Sunday, September 18, 2011
Books: How to Work a Room
I started reading a book in the vicinity of this day. It's completely out of character as it's called, "How to work a Room." Yeah, yeah. Get back on your chair. After 50 pages I'd gleaned a couple of useful facts. By 100 pages I was just about ready to tear the book in half just to guarantee that one copy of this bullshit out of the millions available would not poison another impressionable mind. Anyway, let's start with the good and useful things I was told. Yes, I know, they're obvious but I'm not sure anyone had told me these things specifically:
* If you go to a party and you're uncomfortable, then other people are too. When I mentioned this to my wife she reminded me of the July 4th party I 'ruined' about 13 months ago. It went something like this. We went to some distant friend's house where we were in company of several other people who were good friends with the hostess. They all sat about drinking heavily, talking about nothing and I sat quietly and waited for the party to end. This, apparently, was enough to ruin the party and it certainly ruined my attitude for the rest of the day. The lesson learned here is a simple one I think. If you're not enjoying yourself then just leave so you don't screw it up for everyone else. Fair enough.
* 93% of people in the world consider themselves shy. I think most of the time that I consider myself shy but really I'm not. If you wander into a topic that I know something about, I will talk incessantly and I'm always blabbering on about my innermost thoughts on here so I'm certainly not shy about talking when I have something to say. The important bit here though is that the hard part for most people is approaching others. So, if you approach them then you've done 90% of the work and you can go about the conversation. Amusingly, evidence for this was right at hand. I often talk to people at random in stores or whatever and people almost always react positively to what I have to say so people want to talk to you. People are, in general, ready to have a conversation. The key is getting over that initial hurdle and breaking down the initial barrier between people. Now that, I think I can try to do more effectively. At this point, I can't imagine people will think me any MORE of an ass no matter what I say so I have that going for me. The down side here is that I typically just DON'T have anything to say on most of the common topics of conversation. You want to talk about the science or mathematics or literature or computing or religion then I'm your man. Let's set a date. You want to talk about what diet Cher's on or what happened on American Idol last night.... um, no, not so much.
* People can sense what your real intentions are so you can't schmooze just to get something. Now this, I thought, was a damn interesting little tidbit and hopefully true. The author tells bits about how she's gotten all sorts of random perquisites from her smoozing. Tickets to shows, free crap, discounts, etc because of some incident she had in an elevator. That's all well and good and a nice thing to look forward to I suppose but really just random gravy. What I guess pisses me off most is that there are people out there who have to be told, "just don't do this to take advantage of people" while I sit here on my own with absolutely nothing going on. It's damn frustrating to try to put yourself out there for people and get blank stares in return. I take cookies across the street to the old couple at Christmas but I'm not even sure they eat them. I'd be happy to help the neighbors get their yard in order so maybe they could sell their house but they won't even acknowledge my greetings. We're just such isolationists in this country. Either that or I'm just too damn scary. Whatever the case it's annoying. It's not that I WANT to get a call at 4 a.m. from some friend who has a major problem but it would at least be nice if that were a possibility.
So the first 50 pages went about like that. I was relatively upbeat on the whole process but it was clear that the book was geared for sales types which I most definitely am NOT a sales type. Then we start getting into the 'how' phase. How to make contacts and break the ice and get the free flow of information going. Sounds good doesn't it?
* The book recommends practicing a self-introduction. OK. Here's the best one I could think of:
**** Hi! I'm Rob! Now, I'm only here as part of a court-order. 'Socialization re-adjustment phase' of my parole they call it. Anyway, when we gone done talking there are some forms the judge would like you to fill out if you could.... Ma'am? Where are you...
* Practice your smalltalk. Look through the news and find 2 or 3 interesting stories and read them so you'll be prepared. Read People magazine so you can be aware of all the latest goings on.
It was at this point, that I measured the book to see if it could fit down the toilet. So basically, the key to successful smalltalk is to go read something you wouldn't ordinarily so that perhaps you'll have something to say that people might find interesting. Well I'm sorry but that's just a bunch of horse shit. If the idea of socializing with other people requires me to read fvcking People magazine then I'll just sit quietly and leave when I think it's no longer rude to do so. What the hell kind of lasting relationship is based on that sort of? Am I going to have to read People magazine every week/month/whatever for the rest of my life to sustain such a relationship? I'm looking for people to be friends with, to have interesting conversations with. Not sell them stool softener and rubber cane tips.
The first person to express a desire for this book gets it. Assuming, of course, that they can catch it as I hurl it at them.