I need to be less odd. How?
May 21, 2009 11:47 AM   Subscribe

I want to stop being seen as odd or eccentric. What can I do?

All my life, I've felt like the odd man out. I seem to have trouble connecting with people and picking up on social cues. I'll often say things that are taken as offensive and not understand why.

Recently, I've become aware that most people at my work think of me as being extremely odd. I do have some odd behaviors. For example:
- I have a habit of answering my phone in a different way each time.
- Sometimes I speak in an overly formal way (i.e. I won't say "Yeah", I'll say "Why yes")
- Strange questions will come to mind (i.e. Someone says that a special prosecutor was appointed in a case and I ask "Was he wearing a black cowboy hat?")

I want to be more normal, for lack of a better word. It's tough being the odd man out all the time. Everyone around seems to get along and interact, but when I say something, it's as if the room has stopped.

I am currently in therapy for this, but my question is whether any of you know of any other resources and techniques I could employ to curb my oddness and eccentricity.

If it matters, I'm a man. I've also set up a throwaway e-mail at weirdodude1@gmail.com
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (46 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
I think pursuing therapy is a great step towards this.

One thing that might get at some of it is trying to predict other people's reactions to things. Very hard thing to do, but if you are aware that your response would be viewed as strange (for example, special prosecutor and you ask if he was wearing a black cowboy hat), then perhaps you can filter out some of the things that people are perceiving as odd. That said, it's extremely hard to do, and if your mind naturally goes there, it might be hard to recognize that others might not have a similar reaction. I don't think I have much in the way of good advice about how to predict others' responses and thought processes, but if you can reflect on your thoughts relative to those of others, it might help address some of the things that other view as odd.
posted by davidnc at 11:52 AM on May 21, 2009

Is there anyone at work that you're close with? My particular eccentricity is singing a lot (not at work, but when I'm with friends). Sometimes, it's okay and doesn't bother anyone, but sometimes it isn't, and folks get annoyed. I can't tell the difference, so I've made sure that all of my friends know to tell me I'm being annoying when I am. If there's someone at work who can help you spot when your eccentricities are becoming a problem (and who can say, "Next time that happens, why don't you try this), why don't you enlist their help?
posted by ocherdraco at 11:54 AM on May 21, 2009

Well, your behaviors don't strike me as odd so much as deliberately quirky and "random." It may be that you have been doing things like this for long enough that they have become a natural part of your personality, but you weren't born saying "Why, yes." The most straightforward solution would be to recognize when you get the urge to act out in a quirky way and tone it down, taking that impulse in a more socially-accepted direction (writing for Family Guy?).
posted by nasreddin at 11:54 AM on May 21, 2009 [5 favorites]

A book and a website for you to read:

(1) succeedsocially.com

(2) How to Talk to Anyone by Leil Lowndes
posted by Jaltcoh at 11:54 AM on May 21, 2009 [5 favorites]

Uh, non-respectively.
posted by Jaltcoh at 11:55 AM on May 21, 2009

Follow the suggestions in this thread.

Don't take any of the advice in this thread.
posted by Juliet Banana at 11:58 AM on May 21, 2009 [5 favorites]

I'm odd in some ways. I grew up in a small town that was filled with a lot of characters and it seemed normal as I grew up that I'd be a character of my own. Well, that sort of thing works well in a small town where people have known you and your whole family all their lives but it works less well in a larger place where there are more normative expectations of how you behave that are seen as part of etiquette and social graces. Having a job is a situation where just being totally yourself can have negative repercussions. So, before I start with this, let me just say that I don't think there is anything intrinsically wrong with being odd, BUT that if you need to get along with other people, being thought of as odd can get in your way.

So, first off, you talk about behavioral tics you have. You can, I'm assuming, stop that. I view some of this as a politeness situation with other people. If what I'm trying to do is get along with people and not make them feel uneasy or that I'm a loose cannon, I may need ot make concessions to being normal and/or predictable. So, say "hello, this is _______" when you answer the phone. Sure it's boring, but it's also not going to get you in trouble. Similarly, understand the way basic office conversation works and while you may or may not come up with your own questions, send them through a filter where you ask "is this something that is appropriate in my office environment?"

