Today at lunch a waitress sat down with my friend and I. We go to this particular restaurant often and are chatty, so we're friends enough to sit together during her break, but not enough to make plans outside of the restaurant.
She told us that she was raped in the past.
Now, this wasn't borne from the victim mentality where people have a tragedy in their past that dominates their identity, and thus must be brought to the surface early in every relationship. We were talking about recovering from events like that, and she matter-of-factly brought it up and talked about how she recovered, without once fishing for pity.
It was pretty amazing. Not because I like talking about rape, but because she was willing to pierce the invisible barrier between people that prevents that sort of social intimacy. I don't have any similarly horrifying experiences in my past, but if I did I would have felt comfortable talking about them with her.
That sort of conversation always inspires me. If you ever want to become better friends, you have to break that barrier at some point. When people beat me to it, I admire them. We think of courage as something like going off into the woods with a sword to fight a baby-eating bear, but in real life, it most often manifests itself as making yourself socially vulnerable. The waitress could have kept quiet, worried that we might thing of her differently.
The breach of over-civility doesn't have to be quite so drastic, either. Last night I was sitting in an otherwise empty Samovar Tea Lounge when a couple sat down at the table across from me. Very quickly it became obvious that it was a first date, probably from online dating. How was it so obvious? Well, for one, their conversation was painfully limited to only the most polite conversations. What do you do? Oh, that's great. Where were you raised? Las Vegas? Wow. Three brothers? Yes, I like tea, too.
Here were two people who were obviously eager enough to connect that they got dressed up a bit, traveled to a tea house, and yet they weren't actually connecting. I had the urge to swoop in, not to try to steal the girl or anything dramatic, but just to talk about real things for a minute or two to try to change the tone of the conversation.
I left before the date was over, but my guess is that they won't see each other again. After all, what did either of them say that might have hooked the other? "Ooh, he grew up in Las Vegas. I HAVE to see him again!" All it would have taken was for one of them to take a small risk and reveal something rather than just saying something. That's not a guarantee of future dates, but it may have improved the chances.
SUPER EXCITING NEWS COMING SOON! Hopefully by Thursday... I already have the post written, just have to wait for it to happen.
Thinking about redesigning the site... any suggestsions other than widening this column (which I will do)?
Hmm, so that second gripe should read "RELEVANT related post links". Like if I'm reading "Living in a Small RV: Introduction", I'd love links at the bottom to the next articles in the series.
Tynan, I've been reading your site on and off for what must be a couple years now. There's two things about the design that have ALWAYS bothered / frustrated me.
First is the lack of datestamp on any post. Second is the general lack of "related post" links.
I did, however, just discover the post archive, which sort of solves both those problems. Still...datestamps, man!
@Jay I agree that I can be arrogant sometimes, and I actually do try to keep it in check. I appreciate your critical feedback, too. But in this particular case, I think my error was lack of clarity. What I meant was not "I'm so great so I'll talk about terrible stuff that's happened to me" but "The fact that SHE made the brave move to talk about something serious in a comfortable way would have made me feel comfortable to reciprocate".
Tynan, I enjoy your page, but this is the kind of arrogance that rubs me the wrong way sometimes: "I don't have any similarly horrifying experiences in my past, but if I did I would have felt comfortable talking about them with her."
You really don't know if you'd be comfortable or not. To speak matter of factly about how you'd act if you were the victim of some kind of terrible trauma is kind of insulting to people who have you know - actually had stuff happen to them.
Adding a simple "I hope" [I would have felt comfortable...] would really mitigate this arrogance.
Agree with Graham. Every few minutes of small talk kills me a little inside. Could you make a post on that too? I'd love to hear your thoughts.
This is the same strategy that is outlined in Keith Ferrazzi's book "Never Eat Alone". I use it all the time and it always works.
I like this post. Something to keep in mind for someone who is not very adept at making friends quickly.
Site tip: Whatever changes you make try to keep the design as similar as possible to what people are already used to. People generally shy away from radical change and that can be bad for business. And yes move the search bar up near the top.
Great post, I love the insight as to why/how people connect. One thing that I would really enjoy hearing (reading?) you write about is how to have better/deeper conversations with people. One thing that I personally struggle with is that when I meet new people (or even have known them for a while) I have a hard time making a conversation go further than just "I love tea too!" and similar small-talk. While it sounds so simple, it is one of the biggest things I struggle with.
Oh btw, the banner up at the top wont stay gone when I press hide/never show again. I keep pressing it but it keeps popping back up.
wow, never even thought of it this way. but it so makes sense. I think this is something I struggle with a little. Thanks for bringing to my attention. Something I need to work on
Ever since I can remember, I have been a huge fan of Boy Meets World. With no concept of TV guide or schedules, it was a gift from the heavens above when I would turn on the TV and see the familiar cast. For roughly as long as I was a fan of the show, I had a crush on Topanga - known as Danielle Fishel in real life.
I'm hesitant to post detailed "reports" on meeting women here. Maybe because it's too personal, maybe because it's so easy to misinterpet as mechanical, but for whatever reason I don't love the idea. However, this is a funny story that probably won't offend anyone (except one guy who I don't mind offending.)
The 2004 Pickup Artist Convention, which I had organized, was held in Los Angeles, CA. Normally I'm rather lazy about going out and meeting people. I find it very frustrating to find women I'm genuinely interested in, and the allure of talking to women for practice is much less than it was when I first got into the Pickup Artist thing.
Life would be great if I only knew the lesson of an event before the event. If I knew that my wife would be angry when I complained about Disney food, then I just wouldn't voice those opinions operatically. What I'm finally seeing is that life's lessons happen all the time, we just need to see them.
Two experiences, one yesterday and one fifteen years ago reminded me of this. First the more recent one. While sitting in the gymnastics waiting room earlier this week I was talking about books with one of the other parents there. She was well read in different areas of fiction and I found myself noting book after book. She had me excited to read and that night I logged onto my Amazon.com account and nearly ordered some of the Kindle copies - because she read them on her Kindle.
At the start of the year I decided to limit my book purchases and except for a pair of un-regrettable slip-ups, I haven't missed having the books. Her hour long influence on me almost led me to buy a book. She didn't make me do anything but our conversation had shifted my framing of the world, from my goal to her norm.
The second episode I thought of was in a driver's education class. In this class - which taught me more about talking to girls than driving - the students would talk about what kind of cars we thought were cool. We pined away in our wood-paneled station wagons. One night the conversation turned to luxury cars and I declared that my luxury car of choice was clear, the Pontiac Bonneville
[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="320"] The Pontiac Bonneville[/caption]