of music.” At least then you won’t have to live a lie to get her to keep talking to you. She’ll either like you or she won’t, and that’s all you want to find out. You do not want to be in the middle ground. You destroyed every opportunity for her to teach you what you researched.

    Do not do this again. That’s a start.

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  • Hexmage-PAHexmage-PA Registered User regular
    Hexmage-PA wrote: »
    It doesn't help that I have trouble retaining information beyond the things I personally find interesting. For the most blatant example, I once learned that a woman I found attractive who worked at a local store was into music, especially metal. I have hardly listened to music but spent hours a day over the next few weeks researching it, looking up notable bands in different genres, listening to songs on YouTube or Spotify, using Shazam on every song I heard while out and about to identify it, reading up on artists and songs on Wikipedia while also recording relevant information (genre, band name, particularly famous members, most well-known songs, years active, etc) in a Word document, etc. But then I happened to see her profile on a dating site where she said she wanted kids (I don't myself) and lost all interest both in dating her and in learning about music. Spending so much time and effort learning about it didn't spark an interest in me at all.

    Why on Earth did you do this, why did you spend so much of your limited time on this Earth researching a topic you don’t give a shit about just because a girl you’re interested in likes it too? Because you want her approval and to validate you as a potential mate? Girls don’t like guys that beg them for their approval, especially guys who pretend to know about shit they like. You would have much better luck telling her “I bet you’re really interested in heavy metal, but personally I don’t give a shit about any kind of music.” At least then you won’t have to live a lie to get her to keep talking to you. She’ll either like you or she won’t, and that’s all you want to find out. You do not want to be in the middle ground. You destroyed every opportunity for her to teach you what you researched.

    Do not do this again. That’s a start.

    Well, I also thought "most people like music, and I don't actively hate it, so maybe if I take time to learn about it I'll like it, too." I didn't only research the genre she likes, either. But ultimately I discovered I'd rather listen to podcasts than music.

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  • TastyfishTastyfish Registered User regular
    edited October 2018
    I think the first thing to realise would be that you're probably making this into more a deal than it really is, it can be difficult but you're probably putting up a lot of barriers yourself.
    Look at it from the perspective of you meeting another you at work without realising it - you both would probably not talk much, and keep your main interests hidden.

    I wonder if you're making nerd/geek into too much of a specific identity for yourself and using it as the lens to judge all your social interactions - geek culture is pretty much mainstream (assuming the rest of your coworkers are of roughly similar age), so in all likelihood just saying something in passing that would "out" you isn't going to mark you as some pariah and there's probably more cross over between you and other people than you think. Kind of feels you're making this into far more specific label than it really is, which is only going to get your mind to then split people into "those like me" and "Others", and Others are always intimidating.

    However, they're not going to be carbon copies of you, or even like the thing you share to same extent. So don't obsess if you find some connection, again think about a version of you that is really into something you kind of like, but just kind of is Ok with something you're really into - if your first couple of conversations just consist of them going deep into the thing they are obsessed with as soon as they found you've seen the same show/game etc, you're not going to have a great experience and unconsciously probably not be as open again in the future, which could easily be perceive as being a little hostile. Just takes time and lots of small, slight overlaps in interest to build up a personal connection, and you might find that there's some other stuff that's interesting enough for you to hold your attention for a little while in something you didn't expect. And that's what you're aiming for - lots of little bits of stuff like that, rather than some instant shared obsession - as then the relationship is more about the shared obsession and your relationship with it, rather than each other. Shared crazy comes later once you find something new that you're both really into and can delve in and discover already.

    Trying to 'Cram' on something to become an expert in something someone else cares about is never going to work, unless you find yourself excited by it too.

    As for stories and events, there's a lot of social groups on facebook in a bunch of towns that are just for people who are new to an area or what to meet more people to meet up, often around some quirky or novel experience. it'd be a good way of meeting people and getting new stories, either as recommendations for thing for people to check out, or horror stories to tell later. Nothing wrong with recycling the stories you hear there too, "that reminds me of a story this guy told me when I was last at a thing like this..." is a narrative framing device as old as time.

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  • MrGrimoireMrGrimoire Pixflare Registered User regular
    As you've noted, the key to talking to people is to have something to talk about. It doesn't have to be a lot, but at least surface familiarity often helps. Surface skimming a newspaper or two is a good start, just going for trivia and non-political things. Apart from that, weather, family and work are usually safe topics to chat about. People respond well to "how are your children doing?" and then the conversation can wander from there.

    I'm much in the same boat in that I don't really like to talk to people, but as a nursing student I've spent a lot of time in proximity to people while doing medical things, and it helps to have something to talk about. So just asking about general things are fine. It's definitely a practice thing, but the only way to practice is to do it. As long as it's a good-faith approach, people tend to respond positively to polite conversation on the above-mentioned topics.

    Also, lots of people who're not geeks, can still talk about geeky things, but you need to approach it a bit different. While I almost exclusively read sci-fi/ fantasy, I've picked up just enough about books in general to have literature conversations even with people who're into different genres. They're not always long conversations, but hey.

