Social Work

Being social is a lot of work. Sometimes too much.

Social situations are just like any other task. You have to think about how you want to approach it. Bring the wrong tools to the job and it won’t yield any results.

Here are three possible ways to approach social situations. You can either see it as an art, a science, or just plain work.

Art

The connections we have with people can be beautiful, meaningful, and moving. The care and skill we give to our relationships can result in returns of trust, respect, and honor. Artists strive to improve their craft by putting all their thought and effort into their work. We too can improve our relationships by striving to give them all our heart.

However, not everyone likes the same kind of art. What you may think to be a work of art may be amateurish to another. Not everyone is going to appreciate your artistic skill. You could be the most skilled friend in the world who shows nothing but love and respect to all and still be treated like you have no value. Don’t let the critics tell you how much your art is worth.

Science

Sometimes your intelligence can work against you. You get told by some intellectual you have something in your brain that adversely affects your behavior and then you spend the rest of your life trying to figure out what is wrong with you. You think that if you can solve for x you’ll be able to find the one thing that is keeping you from making sense of everything.

People are more than just puzzles to solve. Trying to figure people out will only result in seeing randomly assorted patterns of behavior. Even the best scientists don’t have all the answers. Take your best theory and get out into the field. The unknowns shouldn’t keep you from finding success. Be filled with wonder; not worry.

Work

The majority of our interactions with people will be just for the sake of getting things done. We talk and work with people simply because we need to. It’s busy work and someone has to do it. You won’t always get to do the work you want to do, but don’t look down on any job. Be grateful to have work.

Some people won’t want to work with you. It’s not that anything is wrong with you. You’re just a lot of work. People choose the work they value most. They may prefer a job they feel is more important or more fun. Lots of people seek out jobs that are easy to perform and usually part-time. These casual interactions don’t require much effort and yield little. Don’t take it personally if people don’t want to work with you. They’re probably not up to the task anyway.

You can approach social situations any way you like. You can choose the perspective you think will make you feel better about life. Or you can go beyond perspective and see life for what it truly is. People who need each other. Beautiful people who are figuring things out just like you. Learn to enjoy the time you have with them.

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Engineers

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

You’ll meet plenty of people in your life who try to change you as a person. They’ll try to influence you either directly or subtly.  Everyone is an influence on everyone else and those influences may end up being positive or negative. So if we are all influences on each other, can we engineer our influence on others to get a desired result?

I find myself in a lot of repeating scenarios: Eating alone at lunchtime, sitting on the sidelines at parties, and being picked last to participate in group activities. Personally, I hate ending up in these situations all the time. The frustration of being stuck reliving these moments has often pushed me to want to change the narrative. But how?

Inward

I’m sure most of us at some point had the thought that if we change ourselves then things would get better. If we wore the right clothes, had the right body type, spent more money, and always said the right thing at the right time then we would magically be treated better and life would be oh so wonderful. I tried that once. Didn’t work.

It’s good to be adaptable, but not so flexible you become limp and cannot stand on your own. The changes I make in myself is to meet my own standards. I can’t be constantly changing to meet the arbitrary standards of strangers. Besides, there isn’t one way to act that would hold the interest of every type of person. If you’re trying to impress someone, start with yourself.

Outward

Making people fit into your life the way you want will usually be met with resistance. There is a natural flow to these things and forcing it can cause you to lose people. All the friends in my life are part of my life because they chose to be. I didn’t have to convince them, trick them, or do any song and dance for them. They just stayed.

I don’t go around telling people to make more time for me. I don’t try to persuade people to think more highly of me. I just be myself and hope that those who can see what I’m all about will look in my direction.

Flow

Any improvements we make in our lives should be done with respect to others. If I try to make my life better it will not be at the expense of someone else’s freewill. If I’m going to be an influence on others, I want to be the kind that doesn’t push them but rather invites them. I’m not going to sweat the details of my existence trying to engineer the perfect life. I’ll let it flow. Let it take me to where I need to go.

The Feels

Can you feel what I feel?

