Tuesday, August 18, 2009

BEING SOMEONE ELSE [UN]COMMON

Don't take for granted that you're unique.

Though I know I have uncommon bits, I have always believed that when it comes down to it I'm just one of the same. I've assumed that wherever I go, I'll come across people like me. People who do what I do, like what I like, and want what I want.

How stupidly egocentric.

When you meet someone new and want to make something of the interaction, it's smart to find a point of commonality from which to bond and grow. If it's any kind of lasting or useful relationship you're looking for, capitalizing on similarities is just simple sense. But again and again I find myself struck that the concept sounds much easier than it is. Conversing with people isn't the problem. Finding the commonality is.

My job is one wherein I am perpetually meeting new people and they are people with whom success dictates I forge relationships. Familiar relations with office staff, medical providers, and my counterparts have the ability to make my day-to-day more fluid and comfortable. But I spend much of initial interactions slogging through a tough time locating a single common point from which to build beyond the fact that we both take in oxygen and live in Northern Nevada.

Out in the world, vegetarian, Mormon yoginis without kids who have a teeny dog, travel with a bathroom scale, and don't watch TV aren't as common as I assumed they'd be. It seems instead I most often interact with carnivorous, nondenominational soccer moms and dads who have German Shepherd mixes, avoid the scale, and love reality shows.

Thus I find myself often at a loss for what to chat about. And it hinders my job. It really does. Not only do I not know who the So You Think You Can Dance finalists are, I didn't even know the season was in progress. Not only do I not spend my evenings cheering at little league games, I'd happily pay someone a pretty penny to go in my place. Not only did I not spend all last night up with my sick toddler, I thank my lucky stars I've no toddler at all.

So I ask myself, Should I change? Should I make my life easier by becoming more like everyone else? Should I have chicken for lunch, go to a neighborhood church some Sundays, take aerobics classes, stop giving a damn about my weight, and get into The Bachelorette so that I can carry on a conversation that comprises more than the day's weather and fielding questions about whether or not my sky-high shoes hurt?

I've actually stepped inside the Self to see if sacrificing said self would be worth it.

The answer?

Well, of course not. Even if I find it's more challenging to build relationships when I've seemingly nothing in common with my target audience, I'd rather be pleased with the choices I make, whether or not they're of the most popular variety and enable relationship-building conversations.

Can you make a note to remind me of that conviction next time I come out of a lunch appointment wondering if I shouldn't start watching Monday Night Football? Thanks, I'd really appreciate it.

9 comments:

it'sliketheweather said...

Maybe you can find commonality in the fact that you and the other person admire your individuality?

Jaime Stephens said...

I did miss you while you were gone....

rabidrunner said...

"...carnivorous, nondenominational soccer moms and dads who have German Shepherd mixes, avoid the scale, and love reality shows."

You just described me (except I'm a piano mom, not soccer and have a hound mix instead of a GS). We get along, don't we? We have stuff to talk about, don't we? Although I'm not into the Bachelorette or So You Think You Can Dance.

There's this secretary at my kids' school. She's a bundle of joy. Actually, she's the extreme opposite - pain in the neck to deal with. Barks at adults as if they're truant 6th graders. Difficult to deal with. However... I need her to like me (so as to help me out if ever I need her help.)

So I read this book "How To Win Friends and Influence People." It had all of this advice about buttering people up. So I tried it. And it worked! She's nice to me now. All it took was a tiny compliment before I asked her anything. The compliments were tiny enough to be sincere (I ain't phony.)

Example: "Hey! You cut bangs. They look good on you! So I was wondering if Yahoo #2 could have morning kindergarten. Is that possible?"

Hair is something we all have in common. Hair cuts, hair colors, hair removal... everyone does one or the other. Maybe you could talk about various waxing techniques?

rookie cookie said...

You have pricked at one of my talents. I can find common ground with anyone. I really can. You should watch me sometime.

Like Brother Fitzgerald, who's an anesthesiologist with the hair piece and likes to hunt bears in Canada. Piece of cake. "Tell me about the scenery in Canada. Was it lovely? Have you ever hunted abroad?"

Or old Sister Goodwin with the most rockinest white hair and seems to know everything about Joseph Smith, right on down to his favorite color. "This fudge is amazing. Could I get the recipe? I would love to come over and learn how to make it!"

See, easy.

rookie cookie said...

I forgot to mention the one problem with my talent. A lot of older people discredit me because I am young. Like if I say something that is completely pertinent, they are already not listening because I am young and apparently stupid. BUT I'M NOT PEOPLE!!! (exclamation points on purpose) I might be a spry 25, but I am smart and cool!

In relief society a few weeks ago, I made a comment about how femininity is dead in society. And after class an old woman came up to me and said she was so impressed with how smart I am for being such a "young rascal". Really lady? I'm not 10 years old.

Maybe that's why I comment in RS so often. I am constantly trying to validate myself because I am still super insecure about being 25 and being married for 6 1/2 years.

[Morgan] said...

oh whitney how i can relate.

megan, i can't think of anything smart to say. so i just say, don't change. i like you as you.

Jessica said...

i like rookie's ideas. people LOVE to talk about themselves, so if you remember something about them (or their children) they will always be happy to see you. i can talk about pregnancy, birthing, and children all the live-long-day, despite my lack of all three. people love to feel like you remember them and notice things they've changed (like rabid said), even if you don't have anything in common.

soooo, basically, no need to change your lifestyle to build work-type relationships (or other relationships) just take a genuine interest in the other person and things should go smoothly.

meg said...

The problem isn't an ability to talk to people or to play to their ego by asking about and remembering their tidbits; that's easy. I actually have advanced training in this. No kidding. It's giving a damn I have a hard time with.

When it's a point of commonality you start with, you already have a vested interest as you've already dedicated a part of your own life to whatever the similarity is. When it's just me asking about someone's hunting trip and following up on it continually, I am bored stiff, because what I really want to talk about with the animal killer is if they eat everything they kill, why taxidermy is condoned in civilized society, and what prompts a person to shoot something that was living. And once I get to know a person well enough through forced-interaction or otherwise (like my my last manager, a bona fide avid hunter), I do ask those questions, because both parties know about our individual stances and I have an incredible skill for weaseling information out of people without their feeling interrogated or invaded. (You should watch sometime; coworkers have commented on this amazing ability I've got. Believe it or not, it comes from earnest interest, which comes from curiosity, which comes from somewhere in the process my caring about the answer.)

It's the caring about what they're saying that kills me. If I were more like these peeps it would be easier to care about what they're saying--to show an interest that's genuine and not contrived.

I read your comment this morning, Rabid, and thought, "Well of course we find things to talk about--you're awesome and I care what you have to say." What it comes down to is that I suck at the early small talk of a relationship when it is commonalities I need to rely on to force myself into interest. When I get to enjoy a relationship that isn't built on smalltalk, like that that with my Rabid darling, that part isn't hard at all.

I suppose this makes Internet dating a great idea. Get the small talk out of the way online and enjoy the nitty gritty when you already find yourself enchanted.

Jessica said...

giving a damn? sadly i can't help there. i'm still working on that too. i think some people are just blessed with the ability to do that and the rest of us have to work at it (myself included. although, i'm a social worker so i get paid to work at that).