Post # 1
Not because I did anything dumb, but just a general feeling. :-/
I guess I’m writing this because I wonder if others feel the same way, or if anyone has any advice. I have 2 Master’s degrees, and have graduated at the top of my class since high school. However, whenever I’m in social situations with co-workers or even strangers, I feel that I never have anything to offer to the conversation. I often feel like I just don’t have the life experience that many people have. Or maybe I’m not as well-read? In general, I’m horrible with things that I consider general knowledge: World religions, geography, international affairs, etc. I’m just not cultured. I don’t eat fancy food or know much about wine. I’ve been in several situations where people might reference things that I have no idea what they’re talking about and just kind of muffle my way through the conversation. Knowing this about myself makes me extremely awkward in social situations. Oh… and it’s noticeable. I sound kind of stupid when I talk.
A little contextual information: I’m 31, pretty good job, the youngest person in my office at work, only one in my family to have an advanced degree. My family is great, but not well-educated.
Am I alone in my feelings? Should I just start reading more? Should I take some kind of class?
Thanks for reading.
Post # 3
@starsandstripes: Don’t feel stupid! You are obviously smart but that doesn’t mean you have to be the expert on everything.
Here are some suggestions
1) Stop being so hard on yourself.
2) To improve your conversation skills, cultivate your curiosity about others. Just ask the other person questions and be intererested in what they have to say. You’ll learn a lot and they’ll like it. Don’t feel like you have to add your two cents or give your own anecdote. If you want to learn all about how to do this check out the book “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”
3) I happen to be interested in learning about a lot of different things that you mentioned as I don’t have much background in them. For me an effective and interesting way to learn more has been through Podcasts and Audiobooks. I have a subscription to a site called Audible.com and often download these online courses they have on differnt topics, as well as many non fiction books. I also subscribe to tons of podcasts, mostly NPR stype stuff. Since you can listen to them while your commuting, doing housework, etc it fits into my life easily and is very entertaining!
Post # 4
@starsandstripes: Oh man. I know how you feel sometimes and have a quote for you. I’m going to go find it.
Post # 5
You’re not stupid. Do you like anything to do with pop culture or entertainment? Many people follow that stuff. I can’t always talk to people about world events because TBH I avoid watching the news. It’s depressing. I don’t think it’s doing the world a favor to be informed (and not do anything to help like most people).. so I don’t think it’s that bad to not be informed of the latest car wreck that killed 2 kids in my city etc. I have an idea of what’s going on in the world.. but not specifics usually.
You probably just haven’t found many people that you connect with. But once you find that one thing you need to connect with someone, you’re set. For example, I talk about hockey with my one coworker. Another coworker I always ask about her kid. Another one I talk about jewelry and nailpolish. All these people are 20+ years my senior (I’m 28). You just need to find some common ground.
Small talk is an art, and it won’t always work, but you do need to practice it. Maybe try Toastmasters – it really helped to get my speaking confidence up in all sorts of situations. I have an English degree but would hardly call myself ‘well read’. I never read anything outside of work besides articles online and magazines lol.
Post # 6
I have soooo many quotes pinned and couldnt find the one I wanted but this is close enough. It might appear that these people know it all and are so smart, but inside I’m sure they know their weaknesses and have their own insecurities just like you do. They just do a good job of hiding it so it appears they have all their shit together and know a crap ton about everything. I bet if you worked on your confidence and people skills, you would notice a huge difference. And understand that a lot of people can be full of shit so don’t let them intimidate you.
ETA: Oh god, I’m sorry that quote is massive… I’ll delete it if you want lol.
ETA #2: And I’m not saying you shouldnt do anything other bees are saying, just realize you arent the only one with insecurities.
Post # 7
@starsandstripes: Clearly you are not stupid. I suggest you get yourself off to a Toastmaster’s meeting. See what they do and give serious consideration to joining. They don’t just teach you to make a speech. They also teach you how to function well in social conversation.
In the meantime, rather than worry about your lack of knowledge, ask questions. “Tell me more about that” ” How do you think that changed things?” “Do you think that will happen again?”
Secondly make a bit of an effort to keep up- read the news online, watch the news on TV, pick a “news of the week” type program where you live and make a point to follow it.
These skills only come with practice so get out there and practice.
Post # 8
- Wedding: August 2013 - Rocky Mountains USA
@starsandstripes: Aw, I’m sure you don’t come across that way to other people. We are our own worst critic.
But, reading widely really is a great way to learn about many different topics. The BBC has a great “100 books everyone should read before they die”. A lot of classics (To kill a mockingbird, Jane Eyre, On the road, etc) and also a fair number of newer books (The shadow of the wind, the Da Vinci code, Cloud atlas, etc). You could work your way through those.
Also, do you drive very much or do a lot of house chores, etc? I drive a lot for my job and listen to NPR most of the time, and it’s SUCH a good way to learn about what’s going on in the world. They do a great job of presenting the news in an interesting but not sensational or dumbed-down way.
Post # 9
@starsandstripes: what kind of fance people are you hanging around with? lol jk. You don’t have to be cultured or fancy to talk to people.
you are not dumb! I wouldn’t have much to say concerning those topics either and I can be pretty outgoing and social when I want to be haha. There are strangers I can have an hour long coversation with and others it’s just awkward silence. You just have to find people who have similar interests and sense of humor.
It might be nice to take a class that way there is something you are both educated about and you can chit chat.
Post # 10
If you want to really brush up on current events I say subscribe to TIME magazine.
