Tonight I went to my friend’s Birthday/Book Release party. I intentionally got there late hoping someone else I knew from work would be there. #Fail
Other than my friend, “K,” I knew no one there. K is an awesome person who I get a long with great. But, it’s her party, so she knows everyone there and she’s not going to spend all evening with me, which is understandable and I certainly don’t hold against her.
She introduces me around and then gets called off somewhere else, leaving me on my own.
Eventually two people from work I know show up and I talk with them for a while, but they have a sick kid at home and don’t stay long.
Not long after they leave, I find myself at a table with two people I don’t know.
Now, this is no problem for people like my mom who has never met a stranger in her life. But she’s an extravert and I am most definitely not!
So I’m sitting quietly at this table with these two perfectly nice strangers. Being the nice people they are, they decide to bring me into the conversation, little knowing I’d’ve been more comfortable if they didn’t.
The achingly painful conversation went something like this:
Male Stranger (MS) to Female Stranger (FS): So you’re from Oklahoma?
FS: Yes I am!
FS to Me: How about you?
Me: I’m from Texas actually.
Awkward silence follows (or so it seems to me).
Me: But I’m a Military Brat, so I spent most of my childhood overseas.
MS to Me: Oh that’s cool! Where all did you live?
Me: I lived in England and Germany.
MS & FS continue to look at me as if I should say something else…
Me: Lived for about 4 years in each.
MS & FS continue to smile and nod at me. Does that mean I should keep talking?
Me: Even though they spoke English, I think I had a harder time with the language barrier in England than I ever had anywhere else.
MS: Interesting, why’s that? Because of their accents?
Me: No, because even though they spoke English, it wasn’t the English I knew. The same words have completely different meanings.
MS: Like what?
Me: Well, like I remember my first day of British school when I asked another kid for an eraser. He had no idea what I was asking for. I had to play charades until he figured out what I meant. Then he said, “You mean a rubber!”
MS & FS laugh. No further comments. No other questions. Are they waiting for more examples? Are they just hoping I’ll shut up? We’re now all sitting and smiling at each other for what seems an uncomfortably long time to me. Finally I notice my cup is empty.
Me: I need another drink…
I hastily move away from the table.
This is what conversations with strangers are like for me – long moments of awkward silence occasionally broken by the awkward comments.
I recently learned though, this isn’t just something I have a problem with. I mean, I knew other people probably felt awkward with strangers, but apparently this is a common trait among introverts!
People who are introverted tend to prefer “heavier” conversations pertaining to philosophy and ideas, rather than small talk. Indeed, introverts can get easily intimidated, bored, or exhausted by small talk. They would much rather be “real” with someone and talk about more weighty things.
– Why Introverts Hate Small Talk: The Myths And Misconceptions About Our Quieter Companions By Lecia Bushak
I definitely fall into that “intimidated” category.