    And finally, ask questions. Lots of people will happily chat about their interest. As might be obvious, I'm assuming general small-talk and light conversation here, not hours of deep discussion. Because you're only going to get that if you hit a mutually interesting topic and that's extremely hit and miss outside your immediate circle of friends.

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  • BurtletoyBurtletoy Registered User regular
    edited October 2018
    edit nevermind

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  • ArcanisTheImpotentArcanisTheImpotent Registered User regular
    it sounds like your social group is primarily driven by common interest—do you have any friends you talk to about topics that aren’t in that realm? if you want to connect with another person you need to develop an interest in them beyond the music they like or the shows they watch—that’s all surface level stuff.

    try asking people about their passions. their dreams, their hopes and fears, and maybe share some of your own if you start to click. it’s a really scary prospect at first, but over the years i have witnessed first hand the power of just being real with folks.

    it requires you to genuinely be interested in these other people as humans, though. if you aren’t, and you want to be, then you have to start there and force yourself to care.

  • Hexmage-PAHexmage-PA Registered User regular
    edited October 2018
    it sounds like your social group is primarily driven by common interest—do you have any friends you talk to about topics that aren’t in that realm? if you want to connect with another person you need to develop an interest in them beyond the music they like or the shows they watch—that’s all surface level stuff.

    try asking people about their passions. their dreams, their hopes and fears, and maybe share some of your own if you start to click. it’s a really scary prospect at first, but over the years i have witnessed first hand the power of just being real with folks.

    One of the last social interactions I had with the last woman I dated was to ask her when she became an agnostic, but for some reason I felt very hesitant to ask this and even prefaced my question with "I'm sorry if this is random, but..."

    I think somehow I got problematic notions in my head on when it is appropriate to ask people certain things. I have had times were I've said or asked something and gotten reactions like "where did that come from", "that was random", "your mind is just always going, isn't it", etc.

    I guess I think of common interests as safe.

    However, I'm also uncomfortable with silence and feel like if I'm with someone and we're not talking then I'm not being interesting. With my last girlfriend there was a point on the last day we were together where we went to her apartment's pool. She brought some floats and something to play music softly with. We got out on the floats, not saying anything to each other, and I got very anxious very quickly. After a few minutes I got off the float and started swimming around the pool. She must have noticed I was being antsy because she said in a kind of awkward tone "I"m sorry if I'm boring." Later on the way back from the pool we walked in silence, which made me feel like I was doing something wrong and needed to find something to engage her with, but couldn't think of anything.

    As a sidenote, I also started running a Dungeons & Dragons game for the first time with some people I don't know well. I had hoped it would help me become more confident, but so far whenever I have to narrate what's happening out of combat I feel like I end up talking too quickly and stumbling over my words. Plus whenever someone comes to talk to me after the game about ideas they have for their character's backstory I end up spending a lot of mental energy just trying to fight the automatic sense of anxiety I get from being in a one on one conversation with someone I don't know and end up barely remembering what they actually said.

    I guess maybe my default, subconscious reaction to talking to people in general is to expect that they will turn on me at the drop of a hat or at the very least think something's wrong with me unless I do everything "right". I think with being uncomfortable with silence in particular that I want validation that I'm doing things "right"; having someone engaged in conversation with me is a sign that I'm doing things "right", whereas with silence I'm not getting any validation.

    I'll also say that I tend to drink at least a bit in social situations where alcohol is available because even with just a beer or two I feel far more calm and confident, because this automatic anxiety doesn't trigger then. I honestly like myself better when I've had at least a little bit to drink, and I think the reason the last woman I dated was initially interested was because she liked the person I was at the boardgame cafe or when we had a few drinks at her place more than the person I am when I'm sober.

    I've also looked into seeing a therapist, but I don't live near many therapists, those I've contacted don't take my insurance or aren't taking new patients, and I don't get off work until 3:30 and live an hour away from a city with more therapists so I likely couldn't make it to appointments there in time if I did find someone.

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  • IrukaIruka Registered User, Moderator mod
    edited October 2018
    Hexmage-PA wrote: »
    I guess maybe my default, subconscious reaction to talking to people in general is to expect that they will turn on me at the drop of a hat or at the very least think something's wrong with me unless I do everything "right". I think with being uncomfortable with silence in particular that I want validation that I'm doing things "right"; having someone engaged in conversation with me is a sign that I'm doing things "right", whereas with silence I'm not getting any validation.

    This is the sort of mental loop that I don't think the forums will be able to break you out of. I suggest looking deeper into therapy. There are online solutions now. Also, if you have the ability to save up for a few sessions, a lot of therapy does not fall under insurance, but it doesn't make it worth skipping out on. I'm currently paying out of pocket for my therapist, and though it's a bit costly, it's perhaps one of the best investments I've ever made. If it wont mess with your ability to pay major bills, do therapy anyway. Its an investment into your well being.

