July 02, 2008

Getting to know you. . . barely

One thing I almost always apparently forget when it comes to taking on a new job is that, more often than not, I'm thrown into a sea of new faces and names who, for better or for worse, will be my co-workers for the non-foreseeable future.

Leaving aside the fact I'm not particularly a superstar when it comes to social interactions exceeding three people plus myself, landing in a cubicle maze filled with dozens of new co-workers has been an adventure in its own right.

The thing is, I have no real foundation on which to build relationships with any of these new professional acquaintances. Oh, sure, such foundations will likely establish themselves with time, but who knows how long that will take?

So, I'm stuck with small talk.

And I HATE small talk. Small talk is the linguistic equivalent of life support for conversations about nothing.

Some people are absolutely gifted at the craft that is small talk; these are people who genuinely seem enraptured by the most banal of conversations. Such people can engage others with observations about the weather, or their pet's perceived personality traits or ruminations about the next season of Survivor with the utmost interest.

I'm simply not one of those people. Part of it, of course, I chalk up to my self-diagnosed adult attention deficit disorder, a symptom of which dictates if someone is talking about something I'm not interested in, I start thinking about other things. I don't do this intentionally; it's just that my mind prefers to focus on things it likes to think about, and one of the things it likes to think about is whatever may be going on behind the person I'm supposed to be talking to.

Thus, while I'm supposed to be talking about the weather or what my plans are for the weekend, I'm actually THINKING about that weird-looking guy scratching himself about three feet away, or that woman adjusting her bra strap, or that coffee kiosk over there that maybe, hopefully, also sells Diet Pepsi. . .

I like to think of my adult ADD as a kind of evolutionary throwback to the Neanderthal days, where it's not that I'm not paying attention, it's that I'm paying attention to all the possible threats and/or prey all around me, and listening to small talk doesn't strike me as a sound survival tactic, so my primal brain just ignores it. I'm sure how Diet Pepsi falls into that theory, but I'm sure if I think about it, it will come to me eventually.

At any rate, at some point I come back to the conversation at hand completely oblivious to what was just said right to my face, so I just nod and hope they didn't just ask if they could have one of my kidneys, because that would be AWKWARD.

And so I find myself going through this small conversational version of hell at least a dozen times a day with all these new people I don't know, and I'm left worrying after practically every single one of these interactions that these new people are thinking I might just be a little bit weird. Which, to their credit, I AM a little bit weird, but I like to think I'm weird in a GOOD way, and I worry my good weird isn't coming across as much as I'd like.

That, and I'd really hate to have to give up a kidney.

Posted by Ryan at July 2, 2008 02:34 PM | TrackBack

I do the same thing! Honestly, when people start talking, esp about something I have absolutely no interest in, like cats, I first think, yuck, this person is disgusting, and then my mind goes elsewhere: what am I doing after work tonight? wow, there's a stain on the wall, I wonder how that got there, I bet it's really nice outside, I need a new job, I would love to be able to drink at work...things like that. And then I realize this person has just wasted 10 minutes of my life talking about something that should just be used for target practice. I also think this is the reason I'm not in a relationship. Men start talking, and I start thinking about Miller Lite. I'm glad I have this "problem"!

Posted by: Autumn at July 3, 2008 11:02 AM
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