Over the last 4 years or thereabout I’ve really put an effort into improving the way I interact with people around me. My experience was that I really had to step back and look at how I interacted with people and find a better way of doing it. In a lot of ways it has been a very enriching process that has helped me to invest in people and develop friendships that may have otherwise remained arms-length acquaintances. Lately I’ve been coming to realize that my outgoingness may be offputting to some people and it’s something I’ve been putting some thought into and I thought I’d share some of my thoughts with you.
I used to be a very shy kid. There were periods of my life where I found criticism from any authority figure I respected absolutely devastating. Of course to a very large degree I grew out of these things but every now and again there are moments 🙂 To this day I still get anxious when I have to perform some task in front of others like solving a math problem on a black board. You’d think this would be a big problem standing in front of a class and solving problems but I’ve found a few techniques that help me manage it and get through my day: prepare examples ahead of time, try to identify some of the common ways to go off track in case someone asks and deflect any mistakes I make in real time away with humour.
Learning techniques to help me get by in social situations is something I’ve consciously worked at. Let me lead by saying that this doesn’t mean I have a formula for dealing with people, nor does it mean that I’m in some way disingenuous in my dealing with people it means that I’ve recognized that there are areas where I struggle and I’ve tried to find ways to get along better so that I’m dealing what is really going on around me rather than what I _think_ is going on around me. It’s not always successful, I don’t expect that I have to get along with everyone, but if I’m doing the best I can then at least I’ve upheld my part of the social contract 🙂 So the general openness I project, trying to learn about people’s lives like where they live or events that are important to them, and other one-on-one personal interactions is something that tends to work well at opening people up and to at least create an friendly environment. I’ll amend here that these aren’t the sort of details that are deeply personal, it’s the internet after all, to me knowing if someone’s married or has a kid is a generally public thing whereas knowing their cell phone number or childhood love interest’s name is much more personal. For most people I do a fairly good job of respecting boundaries.
There have been people that I’ve had a very hard time interacting with, where my outgoingness seems to be exactly the wrong way to approach these people. I don’t like to label people, if someone self identifies as something then ok, but I don’t know people and their lives well enough to say this person is this or that. Some of the people I have a hard time with probably self identify as introverts, my wife included. Face to face I can use non-verbal cues to gain some ideas about how people feel and so forth, despite being fairly extroverted myself I do actually care about the well being of those around me … I tend to apply that to everyone actually, but the depth of it varies from person to person based on my relationship with them. I will admit that I used to think introverted people were just shy and if they worked at it they could ‘get along’ with the rest of us better. After all, I have struggled with shyness and worked my way through a lot of it. This is a ridiculous idea but it helps to show what a poor idea of introversion I once had. I’ve read things posted by self-proclaimed introverts to help understand better, websites like this one help me adjust my thinking and try to see where and why I keep sticking my foot in my mouth. Of course everyone’s different and there’s no recipe, but perhaps I can avoid some common pitfalls. I’ve learned that perhaps the hardest part I have in it is letting others take the lead rather than taking the lead myself. This isn’t talking about a chain of command or authority, this is strictly talking about personal interactions. For me, and I _imagine_ others, it’s easier to avoid social situations that are uncomfortable even if dealing with it could lead to it resolving. Of course both parties have to feel it’s worthwhile to resolve and that the resulting relationship would be worth the effort. To me avoiding those conversations means things never get better or perhaps they get worse as miscommunication and misperception get cemented into resentments and become gospel. Or maybe I over think things… maybe.
So what has motivated this post? I feel that I’ve alienated at least one person on Realms that I have been genuinely interested in developing a friendship with because of the way I’ve tried to interact with them. Why would I want a friendship with this person? It is not to curry influence or favour … one comment they’ve made in the past (and not directed towards anyone in particular, but in a general way) is that “everyone has an agenda”. There’s an innocent way to take that, meaning people have their own goals but it also has a sinister one where people ONLY do things to advance their goals. I identify with the first but don’t identify with the second. They are creative in more than one manner that I admire: they are good creative writers which is something I attempt to improve on and they are also musically talented which is something I can only admire from afar being utterly useless with instruments. I know them to be the type of person that is hard working and a loyal friend. These are qualities I admire so it opens the door, it’s not an automatic suggestion that a friendship will ensue.
Since we are in an organization together we have interacted on channels to some degree and I’ve felt we were getting along well. Just to reiterate this is only talking about an on game friendship, absolutely nothing more than that. Frankly if I needed off game friends that I never see I could just stick to family 🙂 The relationship has gone down hill lately with a couple of faux paus… I will admit to creating a bit of drama with individuals, mostly unintentionally and mostly motivated by frustration and perhaps tempered by over work and tiredness, but without excusing my own part in it, it takes two to tango. Further, I’ve dealt with these things one on one with the people involved and attempted to make amends and rebuild any fences that needed mending. No channel rants, no big emo demonstrations.
One of the issues was something that to me was completely silly, but was absolutely not to the other person. In my circle of people I play with, we generally know each other’s alts, and if we don’t then asking who this alt is or that alt is is an entirely normal social thing. I stuck my foot in my mouth by guessing someone at an Olympic event was the alt of the person I’ve referred to here and I was very wrong. Nonetheless the message was essentially “good luck” but the response was outright hostile. Since I initiated it, I made an attempt to apologize (tells turned off, ok can’t apologize) and then I completely left it alone because even to my thick head that the person wasn’t interested in any further conversation with me 🙂 Well until they dropped a tell out of the blue with a mild insult but I just let that slide … no good can come out of a pissing match, and again it all comes out of my mistake. Turns out the original person who I had intended to contact would have felt insulted even if it had been them, well, oh. See, I don’t think of “the character” of one alt or another very much, but rather tend to interact with the person at the keyboard regardless of the character I’m dealing with at the moment, but there’s a different way of thinking out there and clearly I had overstepped the bounds of acceptable behaviour and/or over assumed the degree of friendship. Ok, apologies as always, live and learn.
So why post here now re-addressing all this? The person I’m talking about seems to be consciously avoiding any interaction with me on public channels, simple social niceties like hello and good bye. That’s fine, it would be easy to say that the person is an ass and being rude and move along, but I don’t believe that’s true. I think perhaps they think that even saying hello might lead back to another dramatic situation. Fair enough, it might. To directly address them with a mail message or tells would probably be very unwelcome but I feel that this is an awkward situation that can be made better with a little communication. Maybe not. Maybe the answer is leave it alone. I can live with that too. Perhaps with patience and in time it’ll improve on it’s own, or not.
I shared this because I think that interacting with one another in text is a very difficult medium. We cannot pick up on any social cues beyond a few lines of glowing dots arranged on a monitor. I find that it allows situations that could perhaps be easily dealt with IRL to become larger than they are. Perhaps some other players have struggled with these issues, perhaps there are different mindsets or interpretations I haven’t considered … we are a global game with a plethora of cultures interacting with one another across many socio-economic groups and ages. I look at it as a great place to try to grow as a person, the one thing that if the the game went offline tomorrow forever I would be able to keep. I guess that’s my agenda, personal growth.