Well, there’s a lot of things that could fall into my category, but the one that really bothers me the most is the one where people assume that it’s a choice to sit in a quieter corner of the room. I’ve lost track of the times well-meaning people offer the comment, “You can’t just wait for people to come over, you have to join the group!” I’d love to, but I am never in the group, even if I “join” the group. This post is about how that works.
One social advice blogger (I forget which one) wrote that if you want people to think you’re a fun guy, you can’t have quiet conversations where everyone takes their turn, you have to have fun, high-energy conversations where people talk over each other, laugh over each other’s talking, low inhibitions. You know, party style instead of seminar style!
Maybe those conversations are “fun” for some people. They are the opposite of fun for me. They are often physically painful. And I am never a part of the conversation, in a large group. This is what every large group conversation sounds like, to me:
“mumblemumblemumble intriguing snippet mumblemumble interesting comment interesting commeANGRYBUZZANGRYBUZZANGRYBUZZ non sequitur comment mumblemumble BUZZBUZZBUZZ” There may or may not be laughter, background noise, and sudden movements.
Either, people are speaking too quietly and not in my direction, and are too far away on the group circle so I can’t make out what they are saying, or they are speaking loudly and over each other, which literally sounds to me like an angrily buzzing insect just outside my ear – and my hand gesture is instinctively one of trying to bat away the insect. Typically, someone starts to make a comment I can actually hear for once and someone cuts across it halfway through, just as I was starting to think I might learn something, and I lose completely the thread of it. If I can’t hear what people are saying, then it doesn’t matter if I m physically in the group or outside of it, I am not a part of the conversation.
I’ve wondered from time to time whether this is a hearing problem, maybe caused by the loud music I listened to since my mid-teens. But it’s been an issue since before then, or at least, hasn’t got any worse since then. And the whole experience is a factor: lights, movement, touch (if it happens).
I retreat into a corner because I can’t handle the bombardment and, as mentioned, sometimes it is physically painful. I simply can’t be a part of the big group for very long, even when I want to. Even when I believe I am going to be able to. (Which I mention just to refute the whole “If you believe you can, or you believe you can’t, you’re right” motivational PMA crap.)
The optimum group size for me (numbers given as me plus ‘x’ others) seems to be three. While my ideal is one-on-one long chats with comfortable pauses, this isn’t efficient when it comes to socialising. Add one or two more people to the group and you have a nice range of folks with views and news to catch up on. push it up to four others and I’m fine, often higher energy but manageable; five others is bearable but I start having to ask for people to repeat themselves more often than seems socially comfortable. Any more than five others plus myself and the sound breaks up completely.
I’m not sulking. I want you to come and talk so I can hear.