In the last couple of years, I have revitalized my social life. This has mostly been a great thing.
That last miscarriage (in 2010) decimated me, and I spent about three years rebuilding. I just kind of withdrew and recharged, and I don’t regret doing that. But the “seclusion” led to a decline in social skills. I sucked at small talk, and especially finding common ground in conversation. I began to think maybe I just wasn’t cut out for little league, soccer, pre-school circles.
But then I went back to work full-time, and it threw me into a universe where rational thinking, problem solving and social skills are everything. Re-entry was a game changer. Why? Probably because collaboration and teamwork are so important in my field. I remembered that finding common ground, even over something tentative and small, helps to build bonds. So instead of narrowing my net like in 2010 (and clicking only with people who “got” my situation on many levels – which was rare) I widened it, and now I connect with people who have lived in London, love sushi, like shopping at H & M, etc. It feels nice to connect with so many folks, even over “silly” things.
One of my mentors likes to talk about how “affinity” is needed for proper communication. In order to communicate with people, you need to LIKE them, even if just a little bit. You need to feel some sense of affinity with them – whether a sense of commonality or kinship or loose association. Sometimes you need to dig deep to find an affinity, but in almost all cases, it’s there, somewhere. Unless a person is just a total douche, and that’s relatively rare.
I have built several lovely groups of friends recently. I have a weekly tennis clinic with three awesome buddies who don’t hold the fact that I am a terrible player against me. My husband and I have some couple friends – husbands and wives we both like and get along with. I have empathetic blogging friends like Bodega and Mo for heartfelt conversations. And I also have some great work colleagues whom I can laugh and commiserate with. I have neighborhood friends, I have my past college friends, I have FB friends.
All of these people have one thing in common with me – we can meet in the middle and find something to talk about, whether it’s work, parenting or my embarrassing tennis. It’s a collaborative effort, with a balanced result.
I guess that could mean I am a “shallow” person, a term someone used to describe me recently. And I don’t think that description is off the mark. I do have a lot of superficial connections to people now, more than I probably ever have had. I try to bond with many people, but I tend to keep it “light” so I can stay in touch with them indefinitely. I don’t want enemies, or “bad blood,” to paraphrase that poet of our time, Taylor Swift. It’s too exhausting, and I’m too old.
I didn’t love being called shallow. But maybe being shallow is the key to a circle with many resources. I guess it’s OK as long as I always have the good friends too, the ones who will be there for me. And the most important social skill is to be a good friend. I try really hard to do that.
What do you think? Better to be “shallow” and have many connections? Or be deep, and only connect with a few who have many things in common with you? Or is the ideal actually both?