Interpersonal Skills: I can’t deal with people.

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I’ve come to the conclusion: I can’t deal with people.

Although by my mid-thirties I know life is a constant learning experience and that we can traverse the entire continuum of allegiances and viewpoints, I have gleaned from my social experiences thus far that I’m just not good at interpersonal skills.

First off, I’m poor at asserting myself. When faced with a scenario where a simple expression of my needs would suffice, I am often drowned out by the myriad connotations of the situation: who is involved, how much I love/fear/loathe/need them, what words or actions spurred the need to assert myself—and how it affects me emotionally.

Beyond that, I seem to lack the same interests, motives or needs that many people exhibit in socializing: I don’t crave status, dominance, or social gain through who I associate with.

As any experienced person knows, there are tacit “games” that people play with one another—through physical action, comments, rejection—to assert their needs and agenda in regards to others.

I’m not interested.

I’m not interested.

I can’t deal with people judging others based on what they look like, who they hang out with, what job they have.

I can’t deal with people who aggressively label me—thinking they “know me” but they really don’t, and when I inevitably prove them wrong they get mad at me, of course, because they’re upset that the world doesn’t fit their perception of it.

I can’t deal with people who put others down in order to build themselves up. I can’t deal with people who gleefully abuse others for this purpose—who have no qualms making an innocent human being miserable.

I can’t deal with people using others for personal gain, including those they had considered their friends and closest colleagues.

I don’t want to trade barbs with people, because on an instinctual level I don’t want to sink to that level. It disgusts and unnerves me to see myself behave that way. For many people, if I can’t do that—then I am simply a target for their deplorable behavior, and therefore I must avoid them for my own safety and self-respect.

Consequently, even if I possessed the fortitude to assert myself more effectively—my general distaste in our social mores and behaviors could possibly thwart me from ever engaging. I don’t want to correct people’s behavior towards me—not just because I’m incompetent, but because it offends and repulses me that I have to display certain traits to attain it.

It sounds like a cop-out, and in a way—it is. After all, life is all about doing things we don’t want to but are essential as a means to a healthy life that truly benefits us. Each day, we awake, wash and dress ourselves—that in of itself is a requisite for a healthy existence. The vast majority of us must work at an occupation to earn resources that will acquire us more resources.

Interpersonal skills are not as tangible as our bodies, food, water, and a roof over our heads—but they are just as vital for the social animal that we are.

This is where I clash. My principles seem to be at odds with the rudimentary mechanics of socializing.

It’s a shame, because what I lack in grit I make up for in other virtues: as a friend, I’ve been told that I’m fun, open-minded, tolerant, and unconventional. I challenge the norms of society for the greater good of seeing the world anew. I am loyal, kind, generous, and gracious. I am accepting and thoughtful most of the time. I am engaging, but also capable of great independence. I have clearly defined interests and opinions that define me and can serve others.

Look, I’m also not perfect either and can even be guilty of unsavory behavior towards others, but for the most part I believe in a higher state of coexistence. And this is another hindrance to my interactions with others.

At the risk of sounding hopelessly naïve or oblivious, I believe in a world where we tolerate our differences instead of persecuting each other for them. I believe in treating each other with decency and minimal respect, even if we differ in lifestyle, views or appearances. I believe in equality—that we are all inherently valuable therefore the need for stringent hierarchy or status is irrelevant. I believe that as long as a person is not harming anyone, they should be accepted as they are—not persecuted because of someone else’s expectations or ideology. I know this isn’t plausible in our world, but that is my core approach to life, and informs how I view and interact with others.

This is the reason why I feel separate from most people, and different.

I’ve realized this is the reason why I am often confounded when people invariably end up being… human.

It’s all too common for people, including those we’d entrusted ourselves, to lash out at one another—because of differing temperaments, beliefs, expectations, ideology, and needs.

At this age, I’ve experienced the disappointment of so-called “friends” who display less than stellar traits towards me, and handle me in a way that directly opposes basic decency and humanity.

I’ve only been able to count on a small handful of friends who haven’t eventually turned on me yet—and of that minority, many of them are simply not visible enough in my daily life to risk offending me.

This, I feel must be the resolution to my anomalous condition: to seek out and zero in on the rare peoples who will not see me as a target for their foibles and dire needs.

When I find such a commodity, I must treasure them and keep them in my life—because they will be my principal social outlet, because it appears that I am not capable of much more than that.

Will I ever find such rare exceptions? That’s the question.

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Ambiverts, Fummers and Sadults

Ambiverts

If you spend any time online, particularly on social media—you’re bound to come across some articles (read: click bait) that are tailor-made for your interests these days—whether on your own, by way of your friends and family, or creepily offered by the ghost in your machine (i.e. the algorithm decoders behind Facebook). This past year, I came across one of these intriguing links that unveiled a new term that summed me up so well, I took more time to analyze and mull over myself: ambivert.

