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The Book of Na'Lon

or rather, Inane Ramblings of an Expatriot

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Of Talking to People
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?


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I've conceded that I'm antisocial in the past, and sometimes can try to be too social in compensation - even if it's just hanging around until the end of the party.

I'm at my worst at academic conferences, though - at one colloquium, after all day in one room listening to one paper after another, I just wanted to head back to my room before dinner, but was pursued there by a scholar who didn't understand why I didn't want to compare notes on common matters in our research - I just wanted to get away from people for an hour before dinner.

I know that feeling all too well: the need to get away from people for a while. I call it feeling 'peopled-out' and if you feel like that the only thing that helps is alone-time to recharge the batteries.

My office mate, Nix, is the other way - she feels isolated really fast and so needs people around her all the time. She told me once that she hates it when I am teaching so many hours a week, because she has to sit in the office on her own. It's amazing how different we all are in our needs for contact with others.

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