Again I am only saying that because you seem concerned and want to figure out how to get along with people. I think it's okay to be odd. But, I see some normative stuff like this as a social grace and/or nicety that you do for others, not yourself. So, people invite you over for dinner, you're comfortable wearing pajamas, you wear something more formal and less comfortable because it's a way to get the point across to your host that you appreciate their invite [i.e. you're not dressing slobby, you know you're in a social situation and you're trying to be appropriate to that situation]. While it's fine to do your own thing, for some people they find it off-putting, rude or otherwise confrontational, even if you may feel that you're doing things for your own reason only. So you answer the phone in a quirky way because it amuses you, but once you realize it makes other people feel weird, you can basically make a choice: stick to your guns (which send the "I don't care about others' feelings" message) or change your behavior (compromise for the sake of harmony even if you don't agree with other people's feelings) and try to make your peace with that.

So, I say view it as a challenge. If you're concerned about being the odd person try to fit in more and take people's feedback at face value. Be aware, however, that you may still feel like the odd person out. I'm convinced that the reason I feel this way has more to do with brain chemistry than any actual fit-in-ability or anything else. This may be anxiety about other people more than your actual role within groups. Best of luck in any case.
posted by jessamyn at 12:00 PM on May 21, 2009 [3 favorites]

I guess a good place to start is with the behaviors you've already identified. Listen for what your co-workers say when answering their phones, and answer yours that way (the same way every time). Speak less formally. When a strange question pops into your head, don't ask it out loud.

On the other hand, these "odd behaviors" might be the thing that makes you unique and makes other people like you. Don't change yourself just because you think some people don't like you. Maybe you just haven't found the right people yet who appreciate you. Especially if it's just your co-workers that seem to have a problem with you, I would recommend you just try to keep quiet at work, and then be yourself outside of work with your friends.

(Also, as I'm sure you're aware, problems interacting and picking up on social cues can be signs of autism - there are many autistic people who've gone on to be successful and respected in their fields, have families, and have otherwise fulfilling lives. A couple people thinking you're "the weird guy" shouldn't stop you from reaching your goals.)
posted by LolaGeek at 12:00 PM on May 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

I, too, have this sort of thing happen: While walking down the street with people from my program someone points out a bar named 'Pony'. My immediate question: "I wonder if it's one of those places where people wear funny suits?" Result: Blank or angry stares, one person say "You WOULD say that out loud" Of course, these were people who didn't like me very much.

Honestly, I think the solution to this kind of thing is twofold:
1. If you can, hang out with people who aren't so uptight, people who enjoy surrealist humor, et cetera.

2. However, you can't always do this (for example, at work.) Tone it down a bit. Sometimes, this can mean just not saying that incredibly witty thing you were planning on saying, sometime it can mean putting yourself in other people's shoes.

Honestly, I think not socializing enough and not having an outlet for creativity/energy has a lot to do with oddness like what you describe. It's one of those deals where you just have to practice, practice, practice- as I said, put yourself in other people's shoes.
posted by dunkadunc at 12:00 PM on May 21, 2009

Modern Love has an illuminating article by a man with Asperger's Syndrome. Does he sound like you? And, have you talked with your therapist about this?
posted by Carol Anne at 12:11 PM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'll hazard a guess and say you're likely more intelligent than most, and what you see as unique personality traits are seen as intimidating to others.

Someone upthread mentioned surrealistic humor; most people do not get that type of thinking. (There is a reason that standup comics tend toward blunt deliver: they play to the average mindm for which subtlety does not work. If you don't understand this, watch any HBO special of a standup.)

But if you are as intelligent as I suspect, you should be able to intuit those behavior patterns in others that garner respect and goodwill. Pick up those behaviors and make them your own.

Or, decide that care not a whit what the rest of the world thinks about you and continue on the way you are.
posted by dfriedman at 12:12 PM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think (grown-up) people are tolerant of genuine eccentricity, but intolerant of what they perceive to be attention-seeking mannerisms. Fair or not, the verbal quirks you're describing may be coming across as the latter.

You're self-aware enough to have complied the list in your post-- can you think of some other things like that, and commit to not saying/doing those things, at least among people you don't know well?

