I realized recently that my entire family is socially adept except for me.

Meaning, they’re incredibly comfortable with and skilled at conversation. It’s pretty amazing. Like, my sister can talk to anyone. Even when she first meets them, she talks to them in a way that’s so familiar and comfortable that the person she’s talking to can’t help but be comfortable. And it pretty much doesn’t matter how old the person she’s talking to is – she’s the same way. It’s amazing.

My parents are the same way. I’ve always known my dad was socially skilled, because he’s a pastor. One of the most important skills a pastor needs is saying the right thing. It’s amazing how many things come down to that. But yeah, he’s done it for a long time and he’s good at it. Even before he was a pastor, he was the one people would naturally turn their heads to when there was a lull in conversation.

What I didn’t realize was how skilled socially my mom was also. I just had an opportunity to watch her and my dad interact with people they had met for the first time and it was amazing. I was somewhat afraid that things would be uncomfortable, as they’re different from my parents, but it was the most comfortable thing in the world. Just, they were both accommodating and engaging in conversation and it was almost like watching a great play in sports – just wonderful to behold.

By the way, with my parents this only applies to Korean. Hope they don’t read this but yeah, they still make slight faux pas with English. Uh, I won’t say who said what but yeah, one time we went to McDonald’s and someone asked what was on sale. The combination of awkward English and cheapness kills me.

Other time we were at a store and I guess the way you ask certain questions in Korean is in the negative. But if you translate that literally in English it sounds accusatory. So the question was, “Don’t you have an oil filter?” I dunno, maybe it’s just me but it was embarrassing.

Anyway, they’re all socially skilled, which makes me wonder why I’m so socially inept. Actually, that’s overstating it a little. Maybe you disagree, but if you put me in my element, I think I’m great socially. Both comfortable and engaging in conversation. But that’s completely limited to my element. Which is, roughly, Asian Americans, Christians, and engineers. The more categories someone fits, the better I am with them.

Put me outside my element and I’m a complete mess. Actually, that’s still not completely true. As I’ve mentioned before, I can be great with random service people in stores and whatever. Just not at work I guess.

We had this company wide conference for a couple days and it was really interesting. Lots of observations, but what interested me most were the social things I noticed. Like, in a lot of ways, the engineers are the most important part of the company. I mean, you need everyone, and everyone is vital. But, I mean, the engineers are the first ones hired and the last ones fired. There’s a reason for that.

But socially, they’re at the bottom of the scale. Is it like that everywhere? I don’t have enough experience to say. But yeah, there’s definitely a social scale at work. Dunno how to explain it, just a social visibility and comfortability thing. At the top level is management. Then I’d say HR. Then sales, marketing, others. At the bottom is engineering. A very important group, but with little social visibility.

In a way, that kind of sucks. Just, the way the world is, in many ways, appearances are more important than substance. That’s how you’re valued, how you come across, and I guess there’s no alternative. It’s just, this naturally rewards the best talkers, those who present themselves the best way socially. I don’t think you can succeed in management unless you learn to be a good talker. It’s just a necessary skill. And if you’re a good talker, you’re perceived as being more valuable. My take, at least.

That’s not really accurate, actually, since like I said, the engineers are the first ones hired, last fired. So the people who need to know obviously know what’s truly valuable. But I dunno, I just get this feeling that engineers are just looked upon as this weirdo group of people. Almost a necessary evil. Need them, but just a bunch of weirdos.

Which I actually take full advantage of. I dunno, I say if people have low expectations of hygiene for engineers, I’m going to exploit that. Why make the effort if you don’t have to?

Anyway, yeah, that’s the engineers, at the bottom of the social totem. And I’m at the bottom of that group. Just, put me in a group with sales and marketing people, or actually anyone who isn’t an engineer, and I’m terrible. I don’t say a word. I can’t break into the conversation. Even if I could, I don’t know what I would say.

What I hate is how I’m completely fulfilling the Asian stereotype. Quiet and shy and nerdy. But it’s hard for me to escape that. It’s who I am. I’ve made significant progress, I think. I’m a lot better at interacting with older people than when I started. But I still have a while to go, especially when I’m out of my engineering element. Does it come with time or experience? Or is it just who I am? I dunno, I guess we’ll see.

Uh, no real point to this. Just, for a bunch of reasons I’ve been thinking about social comfortability and stuff like that. And just realizing how socially incapable I am when I’m in random groups. I’m just not assertive enough to be a contributor – I need someone to initiate with me. And I hate that about myself. Not just because a good portion of how much the world values you is based on how well you can talk. But also because it’s a vital skill, whether it gives you glory or not, it’s just something everyone needs to learn to do. And I’m getting better, but still pretty bad. I guess it’s something I should pray for.

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