This is a compound term, taking the traditional word “Introvert” and combining it with the word “Ambivalent” or “Ambiguous”—or Amber, in honor of the first introvert who discovered these specialized traits. An ambivert is basically an introvert at heart (prone to silence, introspection, needing time alone to recharge from social situations)—but with tendencies to also be outgoing, engaging, and display comfort at being the center of attention occasionally, on their terms. Basically, an ambivert is an introvert who doesn’t suck (or an extrovert who isn’t a complete dick). The best of both worlds, at last.

Honestly, this wasn’t really news to me. I’ve always known I was a composite freakazoid like this. But upon discovering this new buzzword, I was a little confounded: isn’t it a bit gauche to be surprised that introverts can also be “social”?

I was chatting with a new friend on the phone recently about some interpersonal problems that had come up in our social circle—some clashing views and temperaments—all that fun stuff. He remarked that one of our friends was reserved and introverted—among other things that contributed to the scenario. Then he proceeded to analyze me for the purpose of discussion too: “I noticed that you’re also quiet and introverted—but you’re actually proactive, socially, to my surprise…” I was a bit taken aback by this (now I just find it a few degrees below hilarity). If I were to have taken the defensive approach, my immediate reaction would’ve been: Why wouldn’t I be socially proactive? Just because I’m introverted doesn’t mean I don’t want to spend time with others and have fun. In fact, it’s as much a priority in my life as the traditional hallmarks of introversion: solitude, reflection, and a large Netflix queue. Alas, I just let it slide—it was more amusing than anything else.

            Conversely, I also bristle when I’m placed squarely in the other camp. Much less recently, I was shooting the breeze with a different friend—chatting about this and that, which led to us musing about our shared friends—which led to his lament about the trials of meeting new people and connecting. Since I was then at the ripe age of twenty-seven and still riding a wave of twenty-something ease, I glibly divulged: “I don’t have too much trouble meeting new people”, to which my friend flatly remarked: “That’s because you’re really open…” To which I figuratively scratched my head—then spent subsequent years laughing at and contesting this remark, privately. To be fair, my friend wasn’t entirely incorrect. At that age, with my track record then, just give me a few drinks in a new scenario and I’d blindly push forward—hoping for the best. But he wasn’t entirely correct either. Regardless of how proactive I was socially, I also had a sturdy reputation among others for being quiet as well. I was and am, ruthlessly guarded about my solitude—just as happy to spend an entire weekend alone. Quite simply, it’s all context. I’m quiet to some, “open” to others. Different people bring out different sides of you. Also, this friend was notorious for having a stick up his butt; rocks were more “open” than him.

I think many people are (or should) be ambiverts to some degree, anyway. Aren’t many of us a mix of chill and proactive at the same time? Sure, I can take the initiative when I first meet you—because I don’t have time to fuck around. I’m a businessman in that sense. But once I get to know you more, I’m gonna need my space then and often. I don’t need to give and receive constantly; I’m self-sufficient—a retiring artist in that sense. Although I’ve been known to be pretty bold and fun when I get my mojo going, nothing kills my buzz more than when I’m expected to display these traits consistently. Fuck that. I’m not anyone’s toy, and I’m not here for anyone’s amusement but my own. Consequently, some people don’t even want to claim that I’m “fun” at all—but they know they can’t rule it out either. Basically, I’m a fummer! –A combination of the word fun and bummer, and I wear this term proudly!

In fact, since learning about the term ambivert, a few other buzz terms have popped up online, adding more confusion and less creative names in the process like: Outgoing Introvert, Introverted Extrovert, Extroverted Introverted Extrovert. You get where that’s going. I thought I was special as an ambivert, but then nobody else gets to be special—and we just can’t have that! Makes you wonder if a person would dare label themselves simply as an extrovert or introvert these days.

We humans love to analyze and define ourselves—especially nowadays, because we have evolved to stop worrying about food or moving out of our parents’ homes. There are innumerous quizzes, lists, and uncorroborated articles out there that will assist you in deciding just who you are and what you need in this world.

More buzzwords will breed more buzzwords, like a word association game gone ballistic, to help define the current generation of 18 to 35 year olds who have mastered the challenging art of sharing about themselves on all forms of social media. With that frame of mind, I would like to draw up a few suggestions of my own to add into the lexicon:

Drama fraud: A person who lies about not liking “Drama”.

Sadult: A person who is technically an adult, but bears little resemblance to one with a combination of one or more of the following missing traits: physical appearance, clothing style, financial security, responsibilities, relationship status, hobbies, mindset, maturity. No age limit.

Fauxweird: A person who claims to be “Weird”, but is actually completely concerned about fitting in with everyone, and will suppress anything remotely original about themselves to attain it.

Blindster: A person who is blind to the fact that they are in fact, a hipster. (You can usually spot them by overhearing their arbitrary diatribes against hipsters, to prove that they aren’t one…)

Groaner: A person who is trying a bit too hard to appear smarter, cooler, or tougher than they actually are. (It makes you wanna groan, get it?)

Faux-no social: A person who claims that they don’t like social media, but secretly uses it substantially.

And last but not least:

Anassistic: When a person analyzes themselves narcissistically via the dubious tenets of pop psychology: astrology, personality tests, and buzzwords.

I’m not proud to say that I’ve been guilty of three of the terms above, from time to time. I’ll let you guess which ones, ha….