Note: If I were close enough to know you to know these were just quirks of a creative person instead of a show of how "non-conformist" or "unusual" you were, I'd likely find you charming, and a fun conversational partner. But then again, I've got a freak flag I don't raise to full-mast often either.
posted by availablelight at 12:18 PM on May 21, 2009 [11 favorites]

I also have a reputation as an eccentric. I did not benefit from therapy at all when I chose to tone things down after high school and then later after college. Whatever comes should be considered a rebirth. A move from a series of peculiarities to a broad range of particulars.

One of the smartest things I did was hit the gym. Nothing gave me more boldness to pursue a new agenda for me than looking better and feeling better about my weight. I don't think weight is relative to everyone, but for me it was very important. The second thing I did was completely change my wardrobe. If you wear t-shirts, put on a dress shirt. If you wear a leather bomber jacket, put on a tasteful blazer. If you wear bowling shoes, try on a pair of sandals. If you have had a fro for the last ten years, let your friends suggest and then go get a new hairstyle. Your friends will welcome the opportunity to help. You don't have to invest in all of their suggestions, but start echoing their suggestions in their presence and they will start investing in emphasizing the new you to new people and you will feel a lot better after that.

Good luck!
posted by parmanparman at 12:20 PM on May 21, 2009

Seconding the annoying attention whoring point made by availabiellight. A lot of the "smart kid" types end up acting in the way you've described in their teens and 20s until one day they simply grow out of it.

Here's my advice:

Stop caring so much what other people think. Not only will this take a lot of stress off of you, it will likely cause a lot of these behaviors to go away -- chances are you actively developed them at one point in a mistaken gambit to impress people or appear interesting to people. Once you really and truly don't care what other people think, they will likely fade.
posted by rr at 12:21 PM on May 21, 2009

For what it's worth, I wouldn't find you or the behaviors you describe as not "normal". True, it does sound a bit eccentric, but I'm the type of person that prefers the company of people with quirks and peculiarities to phonies, bores, and blowhards.

Not to make light of your question, but perhaps you need to expand your group of friends instead of trying to change who you are. Spend time around people who appreciate your amusing characteristics and who love to laugh. You need to be around people who aren't so judgmental and concerned with what everyone else thinks. The types of people who jump on pointing out your supposed flaws or give you dirty looks when you make an odd remark, do that to make themselves feel better. They are the ones who are truly insecure and thrive at being able to deflect the spotlight to the so-called "weirdo" of the group.

Since this is something that really bothers you, it's good that you're in therapy. Your therapist will no doubt be of greater help to you than anyone here, but a short-term strategy you may want to employ at work is to not say the first thing that pops out of your head. Stop, listen, slow down your thinking and observe what's going on around you. Think about what you want to say before you actually say it. Don't just blurt out every stray remark that comes to mind.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 12:24 PM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Why do you feel the need to stop being eccentric?

I think you can be eccentric as long as you take steps to also be part of the group. Take an extra effort to brush up on popular culture, sports news and hanging out with coworkers. Bring food that they will like such as donuts, bagels, etc for special events.

Most work environments have group outings or even occasional happy hours out. I play cards with coworkers during lunch even though our political views are very opposite. Don't try to be the same but don't be antisocial.
posted by JJ86 at 12:25 PM on May 21, 2009

Eccentricities become annoying when they start consuming others' mental energy to process. What might be amusing in a social setting becomes incredibly annoying while at work when one's mind is already occupied with other matters and needing to process someone's non-standard response just adds more work.

I would think about it this way - you have a nervous tic, like laughing too much at lame jokes, or talking too much when uncomfortable. It's unconscious, but it serves a real purpose to you. Try not to focus too much on what you are doing, but on what other people would appreciate you to do.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 12:27 PM on May 21, 2009 [4 favorites]

Take an extra effort to brush up on popular culture, sports news and hanging out with coworkers.

I think your heart is in the right place here, but be careful. Many sports fans, in particular, can smell people who don't really like sports, but pretend that they do, a mile away.

To quote Apu: "What do you say we take a relaxed attitude towards work and watch the baseball match? The Nye Mets are my favorite squadron."

Otherwise, yeah, make the effort to engage people on their level, and try to develop a keenly-forged "work mode." Once you get comfortable at a job, it's easy enough to act like you would around friends. Think about what it's like when you're first getting started, and are constantly thinking about everything you do or say. (That's how it was for me, at least. Just considering that every once in a while helps me lower the freak flag ever so slightly.)
posted by SpiffyRob at 12:46 PM on May 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

Some people are eccentric enough that others find them a chore to be around. I have some acquaintances like this, and I really wish they'd change their behavior because I like them a lot yet even still they're annoying to hang out with. But they don't change. On the other hand, I have a lot of friends who are a delight to hang out with, who keep trying to become "less awkward". But they don't need to! Everyone enjoys their company, except evidently themselves.

