Author Topic: Offering someone an "out" from small talk.  (Read 3246 times)

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Outdoor Girl

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Re: Offering someone an "out" from small talk.
« Reply #15 on: June 17, 2014, 03:40:52 PM »
I like the idea of making a pact:  Let's sit together on the train so we don't have to sit with strangers.  But we'll do our own thing unless we *want* to chat.

I know it would make me more comfortable to know I had a train buddy that was low maintenance.  I have some friends that I love to death but sometimes just want to say, 'Shut up already!'.  And I know they feel the same way about me sometimes.
I have CDO.  It is like OCD but with the letters in alphabetical order, as they should be.
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Sophia

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Re: Offering someone an "out" from small talk.
« Reply #16 on: June 17, 2014, 04:03:26 PM »
On the subject of scripts, this might help you feel better. 

I have a co-worker much like you.  A nice guy and very script oriented.  He told a story on himself about when he was seriously dating his wife.  She was feeling low and cried on his shoulders saying, "I am sorry I am too fat and ugly for you."  His script says that when anyone says, "I am sorry ..." he responds "That is all right."  As you can imagine, he had some back-pedaling to do. 

Sophia

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Re: Offering someone an "out" from small talk.
« Reply #17 on: June 17, 2014, 04:12:21 PM »
... it's mainly because posting here gave me a script to follow (seriously, for someone who is "smart" I can be pretty dense about being a human). 

That is the main reason I am here.  I also read a lot of books.  When you don't have People Instincts, you have to do research.  Largely through the help of this site I think I've risen to Normal, and very occasionally gracious.  Often I read other people's postings and put myself in their shoes.  Then if that same or similar thing happens to me I won't be caught slack-jawed. 

I remember hearing a story about Emerson and Thoreau.  They spent an entire evening together not speaking one word.  Just reading and doing their own thing.  Then the guest, stood up and commented on what a wonderful evening it was and left. 

LadyL

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Re: Offering someone an "out" from small talk.
« Reply #18 on: June 17, 2014, 04:27:24 PM »
... it's mainly because posting here gave me a script to follow (seriously, for someone who is "smart" I can be pretty dense about being a human). 

That is the main reason I am here.  I also read a lot of books.  When you don't have People Instincts, you have to do research.  Largely through the help of this site I think I've risen to Normal, and very occasionally gracious.  Often I read other people's postings and put myself in their shoes.  Then if that same or similar thing happens to me I won't be caught slack-jawed. 


Yep. "You teach what you need to know" as my classmate puts it (I teach psychology courses to undergrads). I'm always adding tools to my toolkit.  I am a bit obsessed with understanding human behavior precisely because it is often so foreign and fascinating to me.

Possum

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Re: Offering someone an "out" from small talk.
« Reply #19 on: June 17, 2014, 08:07:39 PM »
Is it really necessary, though? If the OP had picked up her book and begun reading, I think it would have sent the same message without the surprise. I honestly think this tactic would put some people off, so it's best to try and send the message non-verbally at first rather than make a pointed remark.
Speaking as someone who's been on both sides of this, it's very helpful.  We're trained to make small talk with people we know, and even if we *don't* have problems reading social cues, we may feel obliged to continue to do so, even if the other person picks up a book, looks at their phone, etc.  The verbal acknowledgement is very freeing for both parties.

Goosey

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Re: Offering someone an "out" from small talk.
« Reply #20 on: June 17, 2014, 09:56:49 PM »
See, I would find it off putting. If you pick up a book and become absorbed in it, I get what you're saying. If not, just say "I'm sorry, I'm at a really good part :)" What the OP said strikes me as "okay, run along now and play with your things. I'm done talking" - in other words, it sounds dismissive.

I'm not saying that it won't work in certain cases, but I would caution that it's not always going to be seen as a gracious benefit.

JenJay

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Re: Offering someone an "out" from small talk.
« Reply #21 on: June 17, 2014, 10:12:50 PM »
This is the one of the kindest and most gracious acts I've heard of in a while.

I agree! I also suffer with social anxiety, and I also feel that ehell has been an invaluable tool in helping me deal with it, even overcome it to a large extent. You were so kind to her, not only in offering her the out, but recognizing that she needed it and stepping outside of your own discomfort to figure out how to navigate both of you through the awkwardness.

LadyL

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Re: Offering someone an "out" from small talk.
« Reply #22 on: June 17, 2014, 10:47:37 PM »
See, I would find it off putting. If you pick up a book and become absorbed in it, I get what you're saying. If not, just say "I'm sorry, I'm at a really good part :)" What the OP said strikes me as "okay, run along now and play with your things. I'm done talking" - in other words, it sounds dismissive.


I did have this concern, but my coworker didn't seem to perceive it that way. It seems to be something of a special case since I am aware of her issues with anxiety. I think if we were having a very active, back and forth conversation and then all of a sudden I said the line, then yeah it would be abrupt and dismissive. But as it were, the conversation was already very halting and awkward and sort of grinding to a halt. I think for that type of conversation, or one where the pauses keep getting longer and more awkward, it helps smooth the transition into pursuing separate activities.

