WHY INTROVERTS ARE QUIET

A friend recently sent me an image of a pie chart with reasons why introverts are quiet. It had me giggling and nodding my head in agreement. There were two explanations that stood out for me.

‘I finally came up with the perfect reply but now you’re talking about something else.’

‘The words, I can’t do right when out loud they are spoken.’

Does anyone suffer from this? I over think my responses and take a ridiculous amount of time to perfect a reply. By the time I’ve mustered up the courage to actually contribute to the conversation, I’ve missed the train. And if I feel nervous speaking to the person, I just blurt out random junk in an incoherent manner – I believe the condition is called verbal diarrhoea. I’ve had it all my life – I don’t think there is a cure.

The image had me thinking, is this why I don’t have many close friends? I don’t make great first impressions and I’m not a skilled conversationalist, so are people likely to shy away from getting to know me?

I envy children. They make it look so simple. ‘Hey you wanna play?’ and BAM! a friendship is born. Ok, maybe not exactly like that but you get my drift. They don’t have the same emotional baggage and negative inner dialogues holding them back from connecting with others. They don’t see the same obstacles or barriers that an adult might see.

So what can I do? I still want to get to know people and make friends. While I like my own company, it’s nice not to answer my own questions on occasion. You know what I mean? And at some stage, my children will become teenagers and won’t have a bar of me, my husband will probably request to live solo on a deserted island and I’ll be OLD old. I’d like to think that I’ll have some old biddies to clink teacups with and chat about our latest romance reads. It’s nice to make connections and form friendships. Loneliness is literally a silent killer!

In efforts to rectify this situation, I had to do some self-analysis and admit to any shortcomings. I identified six areas of limitations that needed some serious overhaul to make a better first impression.

  1. Willingness: I prefer lurking in dark corners and hiding behind any excuse instead of being placed in an uncontrolled social setting. I would rather spork myself in the eye than talk to a stranger. I struggle with anxiety in most social situations.
  2. Small talk: I find small talk incredibly draining. It takes all my concentration and energy to listen and converse in a manner that is meaningful and attentive. I would say it’s the equivalent to a tough gym session but for the brain. I feel like a big bag of chips and a nap afterwards to recuperate from my efforts, I kid you not!
  3. Eye contact: I have an aversion to prolonged eye contact. I feel compelled to look away to relieve the discomfort.
  4. Smile: I hate my teeth, and I’m conscious of them. I tend to smile with my lips sealed tight so often I look like I’m grimacing. It probably gives me a certain RBF appearance.
  5. Body language: Unless I know the person well or I feel comfortable in their presence, I tend to cross my arms or hold a bag in front of me. It’s almost a protective or defensive stance.
  6. Inner dialogue: I have a tendency to be pessimistic and negative about my capabilities. I am hard on myself. I worry about my quirks and awkwardness.

It’s not a great stretch of the imagination to state that I don’t make the best first impressions. I can appear disinterested and arrogant when the opposite is true!

So I’ve decided to tackle one limitation at a time – first off the bat, willingness. I’m going to attempt to talk to someone who I wouldn’t normally talk to while doing school pick ups and drop offs. You never know, I might even make a friend or two who’ll find my quirkiness and awkwardness charming! Wish me luck folks.

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

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LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY REPEATING

What makes a parent embarrassing to a child? How do you know when you’ve entered lame territory? Are there signs, like increased rate of facepalms and eye rolls? Or do you just reach an age where you lose your sensibilities and become an ‘at risk’ embarrassing parent? I’d like to know because if my children requests that I walk three metres behind them, I’ll have failed. So far, I’m still in the ‘cool beans’ category, but only barely. I’m hanging on by a thread, but I have hope because I’m nowhere near as embarrassing as my folks. They have set the example for parental embarrassment.

My mother will:
– shamelessly haggle for a dollar discount (every dollar counts!)
– blatantly inspect and tastes unpaid fruit from stands (how else will she know if the fruit is sweet?)
– brazenly elbow and push to get in front of any line (as she waits for no-one)
– pay with a bag full of small coins, taking time to count each one (because all vendors need small change)
– refuse to put cooked rice or food in the fridge (why wouldn’t you want to save on fridge space and what’s Listeria?)
– show up unannounced and leave us a jug of her unwanted tangelos and oranges (there’s irrefutable evidence left, sticky counters and floors)

My dad will:
– forgo a shower for some wet toweling (you don’t ever want to accidentally use his towel!)
– multitask like a pro with eating and talking (just don’t sit directly in front of him)
– double park (because it’s the council’s fault that there aren’t more car parks)
– shout out ‘Hey’ and do an octopus wave to get a waiter’s attention (imagine how much extra flavouring his meals must get!)
– bring out his karaoke machine with any visitor (because everyone needs to hear those vocals!)
– FaceTime or WhatsApp his family members constantly (because obviously they’re interested in an update every half hour)

So you see, I know embarrassing. I understand what it means to have embarrassing parents. I mean, who else has had their dad talk about his penile problems to their future in-laws on the first meeting? Who’s had to make excuses so friends don’t come over because their dad has six fish tanks and sometimes walks around in his boxers that he mistakes as acceptable summer wear? Even the grandkids are saying how embarrassing they are!