I draw two lessons from these people:

1. Some people do need to change their behavior...
2. But it's generally not the people who think they do.

Remember that everyone has their awkward moments, and nobody---at least, nobody interesting---never offends. Remember also that you're around yourself all the time, but other people are only around you sometimes, so what seems to you like an annoying behavior pattern may be unnoticeable to others.

And *everyone* thinks they're the odd person out. This applies even to the most popular people (sometimes especially to the most popular people). Some of the most socially adept people I know are still struggling inside, making sure that they come off OK.

On the other hand, it could be that you do need to change your behavior. But don't try to think of it as making yourself more conformist...think if it as trying to make yourself "easier". The Light Fantastic hits the nail on the head: however much you like someone, if they're draining to hang out with you'll try to avoid them.
posted by goingonit at 1:04 PM on May 21, 2009

I seem to have trouble connecting with people and picking up on social cues. I'll often say things that are taken as offensive and not understand why.

Strange questions will come to mind (i.e. Someone says that a special prosecutor was appointed in a case and I ask "Was he wearing a black cowboy hat?")

You seem pretty self-aware of this stuff which is great. I'd second the others into looking at Asperger's and discussing with your therapist if you have not already. I'm not saying that you have it (have no idea) but one of the things that is characteristic of that is an inability to pick up on social cues. My understanding of Asperger's is that you will almost need to memorize the correct answers to situations. If someone gets annoyed at you, make a mental note of what you did and try not to do that again. In essence, we ALL do that to a degree, it is just easier for the rest of us to remember not to tick someone off in a special way than it is for someone who has Asperger's or has a hard time picking up those clues.

So, on that note, the problem with "strange questions" especially in the workplace is that people are trying to get work done. It's not that they can't appreciate the special flowers of the world or that they are a blowhard or lack a sense of humor about eccentricity but they are focused. They are focused on the task at hand which is to convey information or get info or complete a task so that they can go home and drink a beer and watch The Daily Show. What's the answer to the black hat question? It's either, "No." or "Yes, he was! That's so weird! How did you know that and what does it mean?" I mean, what does that mean?

But, since you've identified the type of question and answer that gets you into trouble you're halfway to not annoying your officemates. If the black hat question has meaning ("Was he wearing a black hat? Because my cousin is a prosecutor and he always wears a ridiculous black, cowboy hat.") then you can ask it but with the context for the question. If your question is not relevant to assisting your coworker in accomplishing his or her task so that they can go home and have a beer and watch The Daily Show, then don't ask. If your question has relevance then provide it, don't make them go fishing. Why? Because that is annoying.

So, write that down in a little notebook and pretty soon you may become more adept at recognizing social cues and not annoying people. And, you should feel free to look for a group of people like yourself who you can have delightfully oddball conversations with -- they are out there. In fact, they're here. On the internet!!
posted by amanda at 1:17 PM on May 21, 2009 [3 favorites]

Specifically in a work setting, eccentricities start causing heartburn when you're in a position where you speak to clients, or represent the company to the public in some way. If this situation describes you in any way, shape or form, then I would invite you to consider the fact that people have issues with your behaviour purely because of how that will reflect on the company.

You may have to bite the bullet and develop what some call a "game face" at work, and save your eccentricities for your personal life. It might sound depressing, but it doesn't need to be! Think of it as gaining a mild-mannered secret identity! :)
posted by LN at 1:20 PM on May 21, 2009

Don't change a thing. If anyone is weirded out by any of this, they would probably be a total bore to hang around. Boring average people suck.

Care less about what the slavering masses think and decide whose opinion you really need to care about if at all and go from there.
posted by kldickson at 1:40 PM on May 21, 2009

Honestly? Stop talking so much. What comes out of your mouth is what's giving you away. Stop and think before you say well, pretty much anything. And choose to share less.