Try to look at the world in terms of emotion. What do you see? You might notice a lot of negativity. Feelings of anger and resentment are apparent in this day and age. You also may see a measure of positivity. People often inspire good feelings in us when they perform good deeds. What do you see?

Everything we do comes down to feelings. We feel a certain course of action is right. We feel happy around a certain person. We avoid certain things that remind us of all the bad in our lives. Feelings are how we perceive the world around us.

A thoughtful individual can become emotionally intelligent. This allows a person to exercise sound judgment, to see the needs of others, and to improve the feelings among a group of people. We become more emotionally intelligent through experience and a willingness to see through different perspectives.

Not everyone is emotionally capable, though. When we are confused or have been given false information we may react to our circumstances in a way that isn’t fitting. Feelings are how we react to the stimuli we receive, but sometimes our feelings are poorly informed.

Prejudice is when we decide to experience negative feelings about something before we gain personal experience. Having a crush is when we immediately grow to like someone before we get to know them. Feelings can be random, fleeting, and powerful. They can grow and wane. Our feelings say more about us than they do about anyone else.

I have been desperate for positive feelings. I’ve pursued people I should not have because of the way they made me feel. In my adulthood, I have become more closed off in my feelings for fear of being hurt and disappointed. It feels like I’m not allowed to be among people who make me happy.

Sometimes we have to overcome our own feelings. Just because we feel good or bad doesn’t necessarily mean that is how things truly are. I choose to believe there will always be good and bad in the world. One does not destroy the other. I want to live a happy man. Nothing I feel in the future will destroy that. My plea to anyone facing the bad things of the world: Don’t give up.

Care

Some people I meet who struggle with behavioral disorders have a tendency to ramble on in conversation. I lend them an ear and they give me an earful. It’s almost as if they have this prepared monologue ready to unload the moment someone gives them attention. Sometimes I wonder if they’re actually talking to me or just thinking out loud.

After someone goes on like this I try to contribute something to the conversation to remind them I’m still there. Most of the time they won’t respond to what I’m saying and just continue on with what’s on their mind. I don’t stick around for that.

Many people I talk to do this same thing. They want to talk to someone, but they don’t necessarily want to be part of a conversation. This can be easy to miss if you’re not looking for it. Take a moment to notice if people wait for your response in a conversation. Do they ask you questions? Are they interested in hearing your opinions? If not, it’s possible they haven’t learned empathy.

I find that anyone who struggles with their behavior is benefited by caring about the people around them. The sign of a mature adult is one who can meet the needs of others while also taking care of their own needs. If you can’t do that, then you’re just a child who needs to be taken care of.

People with behavioral disorders need to learn how their behavior impacts those around them. Their own lives will improve if they seek to improve the lives of others. I can’t think of any better way to spend your time than in the service of your fellow men. Live for others and you will learn to live.

In Like

You’re going to like this blog post. I’m sure of it.

A scientific definition for social skills might be the talents allowing us to work well with other people to accomplish an intended purpose. I prefer to define it like I see it: How to not look like a complete fool in front of other people.

You won’t get an opportunity to develop social skills if people won’t give you time to do it. These aren’t skills you can study about in a book, do some homework, and then apply the knowledge later. It’s learned on the job.

Child Like

Kids don’t like to do what they don’t think they’ll enjoy. They won’t eat their vegetables, won’t clean their room, and won’t go to bed on time. It was tough for me as a kid because it seemed like the majority of my peers didn’t like me. I don’t think anyone particularly hated me, but they made me feel like I wasn’t fun to be around.

I was picked last for teams of any sort; sports or class projects. It’s not that I was weak or unintelligent. People just prefer to be in the company of those they enjoy to be around.

Every now and then I would do something people liked. I would give a great performance, make people laugh, or show off one of my talents. I’d have the spotlight for a bit and people would treat me well. But the show doesn’t always go on. Most people don’t stick around if you’re not going to continue entertaining them.

Life Like

Transitioning to adulthood has been interesting. People now like me for a variety of reasons. I had to wait till I was a grown man before a woman told me she found me to be handsome. My social life has drastically improved when people started to like the way I look.