MariaE

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Re: Offering someone an "out" from small talk.
« Reply #23 on: June 18, 2014, 12:55:57 AM »
See, I would find it off putting. If you pick up a book and become absorbed in it, I get what you're saying. If not, just say "I'm sorry, I'm at a really good part :)" What the OP said strikes me as "okay, run along now and play with your things. I'm done talking" - in other words, it sounds dismissive.

I'm not saying that it won't work in certain cases, but I would caution that it's not always going to be seen as a gracious benefit.

See I'm the exact opposite. I find not saying anything off putting. What you're suggesting strikes me as "Right, this conversation is boring me, so I'm not even going to bother ending it in a decent matter, but will just hide in my book now."

Sort of like hanging up the phone without saying goodbye.
 
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Goosey

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Re: Offering someone an "out" from small talk.
« Reply #24 on: June 18, 2014, 06:12:46 AM »
Well, it just illustrates my point, doesn't it? That this is not going to please everyone?

MariaE

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Re: Offering someone an "out" from small talk.
« Reply #25 on: June 18, 2014, 06:33:44 AM »
Well, it just illustrates my point, doesn't it? That this is not going to please everyone?

Yup, I was just elaborating :)
 
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Zizi-K

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Re: Offering someone an "out" from small talk.
« Reply #26 on: June 18, 2014, 08:49:49 AM »
See, I would find it off putting. If you pick up a book and become absorbed in it, I get what you're saying. If not, just say "I'm sorry, I'm at a really good part :)" What the OP said strikes me as "okay, run along now and play with your things. I'm done talking" - in other words, it sounds dismissive.

I'm not saying that it won't work in certain cases, but I would caution that it's not always going to be seen as a gracious benefit.

See I'm the exact opposite. I find not saying anything off putting. What you're suggesting strikes me as "Right, this conversation is boring me, so I'm not even going to bother ending it in a decent matter, but will just hide in my book now."

Sort of like hanging up the phone without saying goodbye.

I think the OP did end it in a decent manner. This was not a social event, but rather a chance meeting on public transportation. Even if coworker was an extrovert chatty cathy type, that doesn't obligate OP to chat. If OP had planned to read on her commute, she's not now obligated not to do that because she ran in to someone. They exchanged pleasantries, and that I think is the extent of one's obligations for that kind of situation. Plus, given what the OP knows about this person, she knew it would be a kindness and not at all insulting. I AM a chatty cathy type, and if someone said that to me, I would get the hint that they wanted to read or otherwise be quiet. My natural desire to talk does not trump theirs.

MariaE

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Re: Offering someone an "out" from small talk.
« Reply #27 on: June 18, 2014, 08:54:49 AM »
See, I would find it off putting. If you pick up a book and become absorbed in it, I get what you're saying. If not, just say "I'm sorry, I'm at a really good part :)" What the OP said strikes me as "okay, run along now and play with your things. I'm done talking" - in other words, it sounds dismissive.

I'm not saying that it won't work in certain cases, but I would caution that it's not always going to be seen as a gracious benefit.

See I'm the exact opposite. I find not saying anything off putting. What you're suggesting strikes me as "Right, this conversation is boring me, so I'm not even going to bother ending it in a decent matter, but will just hide in my book now."

Sort of like hanging up the phone without saying goodbye.

I think the OP did end it in a decent manner. This was not a social event, but rather a chance meeting on public transportation. Even if coworker was an extrovert chatty cathy type, that doesn't obligate OP to chat. If OP had planned to read on her commute, she's not now obligated not to do that because she ran in to someone. They exchanged pleasantries, and that I think is the extent of one's obligations for that kind of situation. Plus, given what the OP knows about this person, she knew it would be a kindness and not at all insulting. I AM a chatty cathy type, and if someone said that to me, I would get the hint that they wanted to read or otherwise be quiet. My natural desire to talk does not trump theirs.

I'm slightly confused as to why you quoted me, as it would appear we agree completely :) The OP handled it perfectly.
 
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jmarvellous

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Re: Offering someone an "out" from small talk.
« Reply #28 on: June 18, 2014, 09:51:33 AM »
Please don't do the "make a pact" thing. It seems contrived and over-the-top when you've found a solution that works just fine. I also think that it's better to say, "Don't mind me" or something like it if you decide to read, rather than just shutting off and starting to read.

I am interning this summer; the only other intern is a guy who just happens to live at the same train stop as me (40+ minutes from work). We have very little to talk about, and I did the "Don't let me keep you from your book" thing last time we found ourselves on the train home together. He smiled and got right to it.

I don't think it's only anxious people who don't want to bother keeping up small talk for more than 10 minutes. It's hard work when you're not actually friends!

Daydream

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Re: Offering someone an "out" from small talk.
« Reply #29 on: June 18, 2014, 09:58:40 AM »
I agree that you handled that perfectly and it would have also been fine to do if she was the chatty type.  Just picking up your book to read after exchanging pleasantries would be good, too, if you're in the same situation with someone else. 

What's important is that *you* don't want to chat for the entire trip and aren't obligated to simply because you ran into an acquaintance.