Believe me, as a fellow weirdo, I can only fake normal as long as I'm quiet :P
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:53 PM on May 21, 2009 [4 favorites]

Yeah, everyone telling you to be yourself is full of it. You just seem to be flaunting social norms just for the sake of flaunting them, which is a) annoying and b) pointless. We get it. You're "weird".

I think a good exercise is to think to yourself "would x do this", x being someone you'd like to emulate. The point isn't to rid yourself of quirkiness, it's to figure out ways to express that quirkiness in a more socially acceptable manner.
posted by downing street memo at 1:59 PM on May 21, 2009 [3 favorites]

Travel. (I'm not sure what your age/background is, but either way, if you're quite settled in a place, your eccentricity might really be self consciousness of measuring yourself against your surrounding social group) when you meet a wider range of people in life, including people from outside your usual circles, whatever they are, you stop worrying so much about your own 'eccentricities' and realise everyone you'll meet has a quirk. Some are just better at keeping it buried.

Alternately, if you're dedicated to staying in the same place, make more friends who you don't heavily identify with.
posted by iamnotateenagegirl at 2:01 PM on May 21, 2009

Don't change a thing. If anyone is weirded out by any of this, they would probably be a total bore to hang around. Boring average people suck.

Care less about what the slavering masses think and decide whose opinion you really need to care about if at all and go from there.

Unless you want to be seen as pompous and immature, you'd be wise not to follow this advice or hang out with people who do.
posted by nasreddin at 2:19 PM on May 21, 2009 [5 favorites]

Before saying strange things, you should determine A. the purpose of saying them, and B. whether they will help or hinder your communication.
posted by kidbritish at 2:43 PM on May 21, 2009

I don't know, you sound fine to me. It might be a matter of changing the company you keep. It might be hard at work, but do you find this is true with friends also? Are you otherwise shy? Sometimes when there's a personality clash, we tend to feel there's something wrong with us when it might just be a matter of keeping the wrong company.

The "formal" thing is sort of familiar to me, and I have eased it a little but in general, that's just part of who I am. I tended to be a little bit walking dictionary at times. It was not deliberate behavior. How did I ease up on it? Well, in my case, it was a little bit due to learning to not really care what people thought anymore. I think that may be key for you too.

Your "black cowboy hat" quip would've made me burst out laughing (in a good way!). I love when people take a phrase or situation and turn it on its head like that. Some people chew gum, some people are clock watchers, some people socialize, and others use humor to get through the day.

You're funny and probably have a slightly irreverent sense of humor. That isn't something you need to 'fix', you need to save your energy for people who appreciate it. It seems like your coworkers just aren't those people.
posted by cmgonzalez at 3:00 PM on May 21, 2009

the problem with "strange questions" especially in the workplace is that people are trying to get work done. It's not that they can't appreciate the special flowers of the world or that they are a blowhard or lack a sense of humor about eccentricity but they are focused. They are focused on the task at hand which is to convey information or get info or complete a task so that they can go home and drink a beer

Yes. I'm on a mission. I don't want to take the time to appreciate your unique and creative phone greeting, and I don't want to respond to your funny free-association about how the prosecutor might look.

I want you to say "Joe Smith, Legal Associates" when you pick up the phone, like you always do, and I want it to be such habit that it takes you like 0.02 seconds. Then, I want to say "Hi Joe, it's Sally at the DA's office. How are you?" "Fine, thanks. You?" (This took another 10 seconds tops. You're waiting to hear why I bothered to call you.) "Good. I just wanted to let you know that we've appointed a special prosecutor on the Phipps case, so in the future, please contact Jane Doe with questions about that." "Okay, thanks for letting me know." (This has been another 20 seconds and now my mission is 60% done. You're waiting to see if I'm done.) "I especially wanted to make sure you could send her the Blah Blah documents by Friday." "Yes, I can definitely do that." (Ah, relief, I was worried you'd say you couldn't. Now, my mission is done, and I'm a bit more relaxed, but a hundred other tasks loom. Next stop, get off the phone.) "Great, thank you, that's good to hear." "Yeah, happy to help." "Okay well, have a great day."