The majority of people who continue to stick around me do so because I said or did something they liked. Sometimes I’ll say something smart or interesting or thoughtful when I’m in public. If what I say happens to resonate with someone they usually end up waiting around to see if there is anymore to discover. I’m no different. I flock to those who house the traits I admire.

It can be frustrating having to worry about whether people like you or not. We all deserve respect and kindness, but people tend to prioritize the ones they like first. I often despise having to do a song and dance before people decide to be a friend to me. Getting the opportunity to socialize shouldn’t be a reward for being likable. I’d rather just be myself and take the few people who like what they see. Now that’s a social life worth living.

Make Them Laugh

I’m not funny.

Believe me when I say that wasn’t easy to admit. I love making people smile. The moments when I can get someone laughing are moments I look forward to experiencing. It’s simply a shame I can’t do it on command.

Some people just got that talent. The way they speak and move just exudes funny. They know how to entertain people. I’m so jealous of that. I would love it if all people found they could enjoy themselves just by being around me.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m not boring. Not if you take time to get to know me. But comedy is all about timing. You have to hook people in with the few seconds they are willing to give you. That’s a lot of pressure.

As a kid I would copy the comedians I listened to on TV. I wanted to make people laugh the same way they did. That wasn’t such a good idea. Tell one Denis Leary joke at school and you’ll end up visiting the guidance counselor for the rest of the year.

The things I do that make people laugh the most is my blatant confidence. They find it funny when I talk big. It’s kind of like when people hear a child talk like an adult. They probably think I am punching above my weight.

A lot of people I meet find my way of speaking to be entertaining. It can work against me quite often. Sometimes when I am talking with someone they begin to smile because they think I am leading up to a joke and they get disappointed when I finish my thought and it turns out to not be funny at all. You can’t be normal and funny at the same time.

I just don’t do jokes. Jokes are so hard to get right. I’d rather just point out what is funny in the moment instead of preparing the funny for a future time. Want to hear one of my prepared jokes? “The best thing a person with anger issues can do is become an astronaut. They just need a little space.” See what I mean?

It’s okay that I’m not funny. I can still make people smile when given the chance. Being accidentally funny isn’t so bad either. As long as I have a crowd of people around enjoying their time with me, I’m happy.

Répondez S’il Vous Plaît

I invite you to accept my invitation.

We all send out many invitations, most of them unconsciously. My words, actions, and even facial expressions can let you know that it is alright to engage me. On the other hand, refusals also come in the form of words, actions, and facial expressions. How do we figure out which is which?

Sometimes I see a person sitting down and I think about whether or not they would mind if I joined them. Before I even ask them I try to determine what kind of mood they are in. If it looks like they specifically chose to sit alone, then I have to decide whether that is a refusal to let most people in or an invitation for specific people to join them. For me, I try to be inviting in a way that draws company to me while at the same time making it clear that I refuse the company of certain people I don’t want close.

Using our words doesn’t always make our intentions clear. If I ask if I can sit next to a person they may say it is alright but that doesn’t necessarily mean I am welcome. Ever talked to someone and got the impression they didn’t truly want you around? They never smile, they give you one-word answers, and they don’t ask you any questions in turn. This happens a lot. Instead of refusing you they would rather invite you to leave.

I’ve missed invitations people have sent me. I can’t even count all the times a woman liked me and I didn’t pick up on it. People seem to prefer to make their invitations small. A smile here, a laugh there. You would think a lady saying they want to spend more time with me would be a big enough clue. Not to me, apparently. Instead, I pick up on the refusals. Their refusing to get to know me on a personal level. Their refusing to spend time with my friends. Should I focus more on the invitations or the refusals?

I don’t care for grand gestures when inviting people. Simply being honest and straightforward will suffice. However, I occasionally feel the need to make the invitation match the feelings behind it. Having said that: Come to me, you cowards! Show me what friendship looks like. Bear your hearts and I will let you break mine. Grant me a chance to take away your pain. How is that for inviting?