The gift of gab

October 11, 2010 at 6:45 am Leave a comment

My father is an outgoing sort of guy.  Never met a stranger, can hold a conversation with just about anyone.  As a teenager, this trait of his embarrassed me to no end.  Did he HAVE to talk to EVERYONE he met?  Every time he struck up a conversation with someone we didn’t know, I wanted to crawl into a hole.

Me with the man who gave me the gift of gab.

Apologies to my father for ever feeling that way, as it seems *I* have developed some of those same traits.  It’s gotten especially pronounced as I’ve gotten older.  Some of it is the natural result of going everywhere with my children.  People seem naturally drawn to talk to young children and – by extension – their mothers.  Alissa is a conversation starter all on her own, especially when she feels it necessary to run errands wearing a princess tiara and tinkerbell costume.

Much of it, though, stems from this: people want someone else to make the first move.  We naturally want someone else to take responsibility for striking up a conversation.  We want someone else to be the first to put ourselves out there.  And I discovered a long time ago that I’m good at making the initial overture into conversation, so I might as well kick things off with people.

It does get old, being the initiator 90% of the time.  Especially in situations where I’m not really the recognized “leader.”  There are some instances where I feel like I might be overstepping boundaries if I let my natural instincts to draw people out take over.

For example.

Alissa had her first preschool party last Friday.  This “fall party” was NOT coordinated by me.  (Shocking, I know, as I seem to get myself involved in a leadership position in every single thing I touch.  Look for a future blog entry on “When Amy learns to say NO.”)

Nope, for this party I was simply a worker bee.  One of the other class moms – the designated party coordinator – called me two weeks ago to determine what I would bring and fill me in on a few details.  “This is my son’s second year in this class,” she told me on the phone.  “So I felt like this role was a good fit for me since I’ve done it all before.”  Good call.

I arrived at the party five minutes early, first mom there.  (I can’t help it; arriving early is as genetic as my tendency to talk to people.) One of the teachers pointed me in the direction of the party room.  Although the room was empty, there were gift sacks on one table.  Several party favors waited to be distributed among the sacks, and I added my party favors to the pile.  Figuring I’d make myself useful, I started lining up the sacks and dropping things into them.

As I was doing this, moms started coming in.  One, then two, then three they trickled in for the party.  They started setting out food, setting out plates, covering tables with tablecloths.  Meanwhile, they all chatted among each other.  It seemed some of them knew each other.

Not one of them acknowledged me.

Lest you think my feelings were hurt, they really weren’t.  I wasn’t the only odd mom out; there were two or three others who were obviously newcomers to the school and/or church.  And it’s not as if I’m expecting to become immediate besties with other moms from Alissa’s preschool class.  (With the exception of Kristi, who I already know.  Hiya, K.  Alissa says hi to her “best good friend” Keeira.)

The funny thing was that not even the party coordinator introduced herself.  Call me crazy, but I feel that the leader of a group or coordinator of event should be responsible for at least knowing the people she’s working with.  I also feel that same person should be at least somewhat responsible for making others feel welcome and comfortable.  Otherwise, it feels like walking into a big ol’ clique, and that just smacks of high school.  I suffered through that once, thank you very much, and I have no desire to do it again.

What did I do?  Started introducing myself, of course.  I struck up conversations with the other odd moms out, the ones who looked uncomfortable waiting by themselves.  And you know what?  Those moms looked relieved that someone else had started the conversation.  We chatted a bit before the kids came to the party.  I asked one mom about her child to get her talking.  I asked another about the logo on her shirt, as it was obvious that she had just come from work and I wasn’t familiar with the organization’s name.  Before long, they were also talking to each other.  I may not have been responsible for the party, but I made myself responsible for making sure everyone felt welcome.

Look, I understand shyness.  I understand that not everyone’s comfortable with breaking the ice.  But I really, really appreciate when I can let someone else take the lead.  I enjoy meeting people who are naturally much more outgoing than I am.

So if you see me out, please come up and strike up a conversation.  At the very least, you can comment on Alissa’s princess tiara and tinkerbell costume.  It’s a great place to start.

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Entry filed under: Life in general.

1/7th of my life by the numbers

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