Skepticism

Afternoon Inquisition 2.10

I’m the daughter of a mortician.  I’m good at funerals.  I know what to do when people say the wrong thing (“It’s probably better this way, he was really sick”,) know what to say if someone asks “Can I touch it?”  when talking about the dear departed, and even know what to do when the wife, mistress and girlfriend all show up at the same time. (If you’re 16, and an usher at your dad’s funeral home, you stare, slack-jawed when they hug, cry, then compare notes.)  So death I’ve got:  I’m sorry for your loss and always have tissues handy.

It’s the times when the news is supposed to be good that I’m not so good.   More specifically, when the news-giver thinks the news is good (“We’re pregnant!”)  and I think it’s not-so-good (“And you’ve already got 3 kids!  And you just got laid off!”)  That where my tiny black heart really shines, and I lose friends because I just can’t lie convincingly enough.  I think the lack of this social grace is disturbing, but I can’t seem to cultivate it, no matter how hard I try.

 

What your social blind spot?  What do you do to manage it?

a.real.girl

A B Kovacs is the Director of Døøm at Empty Set Entertainment, a publishing company she co-founded with critical thinker and fiction author Scott Sigler. She considers herself a “Creative Adjacent” — helping creative people be more productive and prolific by managing the logistics of Making for the masses. She's a science nerd, a rabid movie geek, and an unrepentantly voracious reader. She doesn't like chocolate all that much.

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110 Comments

  1. What’s my social blind spot? What isn’t? I’ve got no social peripheral vision. I’m almost as bad as Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory. I have no idea what my sweetheart sees in me, I’m just glad she sees something.

  2. I’m pretty diplomatic in most situations, and I can usually dance around most awkwardness or people. But. When I *really* don’t like someone, I find it almost impossible to hide it. It’s actually fairly rare that I have a genuine dislike for someone (that goes beyond mild annoyance at a habit or whatever). But when it happens, I find it very difficult to not let my dislike show.

    It’s been sort of a problem at work lately, where it’s even more dangerous… :)

  3. I have surprisingly few blind spots, however I compensate for this with heavy amounts of denial. Or else apathy.

    I routinely say impolitic things not because I’m unaware that they’re impolitic but rather because I couldn’t be bothered to give a flying fuck. It’s actually a bit surprising I haven’t got in trouble at work over this, as I’m quite candid about my feelings toward certain special snowflakes in the office.

    I also will call someone as asshole if I think they’re an asshole. Apparently, this is considered “rude”. Whatever.

  4. Pregnancy is also my big blind spot. Fortunately most of my friends know that I’m not planning on kids myself, and a little boggled as to why anyone would, so they take, “Um, is this good news or bad news?” well.

    However, having worked with doctors who study inherited immune disorders and interacted with the parents of those sick children and the sick kids, I do have to say that when a friend of mine who has an inherited and potentially fatal disease announced to me her intentions of getting pregnant, I did lose my shit in a big way.

    Maybe it is mean, cruel and heartless of me, but if you KNOW that your having a child is going to visit upon that child the same hellish childhood complete with multiple surgeries, constant painful blood taking (in infants and toddler these are done via a vein in the heel, which is why many chronically ill children continue to walk on their toes even as adults), a lifetime of incredibly expensive medicines and painful treatments (infusions of what amounts to synthetic antibodies take up to or sometimes more than an hour and are painful), all with no guarantee they’ll survive, particularly if they’re male because these disorders are frequently more virulent in male children because they are carried on the X, and in the absence of a healthy X to mitigate the “damage” they are almost always much more severe in male children.

    Sorry. Personal soapbox.

  5. I have very little empathy. When someone is nattering on how they can’t lose weight, or can’t find the time to read, or just wish their life wasn’t so gosh darn busy or some other problem where the solution is blindingly obvious to me, and I just want to grab them by the collar and contact-yell “EAT LESS AND EXERCISE MORE”… I change the subject. I am a 5th dan, black-belt master subject changer. I find the weirder and more off topic the better it works. I ended a never-ending staff meeting once by leaning in very close to the guy running and staring at his forehead until he stopped talking for about ten seconds; then I asked “Do you tweeze?” The most fun bar conversation of my life with a total stranger started with “People say I’m anal retentive, but I think I’m more belly-button retentive.” Upon reflection that one could have gone either way, but one more detail about her poodles, and I was going to explode. A drink in the face would have been vastly preferable had it been followed with silence.

    This is a blind spot because, I’ve been told, that sometimes people just want to vent and people with empathy allow them to do so. My way not only compensates for my weakness, however, it is way more entertaining. For me.

    (And yes I know weight loss, while simple to explain, is hard implement, but that doesn’t make talking about it any more interesting.)

  6. @Masala Skeptic: Me, either.

