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The Book of Na'Lon

or rather, Inane Ramblings of an Expatriot

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Of Talking to People
Bartholomew
na_lon
A friend posted something on her lj that made me think.

I think most people that know me in real life would consider me to be fairly sociable and good at talking to people. I suppose I am - I can talk to pretty much anyone (as long as we speak roughly the same language) - but, like most of the people I know - I do not find it easy to talk to people. It costs me a lot of effort and I do get peopled out. Even if the people are friends.

Over the years I have learnt a few things about talking to people. There are ways of cutting a conversation short (politely) if it's not going to go anywhere or indeed of making it worthwhile. So my remedy against having to make smalltalk is two-fold: I bore people rigid by talking about my research or history, or I admit to being a role-player, costumer, Tolkien fan and scare them off. As a result I have had some interesting conversations.

But there are times when there is a good reason to make smalltalk, and I do so on those occasions. Or I find ways of telling people I am a geek in muggle terms. E.g. I am involved with an improvisation drama group and I am a member of an educational charity. ;-)

The most interesting outcome of this strategy is, however, that I now actually have a couple of muggle friends who do know about my geekdom and don't sneer, but meet me on a Monday with greetings such as: "How was the role-playing?" or "How is your writing going?" Nix is one of these. She may never want to join an RPG or want to read what I write, but she respects that this stuff is real and important to me.

As for those people that give me funny looks in response to my topics of conversation... do I really want to prolong my encounters with them?

Exactly!

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At Oxonmoot, I regard it as my duty as a member who's been around for a while, to go and talk to people that I haven't seen before, but I only can manage to do this for a while and only under the umbrella of seeing it as a job to be done. Generally, I feel happier at social gatherings if I have a job to do - perform, run a workshop, show people around - just 'socialising' leaves me feeling rather dull and miserable unless it is with people I already know.

But since I know that I can make it my job to talk to strangers, I set myself the task of saying hello to people. The best possible outcome is that I hit it off with someone, the worst that they wander off at the first opportunity since they didn't find me interesting. But since I have set myself the task of saying hello, even that is not a failure: I said hello after all.

What I do - because it's not like I have a clue what to talk about either - is to take a mental list of potential things to say. Like how they heard about Oxonmoot, or whether they managed to find the venue okay. It is smalltalk, true, but smalltalk does serve and important social function. Essentially talking to people at a social gathering always starts off as 'interrogation', but if you are willing to listen and tell a bit about yourself, there is a chance that a real conversation gets off the ground. But it certainly doesn't always, and often when I might think that I quite liked someone, they end up liking someone else better than me, and the people I find a bit difficult to talk to end up fixating on me. And yet - I have met some people over the years who are true friends and who are interested in me and I in them.

I like what you say about writing our own Soap Operas. I wonder how many muggles would be dead-into roleplaying if there was Soap Opera RPGs? ;-)

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