What's the best way to learn unspoken competencies, such as all the unspoken rules of socializing?
When I was an adolescent, I scarfed down self-help books, and was always real quick at learning a theory about something and then applying myself. As a result, I became good at business real fast, and also mastered the academic environment.
However, while I had extreme successes in academics and business (relative to my age), my social life has always been sub-par to me. I'm often characterized as being a loner. And it's not for lack of trying. I've always tried to improve the way I socialize, but it's never helped, and in fact has had the opposite effect, making me too artificial and mechanical in my approach.
Mastering artifice is no problem, which is why I'm good at problem-solving and business.
I read about Sternberg's Triarchic Theory of Intelligences
, and one of them is "practical intelligence" or "contextual intelligence" which involves learning unspoken lessons by reading cues off other people.
I used to HAVE an anti-social mindset, and would harbor the typically angsty, Catcher-in-the-Rye-style attitudes such as "everybody is phony" or "people are mindless cows." Lately, I've been trying to give ordinary people the benefit of the doubt, and see if maybe I'm obtuse for not appreciating the importance of simple things like "fitting in" as not a weakness but as a way of "being pro-social."
I have friends who have one leg in the analytical side and another in the unspoken side, and talking these things out with them is good because they can translate one language into the other. For example, a good conversation I had was:
Me: "If I really were to be authentic, my hairstyle would be really really crazy, and my clothes, they'd be all black, but not quite goth, but this and that..."
Friend: "Look, I used to want to do that, but I realized that dressing too different from other people makes them uncomfortable."
Me: "Oh, yeah. Right"
I can hear the groan in the background, "yeah, that's common sense." If so, then I'm lacking it. How do I get more of those conversations or "ah-hah" moments. Platitudes such as "be yourself" or "go with the flow" don't teach me anything.