    It sounds like your anxiety is very focused on you not doing the right thing, and that's probably getting in the way of you being present in the moment. You aren't able to process how people think or feel about what you are saying (or not saying) because of the cloud in your head. You feeling awkward and uncomfortable is being projected into silences.

    When you are spending the majority of your mental energy beating yourself up and trying to be "correct" in your behavior, it's hard to take a genuine interest in people and listen to them. This:
    Plus whenever someone comes to talk to me after the game about ideas they have for their character's backstory I end up spending a lot of mental energy just trying to fight the automatic sense of anxiety I get from being in a one on one conversation with someone I don't know and end up barely remembering what they actually said.

    This is a difficult situation. Finding a solution that helps you relax in that situation and practice listening is something I highly recommend therapy for. Beating yourself up about it is likely to make it worse, and the underlying fear of people reacting poorly is something you'll need some space and time to work through.

    Throwing yourself into more social situations is oftens peoples answer to this sort of issue, but you might want to consider if the problem is more chemical (like a complete inability to relax in normal circumstances), or if you are just agitating your fears without giving yourself any tools to retreat and take care of yourself (talking to your coworkers but interpreting their reactions as negative).
    However, I'm also uncomfortable with silence and feel like if I'm with someone and we're not talking then I'm not being interesting. With my last girlfriend there was a point on the last day we were together where we went to her apartment's pool. She brought some floats and something to play music softly with. We got out on the floats, not saying anything to each other, and I got very anxious very quickly. After a few minutes I got off the float and started swimming around the pool. She must have noticed I was being antsy because she said in a kind of awkward tone "I"m sorry if I'm boring." Later on the way back from the pool we walked in silence, which made me feel like I was doing something wrong and needed to find something to engage her with, but couldn't think of anything.

    I just want to say, as a person who detests just sitting and watching netflix or being idle in general, I would have been pretty awkward in this situation too, however, I've also learned over time that its generally okay for me to bring a book or a sketchbook for relaxing in company. People don't have to talk every second. I've learned to seek relationships where I'm either comfortable in conversation with them and we keep the engagements kinda short, or they are cool with just chilling out but doing things together. Its 100% okay to express your needs to people, particularly partners. I cannot be with someone long term who would expect me to sit in a pool for a few hours and do nothing but make small talk, and that's perfectly ok. That being said, it's imperative that I can open up and expresses that if I expect my relationships to work. The difference between that girl thinking she was boring and understanding that you were just kinda anxious was you just saying "hey, what do you like to do when you are by the pool? I get kinda antsy when things get quiet, do you mind if I bring a book?"

    Working on your anxiety will generally not mean you go from being shy and awkward to being super fun extraverted people oriented party dude, so you want to look for ways to forgive yourself for being a little more introverted. You need to take a risk in opening up, and then you need to internalize that some people are more suited for your company than others. There are extroverted nerds in my live that I can only hang with for a few hours before they exhaust me, and there are quiet not-nerds in my life that I can comfortably sit with in silence while we do our own thing.

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  • NightslyrNightslyr Registered User regular
    Have you talked to anyone - psychiatrist, counselor, whatever - about your anxiety? Because it seems like it's something you need to tackle head on instead of asking a bunch of other anonymous nerds about on an online forum. It's quite literally affecting your ability to form and maintain relationships.

    With that out of the way, +1 to the advice of talking about ubiquitous things - family, work, etc. - in the most general way. No probing questions or dedicated research beyond remembering how many kids a person has, and what their names are.

    Something else to consider: actual friendships tend to start slowly. While there are cases where people just hit it off and like each other immediately because of shared views and/or interests, most don't. You and whomever else you meet are going to be strangers to each other, and it's going to take time to move past that. There's no set icebreaker - it depends on the situation/context.

    Regarding your dating life, when your girlfriend gets annoyed and says "Sorry for being so boring" that's when you turn around, apologize, and explain it's not her, but rather it's you not knowing what to do or say. Romantic partnerships are different than hanging out with trivia buddies. Assuming it's not simply a relationship predicated on sex, your partner is going to want you to be open and honest with them. If you're months into a relationship, that's the point where both people should start feeling comfortable enough to do that.

    But, yeah, this is just $0.02 from a non-professional. You really should talk face-to-face with someone trained to help with this kind of thing.

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  • ArcanisTheImpotentArcanisTheImpotent Registered User regular
    agree with prior posts; +1 for therapy.

    that being said, you can do some research into tricks and devices of how to break the loops you've placed yourself in. it would require a lot of self-discipline and training though, and it sounds like you are carrying a pretty big weight.

    if you are hell-bent on trying to break the cycle yourself, start small with your existing social groups and start being open and vulnerable with them. if you can get comfortable being vulnerable with people you know, you can translate that over to having casual conversations with strangers. the idea here is engaging in acts that shift the boundaries of what you consider "safe" through repetition in a safe environment.

    iruka's last sentence about expectations and risk are spot on

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  • IrukaIruka Registered User, Moderator mod
    edited October 2018
    .
    Nightslyr wrote: »
    With that out of the way, +1 to the advice of talking about ubiquitous things - family, work, etc. - in the most general way. No probing questions or dedicated research beyond remembering how many kids a person has, and what their names are.