    Once, I hosted a cast party for a show I did. There was a guy on the cast I really, really didn’t like. In fact, neither did anyone else. (He was also a terrible actor. I’m fairly certain the director put him on the cast as a joke.) Everyone talked behind his back about how much they hated him. I, of course, just told him to his face.

    Anyway, I gave explicit instructions to the other invitees not to give him directions to my place. Which makes me a giant asshole, but I don’t care. Apparently, this is also considered “rude”, so somebody showed him the way anyway. Jackasses.

  7. I have little patience for stupidity anymore. Which is ironic, since I’ve never been accused of being especially bright myself. But the older I get the less I’m able to tolerate other people doing stupid things in a social context. I will heckling them full on, or I’ll push past them as though they don’t exist.

  8. My emotions are VERY apparent on my face, so it’s hard for me to hide my feelings. In the example of “We’re pregnant!” you’d immediately see the look of confusion on my face as I try to figure out if this is good or bad.

    I think people take pity on me for my complete lack of guile and let me get away with it, mostly. Or I cover it with lots! of! smiling! and! cheerfulness!

  9. @GeekGirlsRule: “Pregnancy”

    I’ve got this one, too. I once met a woman whose mother, grandmother, aunt, and sister all died of breast cancer. (Very sad.) She was going to have a bunch of parts removed prophylactically. (Very courageous.) But first she was going to have some eggs harvested so she should get pregnant later. Whatareyounuts?!!!

    Also given the whole 6 billion heading towards 9 billion people I can’t get excited about new ones. I just avoid new parents. I don’t trust my self not to say anything and new parents will not talk about anything else. They are quite immune to my subject-changing power.

  10. @davew: “(And yes I know weight loss, while simple to explain, is hard implement, but that doesn’t make talking about it any more interesting.)”

    Or true.

    I have spent the majority of my life working out as much, if not more than it sounds like you have, and I have never been thin. This was true during an eating disorder involving compulsive exercising and starving myself. It was/is true while eating sensibly and exercising moderately, it was true while eating sensibly and exercising compulsively.

    http://www.livescience.com/health/090106-exercise-obesity.html
    http://www.reuters.com/article/gc08/idUSN3036700020070402?pageNumber=1

    Now I’m not saying that there aren’t a lot of people all over who couldn’t benefit from eating better and getting more exercise, fat and thin. Hell, watch Penn & Teller’s Bullshit on the Obesity Epidemic. But it isn’t so clear cut as you and many other people would like to believe.

  11. I can’t help revealing it when I get a gift I don’t think I’ll like. My brain wants to mix honesty and politeness and I’ll end up saying something like: “Ah, it doesn’t look like the greatest book in the world, but I’ll probably like it.” And if I haven’t noticed by then that I’m not actually being polite I’ll throw in an “After all, I’ve got fairly low standards when it comes to books.”

    To compensate, I try to think before I speak.

  12. If anything, I am actually TOO diplomatic and social.

    I tend not to like conflicts and I hate hurting people, so I often tend to be very diplomatic.

    I am, actually, working on being MORE rude, or frank and honest.

    I also have the habit of interrupting people. Generally, to correct a mistake or add something. It’s generally improve the discussion, but it is not very polite, and I should try to be more polite about it…

  13. I’ve talked about my major social malfunction a lot, and I’ll say it again because talking about it somehow makes me feel better about it: I don’t recognize faces and never will. So, people say hello to me and I have no idea if we’ve met before, and I have to go by the conversation. It has made for many awkward moments.

  14. So far most of mine have been touched on already. I’ve always had a problem with empathy, not intentionally I just don’t know how to react when somone is upset. It always feels forced if I say something along the line of “I’m sorry…” or “I understand…” because I’m really not I don’t identify with what they’re feeling. Sometimes I feel like a sociopath.

  15. I have a hard time with the “we’re pregnant” proclamation, too. Mostly, because I don’t want and have very little interest in children so it’s hard for me to get too excited about something in which I have no interest. Especially when that person is in an unstable relationship, is unemployed, her partner is unemployed, and she already has a number of children who don’t seem to be doing so well. Not that this happened to me recently or anything. I always want to say, “why?” or “is that a good thing?” or “we are? are you each carrying a fetus?” or something equally un-congratulatory. I can usually eek out a “congratulations” without sounding too condescending, but don’t expect me to want to talk about it any further than that.

    I’m not really that great with social graces in general, I guess. I think that I put in my two cents where it’s not welcome and share MY story which relates to your story, whether you care to hear it or not, though I’m working on that.

    I don’t handle things I don’t like or disapprove of that well. Like the pregnancy thing, but it could involve spending money on a house or getting a pet or other things you can’t afford or don’t need, or if you have a bad hair cut or a really hideous shirt, I have a hard time just going along with it.

  16. I have a tendency to fall to platitudes and generic speech when I try to hide my feelings about something. Sometimes I stop caring and just say how I feel and why, but most of the time I turn into a Shoebox Card, replete with awful humor.