I got a 2 year subscription for my Fiance last year and I swear – he seems to know everything about everything. It keeps you up to date on things without going over the reader’s head with insane amounts of depth.
Harpers is also another great magazine.
Post # 11
- Wedding: September 2015 - Ketchum, ID
@lolot: This is so weird, but you just super motivated me. I’m going to make one of my New Years Resolutions to read at least 1/4 of that list (I really hate reading, but I wish I did… if I wasn’t in school I’d have more time to read it, but alas, this is my graduation year and I’ll be busy). Also, I think I’m going to go clean and put on NPR (and turn off Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, which is what’s currently on. Though, I’ll admit, that makes me sad to turn it off… lol)
Edit: HA, Also I just looked at that list, and I’ve already read number 1! (and numbers 3, 8, 26, and 50!) I don’t feel so bad now, haha.
Post # 12
@starsandstripes: When in doubt, ask someone a genuine question. It’s ok if you don’t know everything (or even a little about a lot). Asking questions is a great way to learn, and you’ve done your volley in the conversation, now it’s their turn. I wouldn’t only ask questions (it’ll get weird eventually) but usually if someone explains something furhter you can draw your own inferences, make a comment, something.
Post # 13
Oh my gosh, thank you guys so much for responding. It really means a lot to me that you guys were so kind.
@cbgg: That’s great advice. I will try asking more quesitons while having a conversation with someone. I really like the idea of listening to podcasts as well! I can do that while I work, since I’m at my computer so much during the day.
@canarydiamond: I’ve never heard of Toastmasters. I just did a google search and found that there are Toastmasters meetings all over my city. This makes me so excited! Going to do a bit more research. Thx!
@sheepandbear: Awesome quote! I should probably print out some things like this and use them as little reminders. I think much of my problem stems from lack of confidence or feeling like I don’t measure up to others. So, this is a great reminder.
@julies1949: I’m going to seriously give Toastmasters some considerations. I think I could benefit a ton from joining.
@lolot: Oooh, I’ll definitely check out that reading list. Reading more will certainly make me feel more confident and give me more things to talk about socially.
@leisha606: Lol. I feel so intimidated by my co-workers mainly. Everyone seems to have traveled the world, raised families, built dream homes, started businesses, and more.
@skippydarling: Thx! I haven’t had a magazine subscription in a while. I’ll definitely check out Time.
@sostobe: I will work on doing that. In the past, I’ve often tried to get out of the conversation as quickly as possible and am usually afraid that my naivete will be “exposed” if I ask questions. In reality, it is ok to simply not know. It’s seriously something I’m going to work on in the new year.
Thanks everyone. Hope I didn’t forget anyone in my replies!!
Post # 14
It sounds like you and I have some things in common. I have a really great career that requires me to think on my feet, and a masters degree, and have always done really well in school, and can solve some really weird problems… but when it comes to catching references and knowing the things that other people are talking casually about, I’m often lost. I grew up pretty sheltered and never saw the same shows as my classmates, etc. – and have long felt lost and clueless listening to my peers talk about the things that interest them.
My advice is to develop your own hobby, and become knowledgeable in that. Don’t worry about keeping up with everyone else. I could make a full-time job out of keeping up with the music some of my friends are into, but I’m not into it, so why should it matter? As a recent bee said, asking questions is great, and generally, if you’re talking to adults and you get a major detail wrong or don’t know something that might be somewhat obvious, they’re not going to make a fool of you. In fact, they’ll feel GOOD being able to explain it to you.
Read “How to Make Friends and Influence People; it’ll be life changing. People will like you very much if you ask them questions and allow them to talk about the things they like, and if you show a genuine interest they’ll feel good about it. As a benefit to you, you’ll learn a lot! About people, and about the things they like.
As an example… until a few years ago, I really wasn’t much of a beer drinker. But I started trying new things with my Fiance, who is a self-professed beer snob and can be heard talking about which strain of hops is in XYZ beer and how the porter this year from ABC brewery isn’t as smoky as it was last year… My head used to spin when I’d hear these things. But I started just asking him for recommendations, and trying them, and asking him what he liked about each of them. And he loves to tell me new things about beer, now. And I’ve learned a lot about it, too.
Post # 15
Some of my friends pay attention to things that I don’t. There are a couple folks who are kind of pretentious, and think they are somehow better because they know these things, but I could care less.
Post # 16
One of the easiest things someone can do to up their knowledge of different places, food, practices, ideas, and traditions is to watch PBS. The travel shows and news shows Rick Steves’ Europe, Burt Wolf: Travels and Traditions, European Journal, Euromaxx, and the networks NHK and MHz Worldview (especially MHz Worldview: International), are some of the best shows and networks to watch if you want to gain some knowledge quickly.
Watch just a few episodes of each of these shows, and one or two of the programs offered on MHz Worldview and NHK and you’ll know about and be aware of much more than you were before. Keep watching them, and all of the information that you pay attention to, and even the information you don’t pay attention to, will be firmly planted in your mind ready and waiting for these conversations you’re talking about.
PBS has a great app that you can use. You’ll be able to browse and watch many of their shows. You may find yourself taking an interest in something you never thought you would. I highly recommend it.
However, don’t go too crazy learning a bunch of stuff just to “keep up” with these people and make conversation with them. If you’re going to learn new things like this, try to do it because you actually want to. That way gaining the knowledge will be pleasant and even fun, not a chore. These people aren’t all that; you don’t need to cram like your about to take a college exam on their account.