Class me up
January 2, 2012 3:02 PM Subscribe
Classing up! Help me polish my rough edges and learn to hang with the elites
I've recently started spending time with a more powerful network of people: global movers and shakers, CEOs, etc. I feel like I have their respect for some of the work that I'm doing, and for my educational background, but I also feel quite out of my depth with people who were born with money or have proper manners and social graces.
From what I understand from friends, I come across as a super sincere, fairly blunt, slightly over eager person. I'm not someone you can take anywhere because I might say the wrong thing without realizing it. I laugh super loud. I can be overly casual and a bit intense.
On the plus side: Very smart, unpretentious, earnest, and good-hearted. I'm not a slimy networker. I have reasonable table manners and am considerate and kind to those around me. I get along very well with nerds and others who value intellectual conversation and stimulation because we bond over ideas. I also tend to get along better with men than with women -- except for super friendly, hippie-ish women who find a kindred spirit in me. I do best when I can contribute intellectually to the conversation and am not the center of attention.
I've tried to banter wittily with the fancy New York type set, but I always seem to say the wrong thing at some point. I have the opposite of that elaborately casual, post-ironic attitude that a lot of people who grew up with wealth exude. I'm the kind of girl the private school girls would whisper about, saying "Can you believe that she wore that dress? And how could she say that in public?" I tend to defend the underdog and have unusual interests that are socially unacceptable. I overshare.
I have a lot of social anxiety around these sorts of people because they seem to latch onto me when they hear about work I'm doing, and then they eventually discard me because I do something wrong and I'm too clueless to know what I did.
I'd like to learn how to polish my rough edges and fit in better in a variety of settings. At the same time, I like being able to speak my mind frankly, to be a bit hippie and sincerely loving, and to just feel comfortable being myself while not alienating others.
Books on manners have not helped as much as I'd like because this is less about remembering to send thank you notes or how to set a table and more how to behave like a classy human being. Which most manners books assume you already know. Thinking before I speak also doesn't help too much because I don't really know what to think *about*.
So, my questions:
- Is there someone in the public eye that can serve as a role model for me? Someone who interacts with people at a high level, but also has a sort of hippie intellectual vibe? Some female CEO, perhaps? I've thought about Rachel Maddow, but I think she's a bit classier than I am. And more role models would be better!
- What resources (books, movies, classes, podcasts, mindsets) would help me class up and polish my rough edges?
- How can I figure out how I screw things up in these situations and what I'm doing wrong? How do I present my authentic self (nerdy, hippie-ish, a bit weird) in a way that makes sense to people and doesn't turn them off?
- I'd like to fit in a bit better... I wear the wrong dress not because I like it better or can't afford something nicer, but because I am genuinely ignorant of the social mores around these things. Are there blogs I should be reading so I can be up to date?
I know it's a tall order, but I appreciate any help you can give!