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Tag Archives: social interactions

Ghostbusters shooting their plasma guns

“Isn’t it about time we crossed the streams?”

Dear Captain!

My awkward problem is this: I’ve been dating this guy for about two and a half months. He’s nice! I like him! He seems to like me! I’ve stayed over at his place a few times and he’s been to my apartment. But he won’t introduce me to anyone in his life (and isn’t that keen on meeting anyone from mine) and it’s starting to weird me out. Am I overreacting?

We see each other a couple of times a week, usually. He won’t hang on weekends, because he goes to visit his family in another city. Though sometimes, he has said he is going to visit his family and then tells me he changed his mind and stayed home in this town and hung out with his brother all weekend, but he never suggested I meet his brother. It’s like he is Mr. Secret Squirrel about his life. This week he is hosting a friend/ colleague from his company’s office abroad so he told me we can’t see each other as much because he has to work/hang out with this guy until fairly late every day.

At no point did he suggest that I come meet this person and say hi and we have coffee or something low key, though he did discuss with me tourist places he should take this guy. I felt too awkward to ask directly, “hey, your colleague buddy sounds cool, I’d like to meet him”, because he was so cagey (he has not even told me the guy’s name). They are spending the weekend on day trips and I understand why he might not want to invite me to those — he wants to spend time with his buddy & colleague, that’s all cool. But not to introduce me at all seems odd?

I have wanted to introduce him to my friends (I am an ex-pat in this country and my friend pool is fairly small because a lot of people have left (we live in a war zone) but he is a bit dismissive of the things we do – boardgames, Cards Against Humanity etc. Not openly hostile, just “oh that seems weird”.

I have no clue why he doesn’t seem to want me to meet people from his life, and I know it’s pointless to speculate. He is very introverted and maybe it doesn’t occur to him that people can socialize? Is that making excuses for him? Or am I overreacting?

How can I raise this with him without sounding weird or pushy or something? I’m getting really tired of it!

Thanks for any wisdom and insight,
C.

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Montezuma from Civ 5

“Okay, Montezuma, we can have embassies in each other’s capitals, and I will trade incense for whales, but an Open Borders treaty? That’s just gullible.”

Dear Captain,

How obligated are we to try and forgive our friend’s significant others for the harm they have caused in the past?

To make a long story short, my friend A started dating person B.  I wasn’t wild about B, but I wasn’t the one dating him, and our casual interactions initially seemed fine, so I didn’t worry about it.

However, it soon became clear that B had some unaddressed emotional issues, and they were taking them out on my friend, and eventually on the rest of our circle (we were accused of alienating A from B, of monopolizing A’s time, and eventually, even of cheating on B with A).  It was like B read your article on Darth Vader boyfriends but thought it was a how-to.  Needless to say, we were angry for our friend and angry on our own behalves.  Most of us wanted A to dump B, but A was not willing to end the relationship without trying to save it, and instead worked very hard to get B into therapy.  We did our best to support A in this time, but it was very hard to see how much pain B was causing her.

Now, B seems to have gotten some help, and B and A are working on rebuilding their relationship.  A very much wants to bring B back into the social circle, but this is causing problems.  I know I am not the only one of A’s friends who resents B after all of this.  I am also mad at B for the way that B treated me and our other friends.  A says she has forgiven him, and wants us to forgive him too, but I don’t know that I’m ready to do it now, and honestly I’m not sure I will ever be.

Do you and the army have any suggestions for how I can handle the issue of reintegrating B?  I don’t really want to hang around with B, and though I am trying to plan occasions to hang out with A alone, I know that it isn’t possible to totally avoid B so long as they are a couple.

Thanks,

Trying To Make The Best Of It

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Dear Captain Awkward –

I have a happy life with awesome friends and partner and offspring. I use my words on all kinds of things, as recommended. This generally results in lots of good talk about everything. But I am halted when my friends launch into self-criticism. “I am fat” or I am so stupid” or “I will never understand…”

So when this friend says “I am fat” and she doesn’t look it to me, what should I say? How, in general, do I respond to any friend’s statements when those statements look like self-criticism? I hate trying to reassure them what they think is not the case – that way lies madness. I don’t want to cut off something that might be important for them to talk about. Can you help me find good words to use?

with great respect –

temporarily wordless

Dear Temporarily Wordless:

Here’s an answer you can apply in many, many situations:

When you tell me things like that, what would you like me to say or do?

(wait and listen to what they say)

(Respond accordingly, possibly with the following script)

Because I can listen and empathize, but I don’t like hearing you say unkind* things about yourself like you expect me to agree with them.”

The beauty of this is that if they’re fishing for compliments, it forces them to admit/stop it. If they’re cycling inside their own head and don’t even know that they’re doing it, it forces them to admit/stop it. If they actually want something specific from you, it gives them permission to ask for it. Bonus: Asking a kind, sincere question in response to something you don’t understand is rarely the unmannerly response.