    Totally agree with this. If therapy is 100% not an option and you've truly exhausted it as a possibility, I would recommend looking into ways to reconfigure how you feel about small talk. I wouldn't be able to recommend something specific, but i'm sure there are books/podcasts that could help.

    To expand on this a bit from my personal experience: I used to hate small talk, then I had to get over to work retail and food service. I worked through it by reframing it in my head, and try to look as small talk as this:

    1) It is first a simple test of normalcy people engage in. When someone says "Hey, nice weather we're having!" I hear them asking: "is this person friendly and non threatening?". Responding positively with good body language and a smile is saying "I am friendly! Lets talk for just a moment, strange new person". On the onset, I am just as unknown and a risk for someone to talk to as they are to me.

    2) Responding is statement on my willingness to let the other person engage, and saying "I can read the room". If they start to open up and ask questions, they want to chit chat, and you can chit chat back. If they start to shut down, it was a pleasantry and we can both move on. If they chit chat too much, they might not be too interested in me and just like to chat, and I can move on.

    3) Moving beyond chit chat happens when we've both established that we can read each others invitations for engagement clearly, and questions naturally lead to more interesting places. Common interests lead to things like: "I asked you about the weather, and you said it was good for camping! How exciting, I would like to learn more about camping", in establishing we understand each others boundaries, I can ask more interesting questions "How do you feel about camping" "I'm afraid of snakes, have you ever seen one out there?" "Do you go by yourself?". You must take the risk to engage more deeply, and also give a shit about these answers. People are interesting! Take an interest in how they feel rather than what they do.

    Those basic principals help me be more social. Because I'm anxious, conversations often feel aggressive for me. I would think "people will be mad if I say the wrong things!" Or "people think I'm weird and dont like me!". Looking at conversations as an agreement between two parties to see if we're compatible is how I let go of some of that guilt. I'm just as allowed to not want to engage as they are, and establish how much I want to open up based on how they respond. Its analytical and calms my brain down, but it puts my mental energy towards focusing on how people feel when we chat, which helps me engage.

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  • Hexmage-PAHexmage-PA Registered User regular
    So I ended up being invited by three members of my D&D group to go eat after the game. I had been invited before and declined, but I went this time. I felt pretty anxious at first, but eventually I noticed the others were being quiet at the time as well, which calmed me a bit.

    Eventually we started talking a bit. Two of them turned out to be easy to talk to, as we had a good deal of common interests (Doctor Who, video games, tv shows, animation). The third was quiet most of the time.

    I wish I remembered how exactly the ice was broken. I recall that the subject of TV shows that replaced actors came up early, which led to talking about The Office and later Doctor Who.

    I feel good about how that went, although I feel like I should have tried addressing the third, quieter person more, both so she wouldn't feel left out and also because I figure she would have fewer interests in common and be more challenging for me to talk to.

    I also noticed while running my D&D session that I used words like "some kind of x" and "basically" way too often.

    Overall I'm feeling more positive than I had for the last several days.

    I also downloaded a lot of podcasts episodes dealing with social anxiety and dating advice earlier (seems like "how to talk to people in general like a normal person" is a common subject on dating advice podcasts). It does make me feel better somewhat seeing proof that there are other people with issues like mine.

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  • OnTheLastCastleOnTheLastCastle let's keep it haimish for the peripatetic Registered User regular
    edited October 2018
    Is there a reason you're not going to a therapist? Podcasts are just you trying to DIY when people are trained for this.

    I don't know if it'll make you feel better, but I suffer from this and people keep telling me I'm charismatic and I manage to stream games fairly successfully. I've had to lead two PAX dinner meetups on the spot. That doesn't make it easier for me in the moment or my self-recriminations after the fact better. That's why I'm in therapy.

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  • SmrtnikSmrtnik job boli zub Registered User regular
    Keep in mind that third person that was quiet may have something similar going on and was the whole time thinking "omg omg, what do i say, i don't know what to say".

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  • TarantioTarantio Registered User regular
    Hexmage-PA wrote: »

    I feel good about how that went, although I feel like I should have tried addressing the third, quieter person more, both so she wouldn't feel left out and also because I figure she would have fewer interests in common and be more challenging for me to talk to.

    This is a good and thoughtful instinct, but consider going easy on yourself about it.

    The third person may have preferred to stay quiet and listen, or not, but either way the best thing you can do is relax about it.

    As long as the thought isn't bringing you anxiety, giving people opportunities to join a conversation is a great thing to do. But if it is, that doesn't have to be your responsibility.

    It doesn't sound like any one person was monopolizing the conversation, either, which is also great.

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  • CelestialBadgerCelestialBadger Registered User regular
    Therapists specialize in this stuff. Go to one.

