Tuesday, September 22, 2009

So, What Do You Do?

People often ask questions for social, versus logical, reasons. They expect social answers. This is not only stupid, it is often unkind. Have you ever had someone you considered at least a casual friend ask, with a vacant smile, "How are you doing?" the day after you lost your job, or the week you learned that you have cancer, or that your child would be permanently disabled? If you say, "Fine," they smile and go back to talking about themselves. Or expect to stand there with you, congratulating each other on how "fine" everything is. If you tell the truth, they look worried, and back away.

To reduce the risk of learning unpleasant news, social people (I like to think of them as socialists, people who specialize in socializing.) try to keep the conversation to "safe" topics, largely the weather (which I have been known to disagree about) and what everyone does for a living. (Everyone's health was once a safe topic, but that was before the Boomers came along, expecting to live for ever as healthy twenty-somethings.) Of course, no one really cares how you spend the majority of your waking hours, it's just a convenient way of appearing interested while sorting the group and categorizing everyone, without mentioning anything everyone doesn't already know. I think this article not only sums it up neatly, it makes some valid suggestions for making the conversation both more informative and interesting. (Although possibly more uncomfortable for the socialists.)

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