*Though with “I’m so fat” the answer might be “Yup, you’re awesomely fat. Want to go roller-skating?”

Dear Captain Awkward,

I’ve recently been going to social events where I don’t know anyone (such as MeetUp groups – thankyou for the suggestion BTW – I didn’t know about them until you mentioned them) in order to meet new people and perhaps rebuild some kind of social life, since the one I had kind of disappeared in bits and pieces for all the usual predictable reasons (moved cities, broke up with partner of more than a decade, got busy with work, cut back on a hobby most of my friends were in, never that sociable to begin with etc. etc.).

Anyway, I seem to have a real problem with meeting and then being cornered by conversation hogs. I have no idea if I particularly attract this kind of person, or if everyone else has some secret way of escaping them that I lack, but I often seem to find myself stuck in a one way conversation with someone, while I nod and smile and be polite, unable to get a word in edgewise.

For example, I recently went to a group bike ride with all new people I’d never met before, and when we were stopped for rest breaks, there was a man who would talk non-stop over everyone, to the point of asking me questions and then talking over my answer. When someone else tried to strike up a conversation with me, he talked over both their question and my answer. He stood between other people and me with his back to them, no matter how I moved around, and stood way too close (again no matter how much I moved away – he was a spitter too… ugh). Despite all this conversational overkill, he was really focused on me – he spent the whole time we weren’t actually riding blocking anyone else from speaking to me, or sometimes he was so loud no one could speak at all. Thankfully when we were riding he liked to go as fast as possible, so I could hang back a bit with various other people.

Saddly, this is a pretty common experience for me. At social events I often find myself stuck all night talking to someone like this, or more accurately listening and trying to get away politely.

My question is this – how does one extract oneself from conversations like this politely? I’m trying to meet new people, so I want to escape this type of guy without coming off like a rude bitch to everyone else who might be a potential friend. Actually I don’t want to be rude or nasty at all, since I’m guessing most of the time these people don’t realise what they’re doing, and are probably overcompensating for shyness. I used to talk too much myself, lecturing on some weird topic of interest to me oblivious to the interest level of my victims, so I do sympathise. I just don’t want to feel like I’m responsible for making their social experience a good one at the expense of my own.

Or, perhaps you or your commenters could suggest some things I might be doing wrong that attracts these people and makes me a target for their attentions in the first place? Can they smell my sympathy? It seriously happens a lot. And I’m thinking that social settings where people are all trying to make new friends and anyone can attend are going to have more than their fair share of the conversationally clueless. Doubly so because due to my generally more blokey hobbies I’m often one of the only women.

Sincerely,

The woman trapped in the corner nodding and smiling

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A scene from the movie gaslight, with Ingrid Bergman looking up at a flickering lamp.

Why is the light flickering? And why did I marry this abusive fuckstain?

Hi Captain,

I am a twenty-something girl who has absolutely no clue how to act in social situations. My partner of 5 years refuses to take me to restaurants or pubs, because I always ruin the mood by saying something stupid or embarrassing. I’m big on social media and connecting the conversation to recent events, which is what I presume most people do. I know myself to be very childish and young-minded, I do prefer the company of children, who don’t judge, than to adults.

Whenever my partner and myself are invited to attend one of his work functions, I usually sit quietly at the table and enjoy my food and wine, not talking unless someone directs a question at me, which is rarely. We also attend a ‘work holiday’ once a year, which is paid for by my partner’s boss, and which all members of his work attend. Again, I mainly stay clear of everyone, as my partner does not want me to embarrass him in front of his work colleagues. This usually leads me to sitting alone in the hotel room with a book, while everyone is out at a bar or exploring the sights. This is not a choice, it is what I do to keep my partner happy. I always try to make people laugh, but my jokes come off too offensive sometimes, and I have no filter between my brain and my mouth. I am horrible in interviews and even chatting to people in the checkout queue. I have never been good at social interactions, and I am desperate to know what to do, other than keep my mouth shut.

It’s official: Your letter breaks my heart.

You may in fact be really socially awkward. You may have a diagnosable condition that makes it hard for you to read social cues or causes you social anxiety. You may be too hip for the room sometimes. You may be a practitioner of the ancient Japanese art of Fart-jitsu. Whatever’s going on? You just found your people. Come inside where you don’t have to ever make small talk and we already like you and think you’re great. Because you? YOU ARE GREAT. And the way you deal with social situations, by being quiet when you don’t know what to say but responding when people engage you shows some basic good manners and a decent level of self-awareness. “I don’t have anything to say right now so I will be quiet and listen” is like the pearls-and-conservative-tasteful-dress of behaviors: Sometimes a little stiff and boring? Rarely inappropriate.

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