I classify myself as socially awkward. I hate small talk, I don’t really know how to do it. It’s like I was never told this secret code of conduct that most other people seem to have down. For a long time I thought there was something wrong with me, why was I not seeing what other people were seeing in social interactions. Why would I leave a situation, and come out with a completely different perception of what had just occurred?
Every day we ask each other “how are you?” It’s a polite thing to do, and the expected response is usually something along the lines of “fine, thanks” or “good, and you?”. I’ve always been flustered when people ask me how I’m doing. I automatically feel the need to answer honestly and provide an in-depth response, for the good and for the bad.
It goes both ways though. I usually ask people how they are when I genuinely want to know how they’re doing. It wasn’t until I had a conversation with someone about the fact that when I ask how they’re doing, I really mean it and want to know. The response was “usually people ask ‘how are you’ to start off a conversation when they really want to ask something else.” Well, I clearly missed the memo.
I slowly began to realize why I was having such trouble in social situations. It turns out that I see the world for what it is, and take everything at face value. For some reason, my brain is wired to just accept things as they are presented to me. So in a normal scenario when someone says “I’ll call you back in 5 minutes”, I’m there waiting for 5 minutes. Most other people understand that this just means “I’ll call you back later.” I finally started to notice the subtle differences, and am learning to read between the lines. It doesn’t mean that I’m lying if I answer “how are you?” with “fine” even when I’m having a really bad day. It’s just a part of social conduct. It’s also helped me realize and understand that people aren’t ‘lying’ if they don’t call back in 5 minutes. It’s more about understanding the thought and keeping up with reality.