Thoughts of a geek

25 May 2012

Dabbling at the edges

Filed under: Me — qwandor @ 10:58 am

I was just reading someone else’s blog, and a thought came to me: I think, often, I tend to be just ‘dabbling at the edges’ of many things. Interested, listening to other people talk, perhaps trying to have a go. But not really a part myself, not properly. Or at least I do not feel like I do. It is part of feeling like an outsider in a group, but perhaps slightly more than that, or perhaps a cause? Hmm. I wonder whether this is a common feeling, and whether it reflects reality.

Quick examples that come to mind: Often in social settings, even just over a meal or whatever, I spend most of my time listening to other people’s conversations, perhaps moving between different conversations, without finding much to add (or much opportunity to do so). I observe a bit of a tendency in myself to join and try lots of things a bit, but not really fully commit to them (though, on the other hand, I can also get a bit obsessive about things once I start getting into them, at least for a while until the next thing comes along). On a recent small project at work I found myself mostly running around between people, helping out with little bits and pieces, rather than really sinking my teeth into a substantial part of the project.

I wonder whether this is a new development. I do think that my attention span has shortened and ability to concentrate deeply has significantly decreased in the last few years. Does anybody have any observations to share, either of me, generally, or personally?



  1. Andrew! I feel the same way in social situations. I thought it was a character flaw in myself for a long time and then I was talking to Gina at a conference and she said she liked me because she could tell I really cared about people. I asked how she knew because we’d had very few interactions in the past and she told me it was because in social situations I was interested in and wanted to be involved with everyone so flitted between conversations. So take heart. Maybe it’s not that you’re “on the edge” just that you’re inclusive! I think that’s very true about you – you invited me to your Wellington BBQ and we’d only met about twice!

    Comment by Polly — 30 May 2012 @ 1:50 pm

    • Hmm, maybe. I am not sure that is really true of me though, the reason I move between conversations is often more that I do not manage to be part of any of them. I thought we had met more than twice though?

      Comment by qwandor — 30 May 2012 @ 7:43 pm

  2. I used to be a real introvert so I can understand. For me, I feel like you are still holding back. If you talk as well as you write you will have no problem. Be more open about your opinions. Bring about random discussions I know it is difficult sometimes as you may get the awkward look but who cares. You rather have a conversation than be silent all night. 😛 And you will be surprised at how many people have things to contribute just introduce the topic and the rest will take course. Diversity is key. You don’t have to be obsessive about it but just slowly build that confidence. I think a good quality to have is also showing a bit of humour, I’m not sure if you like joking but I usually get a better response when I am funny. Yet that is not to say you have to comedic. Joke when it is appropriate and maintain a balance. Then you might find someone to connect with.

    I think it’s understandable to hop around groups you tend to do that when you are a host. It is an obligation you have to fulfil once you’ve taken on the role. That’s why I try not to organise because I’m really bad at it. As I age, I’ve found a real need to grow old with people that’s why I try and maintain my old friends as well as build close ones with the new ones I encounter. But in saying that it all takes effort – so there is a bit of priority even amongst friends. That’s why I don’t try and have too many just a handful. Quality over quantity that’s my motto. 🙂

    Comment by May — 10 June 2012 @ 7:19 pm

    • Unfortunately I do not talk as well as I write, especially not in group situations. When I write I can take plenty of time to think through how to express what I want to say, and so writing tends to take me quite a long time. That is not possible with spoken communication due to the need to work in real time.

      Often I find it hard to find good conversation topics or ways to start a conversation or keep it going past the initial “Hey, how are you doing?” stage. Though it depends on the person of course, there are a few people to whom I find I can talk for hours on end on the rare occasions when I have the opportunity.

      Comment by qwandor — 11 June 2012 @ 10:59 am

      • Well, that is because you are still timid and maybe overly critical of yourself. I used to be like that. Feel intimidated when people try and talk to me – mutter a bit because I didn’t know what to say but overcame those obstacles by talking more. The more you speak the quicker your responses become, even if they aren’t great. You should try it. Perhaps you should try it with your flatmates, dont overthink about what you should say. Just start by how’s your day? Anything exciting happened at work? It’s all about exchange – exchange your opinions/experiences and bounce off that. Actively listen to them and share your thoughts even if you feel like you have no view on the subject.

        Comment by May — 15 June 2012 @ 5:47 pm

      • Hmm, I would not say it is a matter of being timid per se, nor intimidated. I am much better at one-on-one conversation. I think it is more a matter of not being able to think of anything interesting to say (sometimes), or else not being very good at inserting myself into a conversion in a group of people.

        Comment by qwandor — 15 June 2012 @ 10:47 pm

      • If it’s a matter of not being able to think what to say surely one on one is harder because there’s no one else to pick up the slack…..but honestly, honestly if you are worried about that you should just read the news before you go somewhere. Boom! 5 topics right there if there is a conversation lull that needs filling…or even be interested in others and talk about what’s going on for them – then you can mostly listen but still be in a conversation. As for inserting…well if there’s a loud conversation try “I couldn’t help but overhearing, do you also think….” if there’s a funny looking one try “you look like you’re enjoying yourself more than the last people I was talking to, mind if I cut into your group” one with people you’re friends with already “Hi, what are we talking about?” actually it doesn’t matter what you say so long as you make sure you’re not butting into an intentionally intimate/exclusive conversation (watch the body language). Yup, that’s my advice…

        Comment by Polly — 21 June 2012 @ 3:20 pm

      • In one-on-one conversation the other party will generally wait for a response even if it takes a few seconds to compose.

        Comment by qwandor — 21 June 2012 @ 3:34 pm

      • Oh how silly of me offering advice when you actually just want to complain and wallow in self pity.

        Comment by Polly — 22 June 2012 @ 9:04 am

      • Thankyou for the advice! I was just trying to explain why I disagree with you on that one point. Conversation here is good too, right?

        Comment by qwandor — 22 June 2012 @ 9:12 am

      • Yes 🙂 and conversation actually IS a skill that needs to be practised! I’m mostly terrible at it and resort to “environment” topics all the time (nice day right, those are cool decorations, I really like this song) but that’s no reason not to keep trying

        Comment by Polly — 22 June 2012 @ 9:23 am

      • (A quiet tip: when you mostly agree with someone or find what they said helpful but disagree on a single point, say as much, don’t say only the disagreement – it makes people more happy with saying stuff in future. negativity puts people off conversation, you don’t need to voice every disagreement (some disagreement certainly makes conversation more interesting, too much puts it out.)

        I think you’re a good gatherer of people, you’re just so blinking talented in every other area (creative, logic, etc) that having to work at and push through in social areas perhaps looks harder than it should.

        Every time I’ve been to something you’ve organised there’s been a wealth of various people from various places, you’re proved yourself very capable of gathering people and being social and conversant.

        Comment by Daniel — 22 June 2012 @ 9:38 am

      • Thanks for the tip Daniel. A similar point has just been made to me by another friend in a different situation, so I think it is definitely something I need to work on. When I do this again, or otherwise come across as rude, please (anyone) call me out on it so I can try to change the habit. I suspect the situation is compounded here by the lack of facial expressions.

        (And Polly, I really do appreciate the comments and advice, thankyou. I will see what I can do, more discussion may be required. Keep being awesome.)

        Comment by qwandor — 25 June 2012 @ 9:48 am

  3. […] about which I do not have anything more to contribute to the conversation, but as was recently pointed out to me on this very blog (thanks Daniel!) this puts some people off further conversation. My intent in arguing is the […]

    Pingback by Narcissism or self improvement « Thoughts of a geek — 17 July 2012 @ 8:31 am

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