Social skills are not one of my strengths. Some people would scoff at that statement, if they encountered me at my workplace. It’s true, I have developed a knack for being out-going and helpful when the situation demands it.
In the restaurant, I could always greet the customers warmly, and describe the day’s luncheon specials perfectly. Now, at the hardware store, I’ve transferred that ability to where it is needed. Ask me about the merits of various types of paint or stain, and I’ll give you the run-down. If you want to discuss the properties of various caulks, I’m in. I’m even pretty good at commiserating about the weather. Beyond that, though, not so much.
I keep a half-dozen really good jokes, to bring out on rare occasions when the time seems right. The trouble is, if too much time passes between the telling, my delivery is off. Or I forget the sequence. Or the punchline. Or the humor depends on certain circumstances. One of my favorite jokes involved Nixon, Kissinger, Communism and Coca~Cola. Needless to say, time has sucked the humor right out of it!
I only know one real magic trick. It’s simple, but a good one. I showed my grandsons at Christmas-time, and they were pretty impressed. Then I showed them how to do it; I won’t be around forever, so may as well pass it on. I used to know a good card trick, too, but I’ve forgotten it.
Mostly, in social situations, I just say whatever is expected. I can honestly empathize with many positions, and nod in understanding. I respond favorably when that seems appropriate, and I laugh when laughter is called for. I murmur “I’m so sorry…” when sympathy is what is needed.
When someone tries to “draw me out,” one of two thing will usually occur. I may pull back, defensively, give answers of one or two words only, and attempt to change the subject. Or, I will tell all that is asked and more, going back to my childhood, or even to my birth, including my own “amateur psychiatrist” opinions on how this or that came to be, until I have thoroughly embarrassed both myself and the questioner. And driven myself right back into the shell.
Writing seems to be the exception to my social awkwardness. Here, I hold a – granted, mostly one-sided – conversation. I talk about myself, with humor and humility, without embarrassment. I speak of other things, without feeling the need to sound like an expert. This is just me, talking. Sometimes I have something to say; sometimes I don’t.
I think one of the best things I have going for me is the ability to sit down here and write, whether or not I have something important to say. Sometimes I choose a photo, and the photo guides the direction of the essay; sometimes I have an idea that’s been knocking around in my thoughts for a few days, and I flesh it out as I write. Sometimes, like today, I just start writing, and a theme shapes up as I go along. Something from nothing. That feels kind of like a magic trick, too!