I like to consider myself a fairly social person and have been lucky enough to meet lots of different kinds of people over the years. I never tire of meeting new people, and there are always new opportunities to strike up new friendships. This year in particular has been full of meeting new people and starting new friendships, often without the safety net of having my kids around to blame for any social blunders I make, and that has given me ample opportunity to research how people interact with each other for the first time (oh, the things I do for you, dear readers).
In general, most people are pretty much the same, we all want to be liked and we all want to get on, and a lot of us are quite similar in how we approach a new friendship and how we go about interacting with people we don’t know. There are generally accepted ways of behaving. But meeting new people can be awkward and throw unexpected curveballs, because actually everyone is different, and occasionally someone comes along who doesn’t quite stick to the rules, leaving the rest of us to pick up the social slack
The Over Friendly Over Sharer
I am putting this one first because this is me. I am the person who will, within five minutes of making your acquaintance, discuss something others would consider highly inappropriate eg, the toileting habits of my children (sometimes even my own), religion, politics and money, I hug people on first meeting (see my posts on Social Kissing and over sharing), often getting a stiff as a board “we’re not quite there yet” response. My over friendly, over sharey ways come from an inner discomfort, I want to be comfortable myself and get to that level of ease with someone quickly, completely bypassing the awkward “don’t really know you so I’m on my best behaviour” stages. But more importantly, I want others to feel comfortable in my presence and want them to know early on that it’s ok for them to be themselves around me, and that I am not going to judge them if they accidentally say the wrong thing or a fart slips out (in fact, I often wish we lived in a world where bodily functions were are relaxed as they are to kids, obliviously wandering around with farts and burps falling out of them in an entirely uncontrolled manner (if you have ever been sitting in a lecture or meeting someone for the first time when you feel the urge, you will know the discomfort it causes)).
The Opinionated Debater
I used to be like this when I was in my teens, as I think a lot of people are, although many people grow out of it. I love a good debate, and there is nothing I enjoy more than a healthy discussion on, well, anything at all. I recently met a girl at the bookshop where I was working, and her approach to debate (between two people who barely know each other) was very different to mine. She is highly intelligent and a great conversationist, as she has a huge bank of knowledge on subjects I know little about. That is until our discussion turned into debates over things she didn’t like. She would make sweeping statements over elements of popular culture that she did not approve of (“I hate Big Bang Theory, it is just not humour, and it’s not funny, simple as that”) and this I found hard to swallow. I love that everyone is different, and love hearing other peoples arguments when they are different from my own, but in order for everyone to get along we all need to be conscious of other people’s views. Our debating reached boiling point when we had a heated discussion about Fifty Shades (do NOT slag off my Mr Gray). She said it was drivel, rubbish and badly written. My argument is that it is porn, pure and simple, and discussing it’s literary merits is like a book club hammering out the subtle nuances running through Big Juggs magazine (an argument I put forth when we did discuss Mr Gray at my book club), it doesn’t hold up to literary criticism because it’s not meant to be a literary work. But anyway, whatever the argument, my point to the Opinionated Debater is that sometimes you need to throw in a few “in my opinion”’s in order to help the other side see that you are open to their argument. Otherwise the debate ends too quickly and they come off as an arrogant twat (the girl in question asked me if I found her debates offensive, so, at her request, I made my suggestions and she gallantly took them on the chin).
One of my friends has been affectionately given the nick name “Harsh Tongue” because, in the nicest possible way, she has a habit of saying exactly what she is thinking, and often it can cut like a knife and end a conversation in one fell swoop. She is one of the loveliest people I know, and means no harm to anyone, but her Harsh Tongue (like my over sharing) can be a little disconcerting to the uninitiated.
Underhand Harsh Tongue
These people give with one hand and take away with the other. “Oh my god, that dress is gorgeous, I’d never wear anything from Primark but it looks great on you”. This kind of person I find the hardest to cope with (being stupidly over sensitive and always reading far too much into these things) because I can never tell which side of the fence they are on. I’m sure that 99% of them are well meaning, but there is always an element of doubt as to whether they are friend or foe. And, being the trusting sort of person I am, I often find myself in conversations with people who say “Oh her, she is a right bitch” when I thought they were perfectly lovely. Or maybe I am just gullible.
Embarking on a new relationship means a lot of meeting new people. Once you have got over the initial hurdle of a first date, then comes the endless rounds of meeting, and making a good impression on, their friends, family and so on. And I’m scared. Actually, if the truth be told I am terrified of how I come across to people who aren’t used to my way of doing things, and friends and family are important people to make an impression on. But I know Mr P is a bit nervous too. He tells me his nickname is the Social Hand Grenade, as he is apt to say the wrong thing. But I think we are going to have a lot of fun together. Rocking up at social functions where someone has just died, him saying “hey, who died” and me hugging people I don’t even know. I actually don't think either of us have anything to worry about, as we both must have swerved the saying the wrong thing/over sharing to the point of being offensive or we would not have got to this point. I have a sneaking suspicion we will make a great team :-)