    Also, only socializing with other nerds is fine. There are plenty out there.

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  • Bliss 101Bliss 101 Registered User regular
    Therapists specialize in this stuff. Go to one.

    Also, only socializing with other nerds is fine. There are plenty out there.

    This. It took me a long, long time to realize that I don't have to be interested in everything other people are into, and I've been about 9000% happier after that epiphany. Sometimes this results in me being quiet, but that's fine. People might think I'm shy, or bored, or that I hate them, but I try to be extra nice to people to keep them from feeling like it's about them.

    One simple trick I've learned is that if you don't know what to say to people, compliment them. Nobody minds if you change the subject to say something nice about them. Compliment something they did in the D&D game, their shirt, their hair, whatever, depending on the situation.

    Another easy way to keep conversations going is to ask questions. For example, in the case of the girl who was into metal music, there was no need for you to become an expert on metal music to have a conversation with her. Just tell her you don't know a thing about metal music and ask her about it. When did she find metal music? What is it about metal music that resonates with her? And so on. This also makes conversation easier for the other person, because they can talk about something they like without having to constantly take initiative in the conversation.

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  • OnTheLastCastleOnTheLastCastle let's keep it haimish for the peripatetic Registered User regular
    Also, it's okay to talk about other subjects than multimedia you're intaking. Life is more than episodes of Dr. Who. To say that nothing else interests you in the world is another thing to probably talk to a therapist about.

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  • IrukaIruka Registered User, Moderator mod
    Bliss 101 wrote: »
    Therapists specialize in this stuff. Go to one.

    Also, only socializing with other nerds is fine. There are plenty out there.

    This. It took me a long, long time to realize that I don't have to be interested in everything other people are into, and I've been about 9000% happier after that epiphany. Sometimes this results in me being quiet, but that's fine. People might think I'm shy, or bored, or that I hate them, but I try to be extra nice to people to keep them from feeling like it's about them.

    I generally disagree with this in that if you are trying to tackle social anxiety, its not great to get in the mindset that if you could just find people in your narrow scope of interest it'll all get much easier. Preferring form actual friendships with nerds is perfectly fine, and you can choose who you spend additional energy on, but being able to socialize with people of different backgrounds is an excellent life skill and does a lot for your ability to empathize. Its also a great asset professionally. Its worth working on, and worth seeking therapy for.

    EncAuralynxSmrtnikSimpsoniaArcanisTheImpotentL Ron HowardDarkewolfeArbitraryDescriptorIncenjucarspool32MrGrimoireNightDragon
  • CelestialBadgerCelestialBadger Registered User regular
    When I was a teenager I thought I was deficient because I couldn’t make small talk or connect with anyone. I was very lonely. I went to university and socialized with people exclusively like me (nerds) and was very happy. And you know what? It gave me the confidence and social skills to talk to “normal” people too.

    And, frankly, if it makes you happy, meeting all your friends at Brony Cons is better than sitting inside lonely because you can’t make a connection with normal folks. Social connections are what is important, not that they be the cool kids.

    But also the OP should probably also talk to a therapist because studying metal obsessively because he met a metal chick is kinda stalky.

  • EncEnc A Fool with Compassion The Land of Flowers (and Dragons)Registered User regular
    Iruka wrote: »
    Bliss 101 wrote: »
    Therapists specialize in this stuff. Go to one.

    Also, only socializing with other nerds is fine. There are plenty out there.

    This. It took me a long, long time to realize that I don't have to be interested in everything other people are into, and I've been about 9000% happier after that epiphany. Sometimes this results in me being quiet, but that's fine. People might think I'm shy, or bored, or that I hate them, but I try to be extra nice to people to keep them from feeling like it's about them.

    I generally disagree with this in that if you are trying to tackle social anxiety, its not great to get in the mindset that if you could just find people in your narrow scope of interest it'll all get much easier. Preferring form actual friendships with nerds is perfectly fine, and you can choose who you spend additional energy on, but being able to socialize with people of different backgrounds is an excellent life skill and does a lot for your ability to empathize. Its also a great asset professionally. Its worth working on, and worth seeking therapy for.

    Adding onto this, an excellent thing to focus on in these conversations is the person's emotional connection to a thing, rather than the thing itself. I don't need to know about football to understand that my sister likes it a lot, and to ask questions about what teams she likes and how they are performing. Even if I don't know who the quarterback is for the team, I can understand that she wants to talk about how well or poorly that person is performing and I can understand and empathize with her emotions on the topic. Similarly, I know she doesn't know all that much about D&D or the art stuff I do, but she asks me about it and how things are going.

    Focus on learning how to talk to people, and understand them. Not the media or things they like. Make an effort to actively listen, definitely. Its always good to learn about things. But focusing upon the person and their emotions behind their attachments to their hobbies and interests is the lion's share of being able to communicate with others.