    I also sometimes lose the scope of things when other people are involved, by which I mean that I think of myself first and, thus, have a hard time functioning in ceremonial things or in environments where other people enjoy themselves but I don’t. Sort of like Larry David.

  17. I’ve never been very good at working out the grunts, squeaks and arm-waving of normal human social interaction. I keep having to remind myself the “How are you?” is a greeting and not an actual question. I never know whether to shake hands, hug or kiss. The timing of greeting someone approaching me in a long hallway is baffling and awkward. And don’t get me started on the whole eye contact thing.

    How do I manage? I fake my way through it and hope for the best.

  18. Among all, perhaps the most notorious is that I decline kindness from others – invitations to go out, a home meal, a glass of water, sex, you name it, and I’ll most likely answer “No, thanks”. People don’t like it.

  19. @Joshua: Yeah, I’m not comfortable with talking about someone behind their back, but I’ll tell them to their face that they’re an asshole.

    Considering that I’m so readable, if someone can push me to the point that I’m willing to forsake all diplomacy and call them out on their assholishness, they get what’s coming to them.

  20. People say I’m quiet but I’m really an overthinker. By the time I’m done self-editing a response the group is usually already on to a new topic. I do well in one-on-one situations when I’m forced to fill the other half of the conversation, but in groups I’m little more than a casual observer. That’s why I don’t post here as often as I would like to. I guess I just took to heart the old saying “it’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”

  21. When people ask me how I am or how my weekend was, I’ll always give a concise answer. But I’ll never ask THEM how THEIR weekend et al was. The reason for this is that I simply don’t care, but I usually try to make it look like I’m really busy and just forgot to ask. Also, if I think of something funny to say to someone, I’ll say it, no matter the consequences.

  22. I have problems with discourtesy. I had worked in coffee shops and restaurants for some time and for a while the rudeness and abruptness that people would show didn’t bother me. I would would just chalk it up to “well, this is New York, that’s how people are”. But after a while, I couldn’t take it anymore. When I would say “Good Morning” to someone and get back “COFFEE” as a reply (no exaggeration) I began to talk back. “Oh, I’m sorry. Did you mean to say ‘I would like a cup of coffee?'” I know that it’s early and everyone is still rubbing the sleepy seeds out of their eyes, but really, is it too much to ask for just a weeeee bit of courtesy? And once I made that leap, I was noticing it (and getting angry about it) all the time. The way I decided to manage it was by leaving the service industry.

  23. I think that growing up a single child with a single working mother gave me at least a few blind spots when dealing with people. My biggest two are probably that I find it difficult to remember names unless I’ve interacted with a person multiple times, and I’ll often be more honest than I should be.

  24. What’s a social grace? Oh, you mean all that smarmy pandering, automatic muttering, grimacing (oops, smiling), talk so small it is practically invisible, pretense, outright lying, stomach sucking-in, eyelash fluttering, frantic deodorant application that folks do when they are around each other? Gave that all up when I turned into a grumpy, reclusive ‘older’ person.

    When younger, I found it very easy to be indiscriminately empathetic with anybody, too easy in fact. The empathy oozed out of me so easily I wondered if it had any value. Now I am much more selective in extending empathy, and when I do, it means much more to me. My direct and straightforward way of relating to others is still present, but now I opt more for solitude and silence.

  25. @GeekGirlsRule: “Or true. ”

    Oddly enough both articles said that the most effective weight loss method is to eat less and exercise more which is precisely what I said. I think we might just be having a semantic argument over the difference between “simple” and “easy”.

    I have no doubt that some people have an easier time maintaining a healthier weight than others. I also have no doubt that this is largely due to genetics in both the way our bodies and our minds are constructed. One of the genetic gifts my parents bestowed on me was more than average will power. On the occasions (like lots of overtime or a divorce) when I have become distracted, however, I bulk up pretty quickly.

    One thing I’ve done since college is let my fat guide my diet. >149 lbs: no beer, > 153 lbs: no meat, eggs, or cheese either, <145 lbs: It’s rib night! I love nothing more than beer and ribs and will do anything to achieve them — even diet and exercise. This is my body and my brain and what works for me. I wouldn’t dare prescribe it to anyone else. To assert, however, that the difference between calories in and calories out is doesn’t roughly equal your weight is to argue with some pretty basic science. We aren’t photosynthetic.

  26. Unlike Rebecca I’m really good with faces, just horrible with names. If have not known you, seen you, or thought about you for several months or so, I’ll forget your name. Or worse, I’ll completely misremember it and confidently call you the completely wrong name.

  27. Also, people are always telling me to stop throwing feces so much. “It’s getting in my eyes” they’ll say and I’m like “yeah well it’s all over my hands” and they’ll be all “you are the most disgusting person of all time in the world ever” and I’m all “pffffft”. Fuckers can’t take a joke.

