MY STRUGGLE WITH SMALL TALK

Do you find it hard to partake in small talk? Does it make you feel anxious? Or do you have the gift of the gab?

There are so many factors required to have a successful conversation with another person.

  • Using exact words to effectively express your thoughts
  • Understanding body language and its nuances
  • Maintaining eye contact
  • Finding a balance between listening and speaking
  • Showing an interest in the person and what they have to say
  • Offering interesting topic threads
  • Remembering to relax
  • Smile

If you suffer from social anxiety, being thrust into situations where you must engage in conversation can be scary. It might feel easier to avoid it altogether.

So why do I force myself to engage in conversation?

I recognise that to communicate and engage with others means social interaction. It means forging new relationships and strengthening others. It means developing my sense of self and belonging.

Ultimately, I don’t want my life to be consumed by my anxiety. I won’t allow it to tear me down. Therefore, I must engage.


Butcher: “Hello there!”

Me: “Hi.”

Butcher: “How can I help? What would you like?”

Oh my God, I don’t know. Sh?t, I better hurry! Sh?t, how do you say that word ’enchiladas’?

Me: “Um. Six en-chill-a-dars please?”

Butcher: “My wife just took one of these last night and upped to Mildura.”

What? What did he just say? Am I supposed to reply? I just want to tick dinner off my list.

Me: “Oh. That’s a long way.”

Butcher: “She loves them. Drove after work last night and got there this morning.”

Okay, I think I’m supposed to say something here. Fudge if I know. Why is he telling me this? Breathe. Relax. You can do this. It’s just a conversation. Be normal.

Me: “Yeah, she must love them to drive that far.”

Did he mean she loves enchiladas? Is six enough for dinner?

Butcher: “My daughter lives up there and had her baby last night.”

How long does it take to wrap these enchiladas?! I can feel my anxiety levels rising. This conversation is hurting my mind. New baby. Ok, so remember to congratulate him.

Me: “My husband loves your enchiladas.”

Butcher: “Thanks. My wife’s already saying she wants to come back.”

You seem like a really nice dude and I’m really glad you’re chatting to me but I suck at this and I feel awkward. Please have mercy on me!

Me: “My husband loves your enchiladas.”

Fudge! That’s not what I meant to say. I forgot the congratulations.

Butcher: “Uh, thanks?”

Me: “Um, congratulations?”

Oh my gosh! He did say his daughter, right? He looks young. I hope I haven’t misheard. This conversation is going downhill. Abort! Abort!

Butcher: “It’s my third grandkid. Here you are.”

Oh thank goodness.

Me: “Thanks. Have a great day.”

I need to get out of here.

Butcher: “You haven’t paid yet.”

Me: “You too. I mean, sorry I haven’t.”

Did I just say that? How embarrassing! I hope the next butcher isn’t as talkative.


Copyright © 2019, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

THE SILVER LINING OF BEING AWKWARD

Humans are social creatures. It’s important for us to feel a sense of belonging. This fundamental need drives us to seek company; to form meaningful relationships with others; to engage in conversation. Essentially, we seek to make a human connection. A disconnect can lead to social isolation, loneliness and depression.

I struggled with my sense of identity and belonging throughout childhood and early adulthood. I was an extremely introverted child and shied away from people. I wasn’t able to effectively communicate and therefore, I found it difficult to make friends.

As a grown-ass adult, conversation still doesn’t come easily for me. Unfortunately, I’m also awkward as f#@k. Random sh!t just comes out of my pie hole. On the outside, I might look aloof and confident but on the inside, I’m a jumbled mess of insecurities that could rival that of a fifteen-year-old teenager. My six-year-old daughter has more pizzazz and social skills than I do. It’s really embarrassing. Luckily my friends accept me for who I am, flaws and all.

Recently, I met a mother of a child in the same swimming class as my daughter.


“Hello,” I said to the woman sitting next to me.

She gave me a welcoming smile and asked, “Which one is your child?”

“Oh Mandy,” I replied, pointing at the rambunctious girl doing cannonballs into the pool and getting told off. I rolled my eyes. She had a few minutes until class started and still managed to get into trouble.

“You’ve got a lively one there,” she laughed.

I giggled. “You don’t know the half of it!” Mandy’s a Little Miss Independent.

Lisa, the woman, was a talker. This suited me just fine as it prevented me from any outbreaks of verbal diarrhoea.

“Breanna does choir, ballet and swimming on Saturdays. She does Japanese, tennis and piano during the school week.”

“Oh Mandy does piano,” I threw in. It had been a while since I contributed to the conversation and I didn’t want to look disinterested.