    AuralynxJebusUDArcanisTheImpotentDarkewolfeIncenjucarCaedwyrNightDragonObiFett
  • IrukaIruka Registered User, Moderator mod
    When I was a teenager I thought I was deficient because I couldn’t make small talk or connect with anyone. I was very lonely. I went to university and socialized with people exclusively like me (nerds) and was very happy. And you know what? It gave me the confidence and social skills to talk to “normal” people too.

    And, frankly, if it makes you happy, meeting all your friends at Brony Cons is better than sitting inside lonely because you can’t make a connection with normal folks. Social connections are what is important, not that they be the cool kids.

    But also the OP should probably also talk to a therapist because studying metal obsessively because he met a metal chick is kinda stalky.


    I still this is a poor way to look at it. "Nerdy" stuff is more prevalent than ever and you dont really need to take a highschool look at the rest of the world, where non-nerds are "cool kids". I'm glad that meeting similar people helped you open up, and I think that's a common trajectory, because in meeting more people you are often exposed to the dissimilar sides of seemingly similar people. That being said, the OP is having the same trouble in his DnD group.

    Othering people without your subset of hobbies is not a great way to tackle social anxiety and feel less isolated. Therapy is a great way to do that, and so is opening up mentally to the idea that all sorts of good people might enjoy different stuff.

    EncSmrtnikDarkewolfeArbitraryDescriptorMrGrimoire
  • EncEnc A Fool with Compassion The Land of Flowers (and Dragons)Registered User regular
    edited October 2018
    Yeah, don't define yourself, or others, by media consumption. Neither are healthy or fair to anyone. Be proud and confident in what you like, and accept that its just as cool and nerdy as anything else. In the end, fantasy football isn't far from D&D. There can be compelling narratives in both Anime and sports playoffs. Wearing a cosplay and painting half your body with sports colors paint is functionally the same experience. But being the "I like anime" guy is just as limiting and unfair as being "I like College Football" guy. There is more to both people than their media consumption, and defining people and yourself by that is essentially saying "they/I can't like/understand anyone not in that group." Which isn't very healthy long-term.

    Connecting the similarities is what makes it easy to talk to other people.

    The example of music was used earlier. I like very niche types of music (concert-hall orchestral and techno) but also mostly listen to podcasts. My coworkers like totally different music, from main stream pop, to country, to a bunch of other things... and also listen to a ton of podcasts themselves. We talk about music and podcasts a lot, not in the specifics of genre, but in how they make us feel, what cool thing we ran into, or how we apply it. For example, in a long conversation we all had about what our favorite music was for getting into the "flow" of working and editing, we shared what we liked. I discovered something called electro-swing exists from my country-music coworker, who discovered it herself from a friend who was deep into that scene. I really liked it, and now listen to it a bunch.

    Focus on the connections and emotions, and the rest falls into place I think.

    But also therapy does absolutely help and is something everyone can benefit from.

    Enc on
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  • Bliss 101Bliss 101 Registered User regular
    I think this might be an agree to disagree situation. Iruka makes good points, but her advice would have been useless to me back in the day. There are different strategies to navigating life.

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  • FryFry Registered User regular
    Enc wrote: »
    Yeah, don't define yourself, or others, by media consumption. Neither are healthy or fair to anyone. Be proud and confident in what you like, and accept that its just as cool and nerdy as anything else. In the end, fantasy football isn't far from D&D. There can be compelling narratives in both Anime and sports playoffs. Wearing a cosplay and painting half your body with sports colors paint is functionally the same experience.

    i-vLP9ZMK-2100x20000.jpg

    Bliss 101ceresEncE.CoyoteAridholSkeithspool32jimb213NightDragonCommander ZoomBouwsTBarrakkethBobble
  • IrukaIruka Registered User, Moderator mod
    Bliss 101 wrote: »
    I think this might be an agree to disagree situation. Iruka makes good points, but her advice would have been useless to me back in the day. There are different strategies to navigating life.

    This is why internet forums are bad for this and therapy is good, quite frankly. I can agree that just reading my posts would not have changed an old version of my self to suddenly click over to tackling her anxiety, however, I'm pretty aware that I often followed a mindset that I was just encountering the wrong people to ill effect. I cant tell the OP how exactly hes going to be able to find healthy ways to manage his anxiety, but as a person who 100% has had this issue, has done self isolation to a T, and has slowly over time broken out of it, I'm confident in saying that seeking professional help is ideal.

    The reason I'm quick to push down this advice is because it is an excellent excuse for not seeking therapy for something that might continue to make the OP uncomfortable personally and professionally. When looking for reasons to not see a therapist "Well, only other nerds are ever going to understand me and be worth the time" seems like a great reason to not do the work of seeking personal growth instead. See a therapist. If you still reach that conclusion afterwards, you can tell me I was totally wrong in your case.

