I have been struggling to figure something out. There are certain types of questions I have trouble with, and I would like to understand what types of questions these are, why am I so uncomfortable with them, and what can I do to make dealing with them less unpleasant.
posted by matrushka to human relations (58 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
In general, I am not a shy person. I am more introverted than extroverted, so I'm one of those "I talk when I have something to say" types. When I do talk, if it's something I'm particularly interested in, I can go in great detail. I am comfortable discussing personal matters with close friends, though I prefer to initiate the conversation.
I'm not very good at small talk - I really don't know what to say to someone I have just met, especially if there's no context to work with. If I meet someone at an activity we just did together, I can at least drum up some small talk about the activity we just did, but if it's some random person I just met in a social situation, I'm tongue-tied.
So for the kinds of questions I dislike, it doesn't matter whether they come from close friends or strangers - I am vehemently uncomfortable with them and my mind goes blank, and I find myself at a loss as to what to say. I feel put on the spot.
Here are some examples:
* "Tell me about yourself." Argh, I hate going around a circle of people at a social event, a new job, or a conference and having to say a few things about myself. Hate, hate, hate. Adversely, I am OK talking about myself if I initiate it.
* "What are you doing?" This one seems rather insipid to me. If I'm on the computer, what does it look like I am doing? Should I give a full detailed list of what I am doing? "Um, I wrote some personal notes to myself, then I looked at Facebook, then I bought a jacket on Amazon, and then I sent an email to a friend, then I ..." I mean, I don't know what to do with this question. I do a lot of things on the computer within a given hour, and I just don't understand why this makes for interesting conversation.
* "What are you cooking?" Roommate does this, and I feel like it's such an obvious question. I understand she's just trying to make small talk. Intellectually, I understand why people make small talk, but I often feel it's an inefficient use of time. If I was cooking something complex, it wouldn't bother me so much, but why ask someone that when they're making bacon and eggs in the morning?
* "What have you been up to?" Now this one confuses me. I have a close friend who, when I visit her, her first question is "Now tell me all about you! What have you been doing? Who have you been with?" I know she reads my Facebook so she certainly knows when I post interesting things that happen in my day to day, so what exactly is she looking for here? Does she really need me to repeat back things she already knows? Does she want to know the insignificant stuff I don't post online, such as "I went to work and worked all day, then I went to the gym, then went to XYZ restaurant and ate a grass-fed steak with (X) and then I went home and got in my PJ's and watched True Blood?" I never know what to do with this one. When she does this, I kind of shut down, and she pushes and prods me, making hand motions like she's trying to drag something out of me, making "encouraging" faces at me like I'm some petulant child, which makes me even more uncomfortable and I clam up even more. When I say, "I really dislike that kind of question," she counters with, "But I just want to know what's going on with you! I'm just making small talk!"
Is there some category these kinds of questions fall in?
Is my personality type averse to these kinds of questions?
Anyway, I'd love to read some impartial input on what I've written. Thanks!