See how none of that was about your creative ideas, your mannerisms, anything like that? I had two goals: To inform you that you should now call Jane, and to get a verbal commitment that you'd send her what she needs by Friday. If I wanted to chit-chat, I'd initiate it. Otherwise, you can just assume every interaction at work is solely about work, and specifically about getting a particular task done as quickly as possible. If you have a "what can I do for you, and how quickly can we do this?" attitude, people will like working with you. In return, when you're the one on a mission, they'll help you out the best they can.
posted by salvia at 3:03 PM on May 21, 2009 [7 favorites]

Don't change who you are for other people. Pretty much everyone faces personality crises, even folks you'd consider to be extremely "normal." Someone who's "eccentric" having a personality crisis deciding to become less eccentric is as pointless as someone "normal" becoming less normal.

These crises are sent to make us reconsider who we are. If you don't like who you are, sure, change. If you do like who you are but are considering change for other people's sakes, then hell no. Sadly it takes a long time to realize this, and some people never get over constantly changing to suit people they don't even know.
posted by wackybrit at 3:07 PM on May 21, 2009

Nthing the suggestion to talk to your therapist about Asperger's. Rather than try your hardest to fit in and be "normal", it might help you to get a diagnosis if that's the issue. High functioning autism isn't all that uncommon, and if people find you strange in future you can just explain that your brain is wired differently. I think this thread is evidence enough of what happens when people behave outside the norm in social situations: they are accused of being deliberately weird in order to appear smart of special. I suspect you are not being deliberately weird. I suspect you are just different, and different is okay.

There are support structures in place for people with Asperger's, and techniques they can teach you for how to assimilate when you need to. Even if you can't get a diagnosis, you might want to investigate Asperger's/high functioning autism and see if any of their tips and tricks help you.
posted by Hildegarde at 3:20 PM on May 21, 2009

You might consider the fact that there's nothing wrong with being weird or eccentric. You are who you are, and it's no use developing anxiety about whether or not other people like you.

At the same time, you sometimes have to conform to basic rules of behaviour. Most everyone does this, whether they think so or not. Developing different masks for different social situations is called developing a "persona." The persona I display to my workmates and clients is different than the persona I display to my wife, or to my parents and siblings. So we all do it.

You're off to a good start: you recognize that some of your mannerisms and behaviours confuse or turn off other people in certain situations. That's half the battle.

The next step is to fine-tune your work persona. The biggest thing you can do is stop talking so much.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:37 PM on May 21, 2009

I agree with what everyone else has said about the work setting. I'm as weird as all hell, but there is a time and a place; if weird gets in the way of getting the job done then boring normality should be adopted. Imagine if every time a surgeon wanted a scalpel he asked the nurse for it in a completely different manner. Lunchtime in the staffroom? Different matter - I'm not treading on anyone else's time, and as long as I'm not being intrusively weird it's not going to bother anyone.

Nth-ing the Aspergers; even if you read up about it and decide that you're not Aspie, then it's still worth looking at autism/asperger resources on making social connections. They're normally full of sound advice for anyone, whatever kind of mind you have.

I view 'being weird' and 'making good social connections' as basically unrelated; you can have no eccentricities whatsoever and still suck at dealing with people.
posted by Coobeastie at 4:51 PM on May 21, 2009

Boy, I dunno.

Hopefully you really are posting the weirdest things you do because they really aren't very weird. But I do know what you're getting at. Like others I can be an outcast too.

I wish you could see me now. I wear glasses. I picked them out because they are pretty odd. I wear the old fifties style "rocket scientist" glasses. I got them because they are odd. And as such they are super cool.

But it doesn't stop there. I kinda figured regular jokes (like your cowboy hat quip) require the joke sayer to be a step ahead of the conversation. And so sometimes I try to be two steps ahead. This almost always gets looks of total incomprehension from the people around me. S'okay. There are some people who get it and that's enough.

But check this out. . .I used to fly jets in the military (before I got rocket scientist glasses). A room full of pilots has the greatest concentration of testosterone on the planet. I don't know how we got on the subject (karaoke? comedy?) but I let it be known that I do a mean impression of Edith Bunker. And so I let rip on the All in the Family theme song. I was way better than this guy. As a result I made a whole room full of pilots cringe in embarrassment. Heh heh. One guy said, "Fancy Pants. . .don't ever EVER do that again." Heh.

I get excited about something small at work and people think I'm worried about it or that I'm distressed or whatever (hey, I thought getting excited over your job is a good thing).

I even joined MENSA but, meh. I wasn't interested in hanging out with them so I quit.