    ArcanisTheImpotentEncArbitraryDescriptorNightDragon
  • ArcanisTheImpotentArcanisTheImpotent Registered User regular
    also i think it’s worth pointing out that being able to talk casually to great swathes of people naturally allows you to expand your pool of potential close friends

    there are some very good friendships I have and cherish very much that I wouldn’t have developed otherwise if I just kept to the safe prospects

    you may have few overlapping interests at the outset but if you really have serious chemistry that can change and you both can share your passions and discover new interests

    JebusUDNightDragon
  • OnTheLastCastleOnTheLastCastle let's keep it haimish for the peripatetic Registered User regular
    edited October 2018
    I have also self isolated and convinced myself I was a huge introvert. I am an introvert, but I am also happy when I'm interacting with people and have broken out of just talking about my niche interests. This has been such a positive change that I don't really know how to put it into words. Big. Bigger.

    If you want a DIY selfhelp book I am currently getting a lot of value from, try Unf*ck Yourself by Gary John Bishop.

    OnTheLastCastle on
    IrukaArcanisTheImpotent
  • ceresceres When the last moon is cast over the last star of morning And the future has past without even a last desperate warningRegistered User, Moderator mod
    Fry wrote: »
    Enc wrote: »
    Yeah, don't define yourself, or others, by media consumption. Neither are healthy or fair to anyone. Be proud and confident in what you like, and accept that its just as cool and nerdy as anything else. In the end, fantasy football isn't far from D&D. There can be compelling narratives in both Anime and sports playoffs. Wearing a cosplay and painting half your body with sports colors paint is functionally the same experience.

    i-vLP9ZMK-2100x20000.jpg

    Yes. This. D&D is amazing for this: you can run a game about pretty much any damn thing. Maybe someone who doesn't like D&D but likes the thing (metal, for example) can help you playtest a module about navigating a concert where the merchants are vendors, encounters are mosh pits, and there's a thief class that runs around trying to steal people spots while they're getting a drink or tying their shoe. It's a very versatile system.

    And it seems like all is dying, and would leave the world to mourn
    EncIncenjucar
  • IncenjucarIncenjucar Audio Game Developer Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    So, a few pointers from someone who most people in person don't realize has massive social anxiety, though I'm repeating some points others have made:

    * Listen. Attentively. This may be the most powerful social tool. This also means you need to learn to be still and not talk sometimes, which I know can be excruciating. This really just requires practice. I struggle with this myself, but it is absolutely key.
    * If you want to learn about someone's interests, engage with them about it instead of trying to cram it on your own, and appreciate that it is their interest, instead of trying to make it your own. The joy someone finds in something can still be great to hear about even if you would never be able to experience it.
    * Dabble and grow. You don't need to be an expert about anything, but it helps so much to know a little about a lot. Dip your toe into culture and grow your context. Doing a thing even once can make it a lot easier to talk to someone who lives for it. You'll also start seeing connections between things which will bridge gaps.
    * Role-play. Think about how others experience things. Think about the other selves out there and how they feel the world. You can do this in your head, playing a game, doodling, or even doing improv. This helps to build empathy.
    * Practice. Ask a friend if you can practice with them, or just talk to yourself and feel it out. Try different versions and tones. Build a mental conversation deck of things you are good at saying.

    Therapy is a great avenue as well.

    CelestialBadgerArcanisTheImpotentHexmage-PASmrtnikSkeithAuralynxJebusUD
  • EncEnc A Fool with Compassion The Land of Flowers (and Dragons)Registered User regular
    edited October 2018
    Edit: Offending poster was deleted.

    Enc on
  • EncEnc A Fool with Compassion The Land of Flowers (and Dragons)Registered User regular
    edited October 2018
    Edit: Offending poster was deleted.

    Enc on
  • IrukaIruka Registered User, Moderator mod
    @Enc It was spam. Just report the post.

  • flamebroiledchickenflamebroiledchicken Registered User regular
    edited October 2018
    I think it's important to realize that liking the same media is not the same as having a genuine emotional connection with someone. My girlfriend of 7 years and I have very little in common, media-wise. She doesn't care about most of the weirdo hipster music I like, doesn't like or care about movies at all, doesn't really read literature, watches completely different TV, isn't really a nerd or a geek, and so on. So what do we talk about?

    *Travel. Places we've been to and stories of our travels, and where we'd like to travel in the future and why.
    *Interesting articles (or podcasts) we read/heard that day. Just sharing interesting info with one another.
    *We've both lived in NYC for 10+ years so sometimes we just share old stories from the early years.
    *Work, obviously. Not just "how was your day at work" but also hopes and dreams for what we want to accomplish in our lives.
    *Our politics are pretty similar but we still sometimes debate the nuances.
    *Food. Everybody likes food.
    *Personal stuff like family- her family is huge and mine is tiny, so there's lots of material there.

    Also, even though we have different media interests, we can still talk about them. She's into sports, which I don't care about at all, but I'll still pester her with questions about football or whatever, because I'm interested in her as a person and want to engage her interests. People like talking about their interests. She does the same to me- doesn't care about movies, but will still usually ask me about whatever I'm watching or just watched and listens patiently while I film-nerd at her. I have convinced her to go to weirdo-music concerts and she has convinced me to go to sports games, and afterwards it's fun to talk about those things from radically different perspectives.

