"Talking" in a social setting

There's one thing that's always been challenging to me since I came to America.  

That is, talking in a social setting with a group of people (only to talk to them for 5 minutes, break off/get interjected by another person, then the conversation goes away. Repeat this a few times until you are exhausted. And yes, it'll be extremely loud as there will be tens of other groups of people doing the same time).

(By the ways wow, it's totally a run-on sentence and I've been studying Sentence Correction for the GMAT! How wonderful!)

Anyways, back to talking about talking in a social setting.

FYI, this is what I mean by "talking" in a social setting. Just imagine the office party you attended last week.


Back in Korea, things were different

When I was in Korea, this dynamic was non-existent. As a country that's fundamentally based on Confucianism culture, Korean society values a small, tight-knit group. You rarely interact with strangers. Naturally, you had limited exposure to meeting new people. However, within your group of friends, you had stronger bonds among the members and formed very tight friendships that last forever.

As a person who was born and raised in Korea, this dynamic has been part of my life. Whether you are at a school or a bar, you talk to your friends. Conversations revolve around deeper things as people have each others' trust. 

Anyways, you get the idea. To summarize, it's less exposure, more depth.

In America, Things are exact opposite

Here, I noticed that my "schema" of social dynamics entirely fell apart. In a social setting, people would form groups and talk to whoever was in front of you. You are supposed to be entertaining and should be able to make jokes and make people laugh. If you don't, people would slowly walk away from you saying they have to use "bathroom" or by making some other excuse. 

Okay fine, that might have been an extreme version of what happens when things are bad.

But as a foreigner who speaks English as a second language, this dynamic has been very difficult. Making a joke naturally like other native speakers is so challenging because you are already not feeling confident due to lack of your fluency.

In early years, you don't even understand all the nuisances of English. Trust me it takes a lot of frustration to get to the level that you are slightly content with, and all the sudden you feel like you can't even speak the simplest things correctly. Repeat this a million times... 

this dynamic has been challenging to me

I've had my fair share of awkward and embarrassing moments. And I could confidently say now, that I'm proud of it. But before I got to this point, things were harsh and brutal. Sometimes, my confidence would get destroyed. Other times, I seriously doubted myself thinking if I could ever make it in this country and if going back to Korea is the answer. 

Honestly, when you see people excusing themselves after talking to me for a few seconds and when this repeats a lot of times, you are bound to lose confidence. And you start wondering if there are some issues with me. 

"Doctor, I have a disease in which people have to go to a bathroom after talking to me for more than 10 seconds". 

Recently though after I started working, my English skills and my confidence level went up gradually. I wouldn't say one led to another. It's a combination of two that brings out greater results. So finally, I could crack jokes I could as if I spoke Korean. 

And I realized something very important: It's not the language that "disqualifies" me in a social setting. It's the social setting itself that limits the scope of my conversational skills and what could take place.

I learned that the very nature of a social setting makes nearly impossible to have a deeper conversation. For example, when you have 50 people and if we assume you talk to all 50 in 50 minutes, you can talk to each for a minute. Whereas if you talk to one person, you can dedicate entire 50 minutes to that person and form a deeper relationship. 

If I were to choose between these two, I'd say I would prefer the latter. Meeting 50 people isn't important to me. Meeting someone 50 times better than I used to is important.

So what to do from now

I feel like I have to be more honest with me when I talk to people. Yeah, I know I sound really weird. I sound like I'm in a movie inception. or memento. 

What I'm saying is, I should have the courage to dictate the dynamics and control the frame. 

For instance, I noticed that a lot of people tend to interject during the conversation. Say I was talking to a person A. During the conversation, a person B would appear and then try to join. If B does, the conversation comes to an abrupt end and we talk about something else (unwillingly). It's a bad feeling. It's like when you take a shower and you've splashed water all over your body but all the sudden the water stops running all the sudden. Screw that. I'd be tempted to break things when that happens.

So what should I do? Call people out when they try to interject. Tell person B to wait since I'm talking to A. Give my sole attention to person A. 

If I do that there are multiple benefits.

  1. Person A would feel valued and respected. 
  2. Conversation carries on at a deeper level.
  3. You've just proved yourself and told others that you are the shot caller.

Unfortunately, not many people can do that (including me) because it's "against" the American social norm where being "friendly" is considered a virtue. That's why it takes the courage to say "No" when you really should say no. And that's how you can steer the direction of your conversation and your relationships with other people. 

I've seen my coworker doing this and this post partially/mostly is inspired by his courage (he's very popular with women naturally). 

Let's not get swayed by how others behave. Let's be the purle cow.









Taeyang YouComment