So here's the thing: If you're holding out on us, if there really really is something odd about you (everybody has sufficiently dark imaginations--no need to get into specifics) then continue with therapy. But if your top post is as weird as it gets then. . .

If you're an old man then why the hell do you care what those young whippersnappers think? Buncha idiots anyway.

If you're young then seek the advice of the old man in the previous paragraph. Embrace your oddness. If they don't get it that's their problem! Seriously. It takes a good set of stones to look at the world and say, "Follow me. I'm the uniqueness, the originality, the excitement, the adventure you've been hungry for." This is the mental mindset that made me finally relax and be comfortable in my skin. To be popular you have to not care about popularity. Be yourself times ten. It works for rock stars and rocket scientists. It must work for you and me.

I'll bet you have trouble with women. Figure women out and you will figure out the world. I am totally serious about that. Seek the advice of David DeAngelo. I'm not him and I'm not a shill for him. He does, however, have the best self-help stuff I've ever seen or read.
posted by Lord Fancy Pants at 4:57 PM on May 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

Strange questions will come to mind (i.e. Someone says that a special prosecutor was appointed in a case and I ask "Was he wearing a black cowboy hat?")

There's nothing wrong with being unique. We all are, and so are you, and that really is great. But, you have to be considerate as to the needs of others.

This quoted above: it may be a harmless silly throwaway line to you, but have you considered how other people might feel when you act this way? They're trying to tell some sort of story or otherwise convey useful information, but you're taking away from it by drawing attention to YOUR quirks and what YOU find funny. This is fine in a purely social setting where people like your jokes and everyone's chewing the fat. However, if I was your co-worker, I would find it actively disrespectful and distracting. What kind of response are people supposed to have to the black cowboy hat question? How is that going to be fun for THEM? "Uh, no, he wasn't. Anyway, what we have to do is..."

You're making the other person talking have to orbit around your private jokes. In a way, you're interrupting them. Again, you should by all means be who you are around friends who love you for who you are. But when people are organized around a task, you need to take it down a notch.

Ditto for answering the phone a different way each time. Use Caller ID and see when your friends and family are calling - do that stuff then. For work stuff, take it down a notch.

As for you saying "why yes" - enh, that wouldn't bother me.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:27 PM on May 21, 2009 [6 favorites]

Assuming that you work in a legal office of some kind, maybe consider whether this kind of work environment suits you and your personality. I worked at a large corporate law firm for a short period of time and found the rigidity of that environment absolutely soul crushing.

Different offices have different cultures. This can be true even within the same company. It's not always going to suit you, so try to adjust and keep it in mind next time you're out looking for work.

Hard to say exactly how off-the-wall you're being based on your post. Answering the phone differently can be completely acceptable if you're interchanging standard greetings like "Good Morning, this is x", "This is x", "Company name, this is x", etc. If you're saying shit like "HOW-DEE PARDNER, WHAT CH'ALL UP TO THIS MAWNIN'?" then yeah, you need to tone it down.
posted by hamsterdam at 5:39 PM on May 21, 2009

Well, weird is as weird does. If you were in really weird company, then you wouldn't stand out. I've been in social situations I could not stand for long because the people in them were social conformers and nonconformers were singled out for various kinds of ostracism, punishment or disparagement. Not all groups are like that, but if you have a tendency to be unusual and your crowd is of the pirahna tendency it can get extremely uncomfortable.

It seems to me like you can identify your behaviors and that you have control over them. You're not being forced to act differently by some uncontrollable impulse for example. You could simply choose not to exhibit those behaviors or substitute ones more in keeping with the norms of your workplace. You are probably consistently conforming to 90% of the norms already, like wearing clothes and doing your work. Why not choose that last 5 or ten percent if the alternative is making you so uncomfortable?

If you are unable to understand why your behavior is nonconforming, in the sense that someone has told you so yet you do not see it that way, then you may have some form of dysfunction. Simply identifying the behavior and correcting it goes a long way towards solving the problem, like choosing an adequate phone message and sticking to it.

Finally, some eccentricities are simply personal choices. You can choose to appreciate your own choices and ignore the sniping, or make a compromise where you hide your unique qualities in situations where they do not fit in.

