Sunday, 9 November 2014

Rough diamond

I'm a bit of rough diamond, I guess. I may think of myself as wise and sophist-icated, but in my actual dealings with other people I can be as gauche and clumsy as a confused adolescent.

I'm never very confident in social situations. I'm not sure what to say or what to do or what's expected of me. If in doubt, I tend to say nothing and retreat to a quiet corner where nobody will bother me.

If I meet someone I've always seen as especially intelligent or talented or inspirational, I can be so overcome with childish awe that it's all I can do to stammer out a few gormless platitudes before lapsing into an embarrassing silence.

Everyone else seems to be so at ease, chattering away effortlessly to complete strangers, baring their soul with no apparent qualms, never at a loss for words. Whatever the trick is, it seems to have passed me by.

In private though, alone with my thoughts, I don't feel at all hesitant or wrong-footed. I feel worldly-wise and experienced, ready for any crisis, equal to the challenges of daily life. I know I'm just as smart and practical and capable as the next person. But as soon as I'm with other people, the awkward me, the ham-fisted me, suddenly springs out of hiding and takes over.

I'm too self-conscious, I suppose. The legacy of a frightening and insecure childhood. Losing that self-consciousness and just letting everything flow is a knack I've never picked up. I envy those who've mastered it. It must make life a lot easier and a lot more enjoyable.

Or maybe I just need that old Irish standby, the gift of the gab.

25 comments:

Dave Martin said...

I guess it's one of those things - either you have it or you don't.
I don't either, unless I've had a few drinks and then I can talk bollocks for hours like the rest of them.

John Gray said...

I'm like dave..alcohol loosens me
Having said this..the older I get...the more confident I have become!

Nick said...

Dave: I think it would have made a difference if I'd had a more emotionally-secure childhood. And a father who wasn't so anti-social that visitors were virtually unheard-of.

John: Alcohol doesn't help me at all, in fact it makes me more reserved. And unlike most people, age hasn't loosened my tongue or my inhibitions. But I haven't given up hope....

Dave Martin said...

Probably something in that - my parents weren't exactly social butterflies either. I've got better since changing jobs about 18 years ago and having to be a bastard to undergraduates. Reshaping the thought processes of the terminally stupid is rewarding and fun!

Nick said...

Dave: Yes, a reserved nature can't be much help if you're having to be necessarily blunt to students. And some students urgently need blunt truths!

CheerfulMonk said...

Years ago I was horribly self-conscious. I worked on it, and it's almost gone now. One thing I did was join Toastmasters International, where you have to give short speeches on a regular basis. It really worked for me.

One big turning point was reading that Norman Vincent Peale was self-conscious when he was young. It changed when someone pointed out he was being too self-centered, he needed to stop thinking about himself. So whenever I gave a talk I chose a subject I cared about and wanted to share with the audience. I focused on the subject and the audience, not on myself.

That said, I don't go to parties! A lot of my interests are different from the people I know, so I blog and talk about things that interest me. Yay, journals and blogging!

Nick said...

Jean: I've never given a speech to anyone, but I imagine as long as I had some detailed notes I wouldn't find that too alarming. What's hard is when I'm just flung into a social situation without any guidelines and have to improvise frantically.

Not thinking about myself is tricky. And I'm not good at just going with the flow. I'm afraid I'll say something colossally stupid or inappropriate. I admire your ability to "retrain" yourself.

Keith Smith said...

When I was younger I was very reserved and would never dream of speaking out, either to criticise or defend myself against someone who I perceived to be more intelligent than me.

Now I'm old and seen a fair bit of life as it really is I don't give a damn about what I say, or who I offend if I think they are wrong.

Helen Devries said...

I was very shy when young...then perceived how those whose capabilities were less than mine would use that to put me down. So I made myself say what was - and had been - going through my mind and pricked their balloons.

Could have gone very wrong...but it didn't. Stuffed shirts and toffish tarts were so taken aback to be teased that by the time they had taken umbrage it would have been bad form to have had a further go at me.

I could use their weapons against them and to this day

Nemo me impune lacessit

Nick said...

Keith: I'm old and I've seen a fair bit of life but haven't yet managed to not give a damn what people think. Must try harder....

Helen: Funnily enough, people very seldom insult me, and when they do it's often so subtle I tend not to notice. I command some sort of respect but I'm not sure how. Maybe it's just my posh English accent and my habitual politeness. Something like that.

Nick said...

Helen: "No one attacks me with impunity" indeed. If someone's really having a go at me, I can retaliate in kind very effectively.

kylie said...

people spend a lot less time thinking about you than you think, Nick. People have way more to worry about than what you say or do.

The way I understood "rough diamond" it refers to someone much rougher than you and probably someone a little more outward looking.... but maybe that is an Australian interpretation.

Nick said...

Kylie: I'm sure other people think about me very little, but that's a different issue entirely from social awkwardness.

Yes, rough diamond isn't quite the right term, I would agree with your definition. But I can't think of another word for someone who's confident inside but less confident on the outside.

Ms Scarlet said...

I just pretend that I've been drinking... and always have at the forefront of my brain that other people are more interested in themselves than they are in me. Works a treat.
Sx

Nick said...

Scarlet: I've had this useful bit of advice many times, but I always forget it when the moment arises. I must fix an appropriately inquisitive question firmly in my head.

Grannymar said...

So now I know! Nick is not overcome with childish awe when we meet. I always find you relaxed and the chat flows easily. I hope that does not mean I am talking enough for two.

Nick said...

Grannymar: No childish awe with you, you're very down-to-earth and not at all intimidating. And you certainly aren't talking for two.

Ursula said...

Grannymar not intimidating? You could have fooled me. Still, as she keeps saying, she is a good listener. I just open doors.

Don't fret, Nick. Be who you are. Every pot finds its lid - and if not let it boil dry. I'll rescue you before you are beyond redemption.

U

Nick said...

Ursula: Well, you haven't met Grannymar in person, so you can't appreciate that she is very easy to get on with!

I don't fret that much, by and large I accept what I am and just work around it. Good to know you'll rescue me if needs be!

Secret Agent Woman said...

Eh, I think in general that most people are pretty self-focused. So they aren't really worrying much about you. (Or me.) I'm somewhere in the middle, I guess, in terms of comfort in social situations. But I don't mind not always feeling super talkative.

Nick said...

Agent: As I said to Kylie, it's not a question of how much other people are thinking of me, which I'm sure is very little. It's a question of how confident and articulate I feel when I'm in company, as opposed to when I'm on my own.

Bijoux said...

I've always found that people love to talk about themselves. Why not just ask them a question and let them talk for the rest of the night?

Nick said...

Bijoux: I do try to draw other people out. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Some people are as reticent as I am!

Rummuser said...

My late mother used to claim that her first born rough diamond was smoothed out by her daughter in law, alas also late now.

Nick said...

Ramana: I think that's often the case, that men with rough edges are softened by their women folk. It doesn't seem to happen very often the other way round.