***

Gary is attempting to move my mum’s car from our driveway. The deafening wail of car alarm can be heard.

“Oh that’s your dad’s car alarm. Tell Gary to press the car key button twice,” my mum dismisses.

I go outside to tell Gary her instructions. He looks frustrated and furiously punching both buttons. The alarm is so loud that I have to yell in his ear. The neighbours have started to come out to witness the commotion. We can’t get the alarm to stop. My mum shows up, and she starts pressing the buttons in the same way. Nothing. By now, we’re just standing there covering our ears. Eventually, my dad comes out with the kids. My dad smacks the car key against the door a few times and swears a ton before the alarm cuts off.

“Easy. That’s how you do it,” my dad exclaims with triumph. He leans into the car and rummages around.

“It happens every time I try to get in the car. It’s so annoying!” my mum complains.

I can only stare in wide-eyed amazement. Is he for real? He practically had to kick down the door. This aftermarket car alarm is probably going to explode. I take a step back. I peek around to see the neighbours shaking their heads and returning to their abodes.

My dad pulls out a black foam block and passes it over to me. “Here, I got you a foam cushion for your car seat so you can see over the steering wheel.”

“Dad, I do not need a cushion. My seats can be adjusted,” I tell him, rolling my eyes in the process.

“You want the back massager for your seat?” he offers, pointing to the monstrosity attached to his car seat.

“Uh no.” Seriously?! Who gets a back massage while driving?

“How about next time, we’ll come to visit you?” I mutter. “On second thought, how about we always come to visit you from now on.”

***

I wonder if history will repeat itself. Will I be my own brand of embarrassing to the kids when I’m older? Nah, no one can top my parents in the embarrassing department.
 

 

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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. Shit, I better hurry. Shit, 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 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 God, 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.


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INNOCENT WHITE LIES

When is a lie acceptable? Are there degrees of lying? It is less of a lie if it’s a “white lie”? Or is lying just plain old lying?

What about telling your children that Santa exists? Or the Easter Bunny? Or the Tooth Fairy?

And if you choose to do so, when do you tell them the truth? That you have indeed, lied to them.

My parents didn’t give me fairy tales or half-truths. We were poor. If I got a present, they made damn sure I knew that they had scraped and saved every dollar to get me that ONE present. That one item would be a necessity; no frivolous toy; no gift wrapping; no card. There was no illusion of some old jovial fat dude climbing down a chimney in the middle of the night to place a beautifully wrapped gift under a Christmas tree. No Easter Bunny was pooping chocolate eggs on our lawns. And the Tooth Fairy? I was lucky to see the dentist.

Maybe that’s why I overcompensate as a parent. I want to give them the magic and fun that I didn’t get as a child. I want them to look back fondly at their childhood memories.

I’ll admit that a small part of me wants to conform to society norms. I don’t want my child to blurt out, “It’s a lie! Your parents are lying to you! There’s no such thing as Santa.”

I can ponder away the day trying to find reason and rhyme for my parenting choices. Inevitably, I will have to come clean with my lies.

We place the baby tooth into a plastic bag and put it under Mandy’s pillow.

“So the Tooth Fairy will come, take my tooth and give me a coin?” Mandy queries.

I can’t seem to look her in the eyes. “Yes, so I’m told.”

“What does she look like? How does she get my tooth if I’m lying on the pillow? How much money will I get? What happens with the teeth?”

Oh boy.

My brain scrambles for answers. I don’t recall seeing a “How to lie effectively to your child” section in the parenting manual I received from the maternal health nurse.

“Uh, no-one has seen the Tooth Fairy, so we don’t know the mechanics or logistics,” I reply. “Also, you get ONE gold coin per tooth. That’s all I know.”

Mandy contemplates my answers for a moment.

“Mummy, do you give me presents as well as Santa or are you pretending to be Santa?”

I pause. She’s at an age where her friends are probably discussing the rumours. This is the perfect opportunity to come clean, but then she’s likely to ruin it for her little brother.

“No, Mummy and Daddy give you presents as well as Santa,” I reluctantly reply.

“What about the Easter Bunny? Are you putting the eggs in the lawn for us to find?”

I feel the weight of her accusing stare. I shift uncomfortably. Mandy could become an excellent cross-examiner one day.

