I'd like to be more curious about people & enjoy social interaction more
February 10, 2013 11:59 AM Subscribe
Looks like "social interaction for introverts" is the theme du jour here on MeFi, so here's another question along similar lines as two recent ones
posted by zeri to human relations (7 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I would like to enjoy social interaction more. With infrequent exceptions, it mostly bores me and leaves me wondering what the point is. I'm a reserved, introverted type, and I don't expect or even want to change that - I like my own company - but it would be nice if I could find reasons to be more interested in interacting with other people.
As far as I can tell, the main difficulty is that I'm simply not that curious about people. My mind tends to categorize people into a few broad classes and then move on, rather than seeing what makes someone individual. For example, it often happens that I confuse two people who are almost completely dissimilar because I've categorized them both as "Asian guy in my department" or "friend of my mom's". I'm also terrible at recognizing faces, even of people I've seen and talked to multiple times. It's like I'm just not interested enough to register or remember specific details about people I meet. My mind seems to go "Oh, it's another person who's basically of Type X. I've met lots of those, nothing to see here, move on."
Another reason socializing isn't much fun for me is that I rarely have very much to say. In a conversation I'm almost always listening, or else responding to whatever the other person I saying rather than introducing any topics of my own. I know this can be a good thing, and I often get complimented on being a "good listener", but I'm usually listening not because I'm particularly interested in what the person's telling me, but because I can't think of anything to say. (It's not that I'm consciously censoring myself, thinking "I could say X, but I shouldn't because Y"; it's just that most of the time there literally isn't any particular thing I feel like saying.)
The "infrequent exceptions" mentioned above include: (a) Talking to a very close childhood friend who I rarely see because he lives in another country; when we get together the conversation flows easily for a while because we have a lot to catch up on, but even then, once we've more or less finished filling each other in I run out of stuff to say and clam up. (b) Talking to someone who's really knowledgeable in some field I'm interested in, in which case I'll gladly milk their brains; but this kind of conversation doesn't feel like a personal connection, more a data-dump, and it's rare to meet someone who can tell you a fact you can't find out on Wikipedia anyway.
In one of the recent threads someone suggested asking people semi-random questions: that book you have but aren't reading, what's it about? What drew you to the topic or did it just look interesting? That bowtie you're wearing - is it a clip on or did you tie it? This is in fact usually my approach - when I'm not silent or responding, I'm interviewing. It doesn't feel satisfactory because I'm not actually interested in the answers to the questions I painfully think up, and because being asked an endless series of questions actually strikes many people as a pretty annoying form of conversation.
Miscellaneous further data: I don't generally feel especially anxious or self-conscious in social situations, just disengaged. Alcohol will occasionally make me more sociable and talkative, but more often causes me to retreat further into silence. If you're thinking this sounds like Asperger's syndrome, you may be right, but if so I'm a very mild/borderline case: I've known people with high-functioning Asperger's and I don't resemble them externally very much (in terms of mannerisms etc.).
I'm not quite sure what I'm after with this question, since I doubt that learning better "techniques" for social interaction (making small talk, drawing people out etc.) would be likely to make it any more fun for me, and curiosity about other people is probably not something that can be learned, but thoughts/experiences/etc. will be welcomed.