  28. I can’t stand people who feel they know best when it comes to who should have children and who shouldn’t. “What, you have a genetic defect, how could you be so irresponsible and pass it on to your children, don’t you know the world only needs people who are genetically perfect.” “Don’t you know that all people who have genetic defects wish they were dead and hate life? That your children will resent and hate you for bringing them into existence?”, “Didn’t you know that all people who were born poor or defected never helped society, Steven Hawking mostly cribbed his ideas from Einstein.”

    I’m also passive aggressive as hell.

  29. When someone says something that should evoke a sign of sadness, I unintentionally react with a “heh.” Then I have to “put on” a sad face, and pretend that my “heh” was more like a “huh, that sucks.” Doesn’t always work. In reality, when I say “heh,” it’s just that my mind says to myself “that’s interesting,” and my body spits out what I subjectively consider something neutral (which is merely my fill-in for silence), but what others consider inconsiderate.

    Oh, also, most of the time, I really don’t find disaster to be a sad thing. That, somehow, makes me “morbid” to others. I think I’m just a bit disassociated, but I’ve tested myself, and I don’t think I’m sociopathic. yay.

  30. Interpersonal relationships

    I’ve been fending for myself and self reliant that I can’t actually CARE for anyone.

    A friend moves away, oh, well, I’ll find someone else to get to know. I’ve had all a three boyfriends, and none of them too long. I’m 27, and I’ve already decided I’m going to be the creepy old guy down the street.

  31. I’m compelled to hide secret messages in my
    posts. I don’t know why. I mean when
    other folks are crafting their messages I’m
    off in la-la land trying to think up
    pathetic ways to hide stuff in my own.

    And why? How many people ever notice?

    Less than I’d have hoped, I’ll confess.
    Oh, why can’t I be more normal? Why is
    there no end to my exentricity?

  32. I hate talking on the phone. I consider it a tool for exchanging important information rather than a device for socializing. My wife will occasionally forget this and call me at work for no real reason. She gets annoyed when I cut off her chatter to ask why she called. I have to remind her that she called me, that I’m busy working, and that if it isn’t urgent, I’d be happy to have the discussion at home later. It’s difficult to pull this off without sounding like a dick.

    Helpful rule of thumb: If someone is telling you about their pregnancy, it’s a good bet that they consider it good news. I’ve yet to meet anyone who was eager to discuss their unwanted pregnancy. So a sincere “congratulations” is usually a safe response.

  33. @Davew: Except for that part where if you quit starving yourself and eat like a normal human being, you’ll gain back all the weight and more because you’ve buggered up your metabolism.

    Even the diet industry has had to admit that diets only have about a 95% success rate or long-term weight loss, and yes that includes bundling diet and exercise together.

    If you’re actually interested in discourse on this I can point you to several websites on the topic of Health At Every Size. The radical belief that as long as you are healthy, active and taking care of yourself, it really doesn’t matter what size you are. Those folks can educate you on this far better than I can. And they have the link forests you can follow to the research as opposed to my sad attempt here.

  34. I just don’t get normal conversation. I can’t talk about tv or music or movies, I don’t dig much in any of those categories. I always have to fight the urge to answer literally questions like “how are you?” though I’m getting better, and even remember to ask back. And interpreting emotional state when it’s not given openly, the pregnancy thing being a perfect example for me, too.

    My workaround is to be shameless and honest when I can’t be polite or sensitive. “Oh, you’re pregnant? That’s good, right?” Or “Your grandmother died on the fourth of July? At least she went out with a bang.” It doesn’t take long for them to get that I don’t get it, and no one seems to mind if you make of an ass of yourself if you’re at least a well meaning and self aware ass. And almost anything is forgivable if it’s funny enough.

  35. @GeekGirlsRule

    I think we’ve been to a lot of the same sites. I try to stay up on nutrition. The problem with almost every nutritional study, however, is they rely exclusively on self-reporting and double-blind is completely impossible. As such it is difficult to separate out the meaningful studies from the BS studies.

    My other life experience that is instructive is my mother. For years she ate a primarily vegetarian diet, very small portions, and lived an active life. Other than being about 30lbs heavier than optimal she was always extremely healthy. When she was 70 or so she was diagnosed with diabetes. Her doctor commanded more regular exercise and a different diet. She dropped 25lbs and her diabetes went away. All my life I thought of her as naturally heavy and for a certain life style and diet she was. For a different life style and diet she wasn’t. I realize this is argument from anecdote, but since most of my genes are her genes I take an especial interest.

    I know I like feeling a little hungry most of the time; I think better and sleep better. I know I only accumulate fat on my belly and for guys belly fat == dirt nap. But most mostly I know I really, really like ribs and beer and I’m currently 1lb over the rib limit. Pain. Misery.

  36. I think social blind spots are good for sifting through people you’d actually want to hang out with.

    The more awkward you make people feel when they tell you they’re having a 4th child despite being laid off – the less and less these sort of people will come around.