“Me?” I exclaim in feigned shock, “I don’t have time for that!”

“Hmm.” Mandy responds. She’s onto me. The jig is probably up.

“If you have any further questions, ask your dad. He’s the expert,” I deflect. “Hey, let’s read a book.”

I am the Master of Deflection and Timely Distractions.

“I think I’ll ask Ally tomorrow if she thinks the Tooth Fairy is real,” Mandy casually says. “She knows everything.”

I shudder at the thought of what’s to come.

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ACCIDENTAL RAILJOB

Which one would you choose?

Sitting in your climate controlled car but crawling bumper to bumper in gridlocked traffic. ETA unknown.

Or…

Packed like sardines in an overcrowded train carriage with a broken thermostat. ETA dependent on the weather.

Neither? You work from home? You don’t need work? Your money grows on trees? I so so envy you.

If you’re like me and have to join the masses for the commute, and have chosen the train then you have my commiseration.

Why? Train rides are the worst; stifling heat from the masses in contained areas; recycled air filled with germs from hacking coughs and projectile sneezing; someone constantly sniffling or snorting their gunk; unpleasant smells. Let’s not forget the awkwardness of having someone in your personal space.

On my latest commute, the train system was in shambles due to track damage. This meant hordes of people converged on the platforms to get a coveted position in the carriages. I end up pushed along until I’m right in front of the disabled seats. I am standing so close to this seated woman that it borders on indecent. Being vertically challenged, my hand immediately skims the nearby handrails to hold myself upright. It’s prime real estate. I ready myself in a warrior stance to avoid toppling with the jerky movements of the train.

Not wanting to stare at the woman in my direct line of sight, I shift my gaze to people in the carriage. I’m immediately assaulted with the sight of a man oddly rubbing his phone on the thigh, incessantly, for what feels like an unseemly amount of time. He must really want a clean phone screen.

Feeling a bit perturbed, I look away and catch the sight of a woman putting on a full face of makeup. I’m amazed at her ability to put on eyeliner without stabbing herself in the eye. On a good day, I look like I’m playing a solo game of Twister against the mirror so I can’t imagine adding movement to that conundrum.

More people shuffle into the carriage. I take a deep fortifying breath. Regret courses through me when I take a whiff of body odour from the armpits of the man standing beside me. I’m just at the right height for maximum damage. I shuffle and do a one-eighty degree turn only to have a mouth breather in my face.

As I’m having my moment of existential crisis, I’m become aware of the feeling of material rubbing against my knuckles and glance down.

“What the fudging hell?”

A giant man is standing near me, his crotch leaning against the handrail, which just so happened to have my hand wrapped around it. The swaying movement of the train meant that I was giving this giant a railjob. I look up and continued looking up till I reach the man’s face. I can feel myself blushing. He hasn’t noticed. I try to discreetly move my hand but it’s jammed. It ain’t going anywhere.

“Ahem!” Nothing. Nada.

“Ahem! Ahem! Argh!” I say with more emphasis.

The man looks curiously down at me. I direct my gaze to the hostage situation and glance back to him. He jerks away from the rails and gives me an apologetic smile.

I give an involuntary shudder. I’m going to have to bleach my eyes and scrub my knuckles after this particular train ride.

The train doors open. My stop. I push and shove my way past the crowd to get through in time. The cool air hits my face, offering immediate respite. I take a breather.

You know that saying…do a good deed every day?

I think I reached my quota.

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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 Mandy.

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

She gives me a welcoming smile and asks, “Which one is your child?”

“Oh Mandy,” I say, pointing at the rambunctious girl doing cannonballs into the pool and getting told off. I roll my eyes. She has a few minutes until class and still manages to get in trouble.

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

I giggle. “You don’t know the half of it!” Mandy is my Little Miss Independent.

Lisa, the woman, is a talker. This suits me just fine as it prevents 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 cut in. It’s been a while since I contributed to this conversation and I don’t want to look like I’m uninterested.

“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 rambles on and on. I don’t think she’s paused since we started talking. How does she do that? She must have huge lung capacity.

I give a noncommittal grunt as I watch Mandy attempt breast stroke. I’m so proud that she’s 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 realise I’ve zoned out and give a mental heave to refocus on what Lisa is 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 hop out of the pool and rush over to get dried. Lisa is still talking. I hear ‘coffee’, ‘next time’ and ‘see you’. My brain connects some imaginary dots.

“Yeah, I’d love to,” I reply, stuffing Mandy’s things into her swim bag.

Lisa gives me a wary expression and leaves.

“Mum, why did you say you’d love to when she said ‘see you’?” Mandy asks me, confused.

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

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

“Oh.” That explains 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.

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