“Yes, piano is so good for the brain. Breanna has done it for a few years now. She’s excelling at the moment. Did you know that music makes children smarter? I’ve listened to classical music since Breanna was in my tummy.”

Lisa rambled on and on. I don’t think she had paused since we started talking. How did she do that? She must have huge lung capacity.

I gave a noncommittal grunt as I watched Mandy attempt breast stroke. I was so proud that she was giving it a go.

“And of course, I had to speak to her teacher about the girl not inviting Breanna to her party. It’s just not acceptable in this day and age.”

I realised I had zoned out. I tried refocusing on what Lisa was saying.

Does she realise she’s monopolising the conversation? Is she a nervous chatterer? Is it possible that someone is more socially inept than me?

Our girls hopped out of the pool and rushed over to get dried. Lisa was still talking. I heard ‘coffee’, ‘next time’ and ‘see you’. My brain connected some imaginary dots.

“Yeah, I’d love to,” I replied, absent-mindedly stuffing Mandy’s things into her swim bag.

Lisa shot me a wary expression and left.

“Mum, why did you say you’d love to when she said ‘see you’?” Mandy asked me with a look of confusion.

“Lisa asked me to go for a coffee next time she sees me,” I said, a little uncertain.

“No she didn’t.” Mandy scrunched her brow. “She said she needed a coffee next time, and she said see you.”

“Oh.” That explained the weird look then.


Yes, I’m socially awkward. Yes, I say random things. Silver linings people. I’m pretty awesome at listening… most of the time.

Copyright © 2019, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

JUMPING FEET FIRST

With the easing of lockdown restrictions, I took the opportunity to catch up with a friend and meet the newest addition to her family. Unfortunately for me, I had to travel over the West Gate Bridge to get to the meet-up destination.

For those unfamiliar with Melbourne, the West Gate Bridge is the fifth-longest bridge in Australia at 2.6 kilometres, has ten lanes (5 inbound, 5 outbound) and sits 58 metres over a large river.

As I have an intense fear of heights, possibly a phobia, driving over this bridge had me shitting bricks. Instinctively, my hands were gripping the steering well for dear life. I felt nauseous and dizzy, my stomach was roiling and I was trembling in fear the whole trip across.

Rationally, I know the likelihood of unintentionally driving off a bridge is zilch. It’s even more absurd to think that a truck could bash into my car and push it over the steel safety barriers. Yet, it didn’t stop my anxiety from escalating and delusional fears from surfacing.

The drive had me thinking that perhaps I had let this phobia get a hold of me. It was a stupid bridge, albeit 58 metres above water, but it was nothing compared to some of the things I’ve pushed through before.

Some years ago, my husband and I travelled to Queenstown in New Zealand for our honeymoon, wanting to experience extreme sport and outdoor activities. Being an adrenaline junkie with little fears, Queenstown suited my husband perfectly. For me, who preferred sedate and sedentary activities, this was the jumpstart to being more active.

We did jet boating at high-speeds through rocky gorges. We went skiing on the beautiful white snow of Coronet Peak. We cruised on Milford Sound and were amazed by the majestic mountains and gorgeous natural surrounds. We zoomed down 1.6 kilometres of Skyline Luge tracks. I even sat on the bottom of a gondola that hovered 450 metres above ground… with my eyes closed the whole time. The buffet at the top was worth it!

But it wasn’t until we did the bungy jumping and swings that my fear of heights swallowed me whole. My legs were shaking before I even set foot on Kawarau Bridge. I remember it vividly; the chokehold of fear, looking down at the waters below. I remember the man telling me to dive and just feel the moment. I also remember wanting to back out but my ego not letting me.

So I jump. Yeah, you read correctly. I didn’t dive. I cannonballed off the ledge. Can you guess what happened? It was a bungy jumping fail of spectacular proportions. As the cord recoiled, I ended up pinging up and down like a pogo stick for what seemed like forever. I felt sorry for the dudes given the task to reign me in. I kept missing the stick that one of the guys held out for me to grab and more than once, he overbalanced trying in vain to end our collective misery.

There were many MANY people on the sidelines that video recorded my epic bungy jumping fail. It probably went viral – look up ‘crazy Asian girl does epic bungy fail’ or something like that. My husband was so amused that he insisted we pay the exorbitant fees for the video and photos. In fact, he purchased the most expensive package so we would have digital evidence for our grandkids and their grandkids to have for laughs.

So really, what’s one small bridge when I’ve conquered that, right? Next time I drive over the West Gate Bridge, I need to remind myself that I’ve faced worse and survived. I even have video evidence if I ever need a reminder.

Copyright © 2020, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.