  37. I’m scared to post. As a single parent with four kids and no (real) job, I am apparently commiting some kind of reproductive holocaust.

    I have discovered that I do not intonate like a normal human being. When I speak (or gesture) it is as though I am controlled by a very angry, naive alien from a distant galaxy. Unlike others on this list, I want to be in a relationship with other human beings, however the moment I attempt to interact I frighten and disturb most people around me.

  38. I have several social blind spots, as do most people. I’ve had enough time to discover them and/or have them pointed out to me.

    @Rebecca: I have trouble with names and faces, too. I just do…It’s not that I’m not paying attention or don’t care.

    Like Chupacabras, I sometimes have trouble accepting things from others or admitting that I need help.

    I have a real problem with being shouted down or interrupted. If someone does it enough, I’ll just walk away. It’s gotten me into trouble a few times with bosses. Just because I’m an employee does not mean that a boss can steamroller over me while I’m talking.

    @Amanda: I could use help with my “poker face,” too. This is why I never play cards.

    @Masala: re: Tact “Tact is the art of telling someone to go to Hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip.” Practice, dear, practice. Twenty years at the airline ticket counter serves me well in this… ;-)

    A few people have told me that I’m “too nice,” whatever that means. I think it means that I have old fashioned manners, open doors for women, say “Please” and “Thank You,” and try not to be too evil to those around me. I treat service people with respect and tip heavily. I respect them for the job they do – It’s frequently low-paying and thankless.

    I’ve also been told that I’m almost too empathetic. When someone cries in front of me, I tend to put an arm around them, etc. I almost got in trouble at a former job when a co-worker that I had known for years got a phone call from her mother telling her that her sister had just died of a terminal illness. A boss got after me for holding her as she bawled her eyes out.
    Funny – I thought it was the….human….thing to do and I don’t regret it to this day.

  39. I sometimes can’t tell the difference between a question asked for politeness’s sake and one asked out of genuine interest. Personally, I don’t understand why you would ask a question you didn’t want the answer to, but I’ve known people to exclaim, “I asked her how work was going – and she told me!” as if this indicated the person was a raging narcissist.
    Also, if I don’t know what to say I’ll say nothing, or shrug, or say “I don’t know”, like if I’m asked my opinion on something I really don’t care about. I’m incapable of making stuff up on the spot, and it leads to awkward moments.

  40. Oh, man, I hate when people take forever to get to their point. I generally know what they are trying to say, anyway. I sometimes have to WORK at not interrupting people. It’s hard.

    A close friend, J, is the same way. When we talk it is apparently hilarious because neither one of us finishes our sentences, yet we know exactly what the other is trying to say, and no one can follow us. It’s great.

  41. Damn NAMES, They just do not stay in my head. Yesterday, I ran into this guy, in his twenties, used to work at the local coffee shop for four years, but hasn’t been there for about a year. Knew his name called him by his name. Played basketball with him. Nice guy I like him, could not remember his name.
    Worse is at parties and the such.
    Wife: Gee you seem to have a had over by the punchbowl.
    Me: Yeah great guy, hikes and plays disc golf just like me.
    Wife What’s his name?
    Me: He told me, wait…ummm, Ge… wait
    Wife: My brothers name is Bob! What am I going to do with you?

  42. Yeah…
    I have a Mouth of Sarcasm +3…
    I’ve discovered through the years that there are actually people who don’t like/get it when I’m sarcastic. Strange that.

    I also have a really, really hard time remembering names. I even try to use memory tricks to remember, but names and I are like fire and water.

    I also have a very hard time sharing my feelings with anyone. I just lock them up and peek at them alone from time to time. Healthy? Probably not, but remember: There is no problem so big that you can’t run away from it. ;)

  43. @Ezekiel: “@QuestionAuthority Thank you for standing up for empathy. I like empathy. I think a lack of empathy leads to bad, bad things.”

    I just wanted to echo the nice things you said about Question Authority’s comments. I think the notion of treating service people with respect is especially laudable. I suspect they often get verbally abused for things that are not in their control. Whenever I am upset about a company’s product or service policy, I do my best to make sure that I communicate to the customer service rep that I am unhappy with the companies product or policy not with them. Being angry at a company doesn’t mean you can’t still be polite to the CSRs.

    Also kudos to QA for comforting that grieving woman at work. The boss who objected to that must have been a real coward.

    BCT

    P.S. Even though I’ve been a fictious soap opera pimp for many years, I still get tongue tied around sexy women even if sex with them is a vanishingly remote possibility (yes, I know, I am a hopeless letch).

  44. I do not suffer fools gladly. Once in the Navy I had a fool wanting to hang out near my workstation and was telling his fool stories. I remember looking at him and telling him to go and waste someone else’s time because I didn’t care. My fellow petty officers were shocked. I guess I’m just an ass.

