Autopilot offline; socializing manually
Okay, confession time. Manual cars drive me up the wall. (Though by some miracle, to date, not through one)
I can drive a manual; I’ve driven dozens of hours in one, actually. But it never stopped annoying me. It felt so unnecessary; why complicate an already complicated task with a set of gears and an awkward transition method? Changing to an auto felt like going from crutches to walking freely.
I realize this metaphor is more laboured than the average childbirth, but in a lot of ways, socializing for me requires a similar manual inputs of things that should be automatic. The difference is that the benefits of socializing are worth it, and I’m slightly less likely to cause a multi-vehicle pileup by socializing.
For example, I’ll be talking to someone, and inside my skull it’ll be like, “should I smile in response to that or not? How wide should I smile? Am I doing this right, or do I look like The Joker? Wait, is this body language OK? I’m not being rude am I? What should I do with my arms? Let them hang down by my sides? Crossing them is bad, right? Am I furrowing my brow too much, should I open my eyes wider so I don’t look stern? Is this too wide? I don’t wanna look like I’m mocking them or high on Prozac…” And so on.
It’s not easy, and on more than one occasion I’ve come across as rude or standoffish without meaning to, but you know how they say the best way to learn a language is to go where it’s spoken and immerse yourself in it? Well, luckily for me, body language is all around me, and I can learn from it every day.
I observe how other people stand and hold their arms when they talk, or what movements and gestures they make, then manually emulate these mannerisms.
It may never come automatically to me, but the more I practice, the better I get.