    You don't have to like the same things as someone, you just have to like and be interested in them, and want to know more.

    flamebroiledchicken on
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  • flamebroiledchickenflamebroiledchicken Registered User regular
    I will add that on our first date, we went for a long walk and talked the whole time. We didn't talk about movies, TV, video games, books, or much of music, if I remember correctly. Since we were just getting to know each other, we covered a lot of the tell-me-about-yourself basics: what we like to do on the weekends, what we studied in school, how our studies did or did not become our jobs, various jobs we've had in the past, where we grew up, some broad strokes about our childhoods, I remember a random tangent about whether we grew up preferring roller skates or roller blades which segued into memories of roller rinks, the last place we've traveled, it's possible we touched on what kind of music we like, or what kind of music we liked back in high school, we were both in our mid-20s at the time so we probably both complained about college parties and how we were "so totally over it", what our friend circles are like, what we like and dislike about NYC, and so on. I'm probably repeating myself here, but I've found that the most important thing is to keep asking questions and just show genuine interest and curiosity about someone else and their life.

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    JebusUDElvenshaespool32Shazkar ShadowstormArcanisTheImpotent
  • spool32spool32 Contrary Library Registered User regular
    I think it's important to realize that liking the same media is not the same as having a genuine emotional connection with someone. My girlfriend of 7 years and I have very little in common, media-wise. She doesn't care about most of the weirdo hipster music I like, doesn't like or care about movies at all, doesn't really read literature, watches completely different TV, isn't really a nerd or a geek, and so on. So what do we talk about?

    *Travel. Places we've been to and stories of our travels, and where we'd like to travel in the future and why.
    *Interesting articles (or podcasts) we read/heard that day. Just sharing interesting info with one another.
    *We've both lived in NYC for 10+ years so sometimes we just share old stories from the early years.
    *Work, obviously. Not just "how was your day at work" but also hopes and dreams for what we want to accomplish in our lives.
    *Our politics are pretty similar but we still sometimes debate the nuances.
    *Food. Everybody likes food.
    *Personal stuff like family- her family is huge and mine is tiny, so there's lots of material there.

    Also, even though we have different media interests, we can still talk about them. She's into sports, which I don't care about at all, but I'll still pester her with questions about football or whatever, because I'm interested in her as a person and want to engage her interests. People like talking about their interests. She does the same to me- doesn't care about movies, but will still usually ask me about whatever I'm watching or just watched and listens patiently while I film-nerd at her. I have convinced her to go to weirdo-music concerts and she has convinced me to go to sports games, and afterwards it's fun to talk about those things from radically different perspectives.

    You don't have to like the same things as someone, you just have to like and be interested in them, and want to know more.

    Man this is such good advice! you don't have to be into the same thing to have a conversation, you cultivate an interest in people themselves and whatever they're into will be pretty cool to ask about and think about as well!

    Commander ZoomCaedwyrElvenshaeArcanisTheImpotentSwashbucklerXX
  • Commander ZoomCommander Zoom Registered User regular
    wait, you're saying that our identity is not inextricably linked to/defined by our hobbies, interests and/or media consumption???
    that's crazy talk!

    </sarcasm>

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    Steam, Warframe: Megajoule
  • OnTheLastCastleOnTheLastCastle let's keep it haimish for the peripatetic Registered User regular
    You guys have explained what I was trying to much better when I said life wasn't about your favorite Dr Who episode. Good, good. Shared hobbies are cool, but many of the most successful relationships I've observed have little to no overlap in them.

    ElvenshaeIrukaceresArcanisTheImpotent
  • ceresceres When the last moon is cast over the last star of morning And the future has past without even a last desperate warningRegistered User, Moderator mod
    wait, you're saying that our identity is not inextricably linked to/defined by our hobbies, interests and/or media consumption???
    that's crazy talk!

    </sarcasm>

    Ease up there, buddy

    And it seems like all is dying, and would leave the world to mourn
    tynicSkeith
  • furlionfurlion Riskbreaker Lea MondeRegistered User regular
    Best advice I can give, and the thing that works for me, is to learn a little about as wide a variety of topics as you can find. Sports (I hate), cars (don't care), TV (rarely watch), movies (I do enjoy these), fashion (everyone likes looking good), politics (danger will Robinson), history (learn it or repeat it), etc. Regardless of how I feel about these things personally, I always know at least a bit about whatever people are talking about and I use that as a springboard. People always, always, always love talking about things they are passionate about and by knowing just a little I give them an opportunity to teach me more and talk about their passion at the same time. Even if you forget most of what they say by the next time you see them you can at least remember what they are into and that gives you something to start a conversation with.

    Alternatively be like the cuttlefish and let your freak flag fly. There are more nerds out there then you think.

    sig.gif Gamertag: KL Retribution
    PSN:Furlion
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