Yes, time for me to come clean. Time to spill the beans. This is it, this is what plagues me. Forever.
First of all, I’m a terrible conversationalist. And if I’m attempting to carry a conversation with people I don’t know, my unskillful verbal style is exponentially aggravated and I sound like a complete, stuttering retard. With people I’m familiar with, and speak to often, I can carry a decent conversation, but it’s rare and confined.
More often than not, words bottleneck in my mouth and what comes out is a pile of awkward rubbish.
Like I said, in situations where I’m speaking to strangers or unfamiliar people, or in which there is more than one listener, I come across as a non-speaking shadow man, or if I try to speak, as a bumbling moron. I’m the worst public speaker and an even worse interviewee. In fact, I was interviewed once by an internet radio show (courtesy of this damned blog) and it was the most mortifying experience in the world. I’ve never had the heart nor the guts to listen to that performance. Just thinking of my ridiculous replies makes me cringe still, almost 3 1/2 years later.
My brain ceases to function when it becomes too aware of its own need to conjure speech with unfamiliar people. This is the key. Or with multiple people.
Case in point (#1): I needed to meet with a project manager a few days ago while she picked my brain for some background info and knowledge. I was quite relieved we met alone in her office. This was my pathway to excellence, for my performance was fantastic. I spoke slowly and deliberately, and in spite of a few verbal stumbles, I did well in conveying the information she needed. Now…she needed to do this again for a different aspect of my knowledge (let’s say) a few days later. The second meeting was held in the same office but this time her office mate was present. That fucking distracted me, hampered my thoughts, my flow. I sucked. I had the worst time relaying what I needed to in a comfortable and relaxed fashion. I stumbled on words and concepts and I was of no help. I’m only coherent if I’m speaking with one person.
Case in point (#2, more galling): An exchange I shared the other day with some people I’m just now becoming “acclimated” to. I don’t know them very well and all my conversations with them are self-conscious forays into verbal stumbling. Still, I persist! Anyway, the subject of a mutual acquaintance, who I’ve never met, came up. She is renowned for being obnoxiously egotistical and self-involved. Her reputation for steering all conversations back to herself and her flagrant opining on all matters is the stuff of legend among this circle of friends. Now I get to meet this person in the next couple of months. Learning of this, they all looked at me with pity and consternation. “You’re going to meet XXXXXX?” was the collective sympathetic drone. “Poor you!”
Now I’m not worried about meeting her, nor do I particularly dread it. I tend to be a rather patient, tolerant kinda guy. And this is what I meant to impart to the group as I spoke with them. But as I said, I’m not familiar with them, and I’m not extremely comfortable expressing myself when more than one person (much less strangers) are listening. So what did I say? How did this drivel sound when it came out my mouth?
“Oh, it’s OK, I’m sure it’ll [meeting XXXXX] be fine. I’m very adaptive.”
Now I meant to really say patient, tolerant, something normal that people can relate to. Normal layman’s language.
Who in the world says adaptive? Oh my poor, tired head.