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
I finally arrived at the Manchester, New Hampshire airport around nine at night. We fly in there because it takes less time to get to my grandparents house in a Boston suburb from Manchester than it does from the Boston airport. Traffic and all that.
We were supposed to get there at five, but there was so much snow in Manchester that we had to divert to Boston, wait for the snow to pass, and then return to Manchester.
I actually like the delay, though. I love everything about traveling, including being stuck on a plane doing nothing. There's something very pleasant about being totally isolated from the rest of the world.
Jared sat in an armchair, set at angle to the flickering fireplace. As Jamie rose from the sofa that created the rest of the angle, he glanced up, hazel eyes framed by a bare hint of gray in his dark hair. She smiled softly at his inquisitive glance, and shook her head. His lips twitched back, and she moved through the hallway, into the kitchen.
When Jamie returned, Jared had gone back to staring at the crackling fire. She set down a glass of wine onto the table to the right of the armchair, and he looked up at the sound of glass meeting wood.
"You only ever stare at the fire and be silent like that when something's on your mind." Jamie laid a hand on his shoulder for a moment, then raised it to caress his cheek. Jared leaned into the touch, closing his eyes, and they remained there for a silent moment. Then she continued, "What is it, babe?"
The endearment always brought a smile to Jared's face, and it did not fail this time. One side of Jared's mouth lifted. "I don't really know, Jamie."
She glanced at the piece of thick paper he grasped in the gap between two fingers. Jared had not once released it the whole evening, Jamie noticed. He caught her glance, and he gave another crooked expression, one shoulder rising and falling. "You know I never keep anything more serious than planned gifts or vacations a secret from you. This came today."