  45. I do a really mean “Wonderful” with an eye-roll.

    Oddly enough, the idiots it’s directed at and the general “crowd in agreement” seem equally amused by it.

    Maybe both sides know that I’m just saying what they’re all thinking.

    ” It’s dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it.

    WE CARE A LOT…”

    Eh, not so much,

    rod

  46. @Simon39759: “I tend not to like conflicts and I hate hurting people, so I often tend to be very diplomatic.”

    This is why I’m just quiet: I’d rather say nothing than say the wrong thing, and as a kid I found that what I said was often wrong.

    Also, I have a terrible time with names.

  47. I have a habit of just sitting there stone faced when people are pouring out their souls. It’s not because I care, actually, I am usually thinking something to the effect of “Please stop talking. Please. Please, please, please, don’t tell me this. I don’t want to know. Oh God please don’t tell me that. Make it stop.” Then the person stops, hugs me and tells me a great listener, and tells all of their friends that I am a great listener and it happens regularly. Usually the only things I say is “That’s really serious, does your health insurance cover talking to a counselor? Because I think talking to a professional could give you a lot peace about this.”

  48. Well mine I would say it is gifts, I have a high thresshold on quality and “specialness” choosing them and usually I end up not buying any, in fact I would preffer not to buy them at all, not because I don’t want to expend money, simply because it is so hard for me.

    But your introduction did arouse my curiosity, so I will ask you “can I touch it?”(*)

    :-)

    *) I live in Brazil and here it is common for people to touch corpses during a awake.

  49. *Sigh* I always wanted to be a mortician (amongst other things). I got talked out of it in high school, I think. Just like I was ridiculed out of being a paleontologist in grammar school.

    I deal with my social blind spots by not being social. Stupid humans.

  50. i don’t know if you’d call it a blind spot, but i totally suck at interacting w/people until i’m rather comfortable with them and then sometimes it’s a struggle.

    the normal thanks for having me. if i don’t say that first i think 1. they’ll think i’m saying it now just because i have to and not because i mean it, or 2. if my wife (how i managed to find someone to marry me is beyond my comprehension) says it is it really necessary for me to say it as well? all of those that kind of things i just don’t get. i probably should be on medication for this.

  51. oh, and i tend to interrupt. this is a product of being shy-ish and other people telling me i need to just join the conversations. what typically happens is that i either wait for an opening which by the time it occurs somehow the topic has changed (so i don’t say anything and am labeled a non-participater), or i interrupt someone. maybe my timing sense is just off i don’t know.

    also i suck at remembering faces and names. srsly i kept picking out Winona Ryder out of different movies saying i thought she’s rather pretty and my GF at the time would look at me incredulously and say that’s W.R.

  52. Thank you all.
    Many service people (like servers in restaurants) are treated terribly. It’s a national scandal that we treat service people like slaves. Where’s everyone’s manners? “Please” and “Thank You” are the social lubricants of the worlds. “Treat people like human beings and they react like human beings. What’s so hard about that?”

    @Detroitus: Women are people. Treat them accordingly. That’s the whole ‘secret.’

    @Truthwalker: Sometimes, that’s all you have to do…sit there. You aren’t a professional counselor. Your response is right, too.

    @Victor: Touching, hugging and kissing ‘goodbye’ the body of a close relative is common in some parts of the US. If someone want to do that, I have no problem unless the person died of a communicable disease.

  53. If anyone said “we’re pregnant” and they weren’t a group of women, I’d have a real problem handling it. Before considering whether I cared or not (probably not) I’d have to get them to understand that saying something like that is just ugly.

    I have no social interaction problems, because I am always right.

  54. Christ on a bike some of you just aren’t trying hard enough! I’ve been lurking on skepchick forever but it’s taken this list of comments to prod me into action. If someone says “we’re pregnant” you automatically say “congrats” it’s not fucking rocket science. If it turns out to be horrible news you can console them afterward… if you can force yourself to muster the social skills. And really what’s the point of being an asshole, surely that takes MORE effort than the smile-and-nod combo? It is not, I repeat not, cool to be a misanthropic pain in the ass, bottom line you’re just being a wanker. It is not, I repeat not, cooler to tell the guy “hey man I hate you” to his face than reveal privately to your mates that, actually, he gives you the shits. I have such admiration for you lot, I’ve read so many interesting, provocative, intelligent and funny comments over the months but today’s comments have really pissed me off.

    My thing is that I swear too much. And I think I’m probably a bit arrogant.

  55. @hellshousewife: Speaking for myself, I don’t think I’m ever rude to someone’s face when I disagree with them, I think we’re talking more about internal turmoil -struggling to say the appropriate thing even when your brain is screaming “stupid, stupid, stupid!”

    That said, I don’t necessarily feel it is always necessary to coddle and humor someone with congratulations when everyone knows a pregnancy is likely the worst thing that could have happened to this person.