Personally, I choose to believe that my uniqueness is internal to me and I don't have to fly my freak flag at all times to express myself. I'd rather have trust with co-workers by not challenging their value systems, yet I also stretch the envelope on some chosen occasions. Plus I work at places that have acceptance of personal differences, not auto-rejection.
posted by diode at 5:40 PM on May 21, 2009

I'd say do your thing. Make the world less boring. Brighten up the day for the rest of us weirdos who don't understand how normal people interact either. Consider working in IT.

Only caveat about a workplace, though. Regarding the question about the special prosecutor. If this is water cooler talk, who gives a rat's ass if you throw in some off the wall comments. Go for it! However, if this is someone at a meeting bringing up a relevant point to the topic of the meeting, you'd be wasting everyone's time throwing in random comments that derail the conversation (and everyone hates meetings, so prolonging them with this stuff is prob not appreciated). Or if they're bringing up the special prosecutor in a serious work-related conversation - which they probably want to hold in an efficient, professional manner - you'd be kind of disrespecting that if you constantly made remarks that were completely off point.
posted by citron at 6:16 PM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

And I'm not pretending a lot of "serious" work-related subjects aren't worthy of being attacked with mockery and randomness, they often are. But if random comments make everyone have to sit around that much longer and listen to the bosses bloviate about whatever.. that's not good.
posted by citron at 6:19 PM on May 21, 2009

Your examples are odd but not offensive...so its not THAT big a problem. I kinda had this problem and ended up creating a persona of a happy go lucky kinda guy which is now habit and my reactions are automatic. It isn't perfect...but its better than it was. If I ever get a chance to change my persona (moving to a new city and taking a new job) then one thing I would practice is what the senior NCO on the documentary 'Carrier' said...don't be too funny or they won't take your seriously...and don't be too serious for the same reason. I believe everyone 'wears a mask' to some extent. I know one Japanese guy who has several masks for different situations (work, hobby, family, etc.). His job/hobbies/family are SO DIFFERENT that if any of these groups ever met each other they would never guess what they had in common...and when his furneral happens someday then the morners are REALLY GOING TO GET THEIR MINDS BLOWN! If you find you did say something weird, following it up with something like 'I think the weirdest things sometimes...' will smooth things over.
posted by CodeMonkey at 6:35 PM on May 21, 2009

I'm not sure if therapy is the best approach for trying to change an aspect of your personality. I would recommend life coaching instead. You have a specific goal, and life coaches can help you reach specific goals. You could go even deeper and select a life coach who specializes in dealing with personality typology.
posted by Danila at 2:50 AM on May 22, 2009

Quit trying so hard.
posted by box at 4:21 AM on May 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Mod note: few comments removed - "shame on you" is not a great way to keep an AskMe thread from getting messy. please go to metatalk if you need to. thanks.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:50 AM on May 22, 2009

I think you do/say weird things for attention. I think underneath it all attention is what you're really in search of. I suggest you join some kind of social club or group so that 1) you can learn more about yourself and the best way you can position yourself with the surrounding society, ie where/ how you "fit in" and 2) you'll learn social norms. In other words, continue therapy and all that, but recognize that just accepting the "they're the ones with the problem" meme will not give you what you are ultimately looking for--belongingness. That does not mean giving up your uniquness, but it means feeling that you are understood and belong in your world. That's what you're looking for. Good luck.
posted by GeniPalm at 11:57 AM on May 22, 2009

Strange questions will come to mind (i.e. Someone says that a special prosecutor was appointed in a case and I ask "Was he wearing a black cowboy hat?")

Strange questions coming to mind isn't an odd behavior. The odd behavior is insisting on sharing them with everyone. Blurting out every thought that pops into your head is not acting professional. Act professional at work. Keep your amusing thoughts for your private enjoyment, like your ipod headphones.

Become aware of how people generally behave in a professional workplace. You can learn these behaviors and choose to emulate them. This is an essential work skill.
posted by yohko at 12:36 PM on May 25, 2009

Everybody here is saying Asperger's. Asperger's is very trendy right now. But I'm calling the behavior you exhibit more along the Schizotypal personality spectrum. Do any of these traits sound familiar to you?

* Discomfort in social situations
* Odd beliefs, fantasies or preoccupations
* Odd behavior or appearance
* Odd speech
* No close friends
* Inappropriate display of feelings
* Suspiciousness or paranoia
posted by mynameismandab at 11:50 PM on May 28, 2009

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