  56. @hellshousewife: Good sense is just not allowed on this subject. Get with the program!

    This topic has touched on a big pet peeve of mine. I’m sorry, but the whole “Sure, I’m blunt because unlike all you phonies I tell it like it is. I’m a maverick truth-teller!” is complete and utter nonsense that people with poor social skills tell themselves in a vain attempt to turn their own weaknesses into virtue.

    Sure, there are situations in life that call for bluntness and being a blushing violet afraid to offend with an opposing point of view is no virtue either, but one of the truths behind the concept of being polite is the reality that in most cases, your opinion is of little importance. I know this is an earth-shattering revelation for some, but it is true.

    Oh, and the vast majority of people who think they are offering people The Truth(tm) are in fact only offering an opinion…and you know what they say about opinions and assholes.

  57. I hate to shit all over your moral superiority (OH WAIT: NO I DON’T BECAUSE I’M AN ASSHOLE), but the whole point of the thread was to discuss social blind spots. So maybe, just maybe, people in this thread are aware that the things they do are considered “uncool” by others.

    And you’re both assholes for missing the point of the thread, by the way.

  58. @Elexina: you are right of course but the “I don’t care about kids so can’t really get excited” argument is self-indulgent nonsense. I may not care about your job but if you tell me you just got promoted I’m going to congratulate you.

    For those who are unsure, if the woman isn’t drunk, weeping and/or on her way to the clinic, it’s a safe bet that it’s “good news” to her.

    @Joshua: you could be right, only time will tell…

  59. “Up and Out”….sometimes I just can’t help but respond out loud when something is just “too outrageous!”
    Its like the little voices just start sticking daggers into my brain.
    When I don’t..I just have a REALLY BAD HEADACHE. I have really bad headaches alot…lol

  60. @hellshousewife: I think that congratulating someone (which I do, even if I don’t care), is different from getting excited. I don’t have to be excited by something in which I have no interest, but I can give out general congratulatory comments. There is a difference.
    And there are plenty of people who aren’t sure whether their pregnancy is a good thing immediately, and may well not be drunk/weeping/seeking a clinic.

    (However, if a woman tells me that she is pregnant AND she is drinking, I am definitely going to have a hard time keeping my thoughts to myself.)

  61. Both pregnancy and death are social blind spots for me.

    Pregnancy, because either I don’t really care that someone is pregnant (um… good for you, but it has zero effect on me whatsoever…), or they’re pregnant when they aren’t really in a position to responsibly raise kids. Then, it’s all I can do not to say “congrats on increasing my taxes so that the State can help you pay for your kid”. (FWIW, I support the programs, just not the people who use them as an excuse to deliberately have kids they can’t afford).

    The death thing is even more confusing for me, because I don’t get most of the conventions around it. I have had people very close to me die, including my own father when I was 17, so it’s not like I don’t sympathize with the grief and feelings of loss.

    I just don’t get why people focus on the death itself instead of using the opportunity to remember the deceased and celebrate their life. My inability to relate to, apparently, most people on this matter was a big reason why I resigned my ordination. (That, and the whole not believing in God thing).

  62. @autotroph: “Pregnancy, because either I don’t really care that someone is pregnant (um… good for you, but it has zero effect on me whatsoever…)…”

    True, it has zero effect on you…but it’s not about you. It’s about the couple’s joy. Can’t you feel happy for someone else’s joy?

  63. @QuestionAuthority: I read a revised list of the most stressful jobs years ago (pre-internet) and this list finally included non-professional jobs. Air Traffic Contoller wasn’t even in the top ten (all us old timers will remember ATC always, always making the #1 spot). Waiter/waitress was #1.

    I just googled most stressful jobs and IT is number one on most lists! Are you fucking kidding me??? How stressful is it to sit on your ass, eat chips, and say, “I’ll fix it later”???

  64. @Chew

    Very stressful. Let’s say you have a hankering for Ranch Doritos. I mean, a real, almost biological drive for Ranch Doritos. So you dust off the crumbs of the Bar-B-Q flavored generic store-brand potato chips from your cheeks, chin, shirt, and ample lap, and waddle the 100 ft trail-of-tears to the vending machine and discover – gasp! – it’s out of Ranch Doritos.

    After cursing various gods from norse, greek and innumerable sci-fi mythologies; after cursing and vowing vengeance on the vending machine stocking guy (you’ve told him, time and time again, it needs to be fully stocked twice a week), you come back to grips with reality and decide maybe, just maybe, the peanut butter cookies and the package of shriveled “beef” sticks will hold you over.

    You insert your dollar bill into the vending slot. Reep – roop. It doesn’t accept it. Okay, maybe the bill is too wrinkled and old. Rather than mess with it, you pull your wallet by the chain from out of your pocket, and search for a crisp, clean virgin bill.

    Reep – roop. It doesn’t work. And then it dawns on you. The bill acceptor is broken. And you’re out of change. It won’t take your bill, you’re out of change, and now you have to walk all the way back (100ft!) to your desk, at the brink of starvation, empty handed, miserable, where you will no doubt be greeted with the incessant endless whining of moronic computer users with their problems, problems, problems, that even a rather brain-damaged monkey could solve, but no, they come to you and they didn’t even ask how your last Halo tournament went and…

    It’s enough stress to destroy a human being.

    (This is in NO WAY a self parody of a time when I was a 300lb IT worker. Any insinuation of such will be greeted with tears.)

  65. @Chew:
    I think it depends on what IT shop you work in. The one I’m in right now could drive a person mad. Conflicting requirements, dysfunctional and complex bureaucracy, misplaced priorities, documents written to deceive and mislead…
    I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t stress about any of it anymore because it’s all meaningless.
    The smart people end up like me. The dumb ones keep trying and have heart attacks from the stress of trying to satisfy the above.
    Oh, did I mention that I’m a government contractor? ;-)
    I’d take a job where I did something useful for my paycheck immediately over this one.

  66. I *occasionally* have been known to be a bit inappropriate at times.

    Case in point: a very attractive and close friend’s mother passed away after years and years of slow and debilitating illness. A mutual friend of ours (another very attractive young lady) went down to visit and console her, as they were even closer friends. I emailed my friend saying how sorry I was that she was going through something so painful, how her mother’s suffering was finally over, etc., etc. I also asked her if her and our mutual friend that was visiting had done anything involving the two of them naked and copious amounts of baby oil.

    Suffice it to say that I didn’t hear back from that particular friend for an extended length of time.

  67. @Joshua: I did indeed go tangential to the topic, and having had my emotional rant, I will proceed no further.

    My own personal biggest social difficulty is the dreaded party where I don’t know very many people. I can’t always figure out a way to kick-start the socializing. If I can, it is usually fine from then on. It’s just getting past that initial wall.

    On the other hand, these days I have made peace with my wall-flower tendencies and tend to not stress out about it if I end up mostly just listening to other people’s discussions.

  68. @TheCzech: Arg, yeah the awkward silence kills. I’m actually much more talkative if the other person is talkative. I use that as a litmus test for people who are worth talking to. Chances are if we’ve got nothing to say we have not much in common anyway…or the person isn’t that outgoing either. Two wallflowers make a silent, awkward wallforest.

  69. @QuestionAuthority: yeah, I mean I’m glad that they’re happy and all, but I don’t announce it to everyone every time I do something that makes me happy.

    And if I do share something like that with someone, I certainly don’t expect them to buy me gifts because I chose to do something that made me happy.

  70. @Chew: while there might be a handful of IT workers that fit your stereotype, most of us work very hard and really are under a lot of stress.

    Think about, for example, a support role. No one really even knows you exist until something breaks, the majority of people you talk to are angry and frustrated (and usually taking it out on you), you’re constantly asked to do things that are impossible, and so on.

    I forgot where I heard the analogy, but it’s apt: “being an admin is a lot like being a doctor for a patient who won’t stop sticking a fork in his eye. When you try to remove the fork, he tells you ‘no! just take away the pain.’ And when you beg him to please, for the love of FSM, stop sticking a fork in your eye! …they tell you they know what they’re doing, thankyouverymuch, and you should mind your own business.”

    Now imagine all of that, and on top of it being subject to the whim of business requirements written by management who has no idea how hard or easy various parts of your job are, and if you try to explain why something is a difficult problem, you are seen as “not a team player”.

    IT workers are the Janitors of the Network, unfortunately — we do the nasty work that no one else wants to do, and we’re reviled for it.

  71. Alas, I have so many. In medicine we have to offer empathy – not sympathy. We are suppose to treat people – but we have to be disassociated to treat disease. If I thought about how I cut into a person, I would become nauseated. This ability to disassociate is vital to what we do. It does, unfortunately find its way into all my life. Close friends become problems, not people. People want me to be human – not a doctor. The blind spot– we are trained for it, selected for it, and never taught to separate ourselves from it. This presents a problem — I don’t suffer fools. While I avoid being brutal in honesty with patients – I cannot avoid it in others. When someone tells me about coffee enemas, homeopathy, acupuncture, herbs, and other nonsense — I cannot relate, I cannot abide, I cannot smile and walk away. As a teacher, a scientist, a doctor, one who loves to debate — well — you can only imagine the result. I deal with patients who have faith, who have preachers, and I have to respect their belief – I have to thank them when they say they will pray for my hands to heal their loved ones – but my discomfort is palpable. When celebrities have been my clients, and they babble nonsense – I treat them, street them and then when they attempt to engage me in their nonsense – it is a bit much. So it becomes evident in public forums where I reveal my contempt for their views. Some show more grace than I have. It doesn’t change my view of their false science – it makes me wish I had more of their grace.

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