Sunday, January 28, 2007

Another Confession: Acting too Generic

Since I can't seem to manage my time well enough to actually work on my writing, today's entry will center on my acting like an ass last night. To some degree it touches upon writing, or characters in writing, as Denis McGrath has addressed it in The Eyeballs of Men. I don't really know how much I can add to it here, but maybe something will come out of it.

Small lead up: after my day of work on Friday, when my immediate supervisor had the day off, I metaphorically slapped myself a couple times because I slacked off big time. I really should have tried to learn more and take on more responsibilities, especially if I want to get a raise after my 6-month review.

Thinking about my slacking there also brought up my feeling deficient about not really acting very outgoing in the office. At least, not like my dad, who got into some actually itneresting conversations with people while selling and maintaining insurance policies. Who would have thought that a trip to your insurance agent could provide for an interesting experience? And why couldn't I do the same thing? Then after seeing him do it all the time, I see new my employers doing something similar, instead they go out to meet people.

Friday night, the fiancee and I went out to Naperville (which inspired me to come up with: "Where Chicagoans go to die.') to see Dawn play. I didn't care too much about going out into public or really getting too social, except that I knew I should do it. I should do it to feel more comfortable in social situations and get that gift of gab.

Back when I worked at Blue Green, I had to gab. I had to get into conversations with people. Other people did better than me, but I had gotten to a good point of talking with people. Sure, they all had the goal of getting them make an appointment for a tour. Nonetheless, that position got me to push myself.

Then, at Fannie Mae, I got into some pretty natural, organic conversations with some co-workers. I had a good time there until they dropped me all the sudden. And now I'm working at an insurance agency, again, not really knowing how to have conversations again.

And last night (Saturday), I feel like I had a revelatory moment, one of those times that it feels like life hits you between the eyes. I won't go into too many details, but I pretty much tried to enter into conversations with a mostly female crowd in a male fashion. To summarize for people not familiar with the differences, men regularly rag on each other and focus more on action-oriented experiences while, supposedly, women actually have conversations and talk about feelings.

Before I go on, for the people who read this blog and were at the karaoke bar, please, let's not talk about specifics on this here blog. As for even talking about specifics, I will gladly take the blame for dumbness. I feel like I acted like something of a dumb ass that night.

I think I've been entering into conversations in a semi-male fashion lately, too. Not so much in regards to ragging on people, but in the way that I approach a topic head on, even as I argue against the way I approach the issue. I've approached conversations more from an "ethics of justice" approach rather than an "ethics of care" approach. There's a place for "ethics of justice" as much as we need to make room for an "ethics of care" approach. Nonetheless, I don't like taking a solely "ethics of justice" approach.

My problem with the "ethics of justice" approach originates in the fact that it relies on people's rights. Yes, rights have provided civilization with a good stepping stone for treating people in better ways than in the past.

From where do rights originate, however? I won't get too deep into the matter. I'll just say that a political right comes down to a person demanding that they get treated in a certain way. And from a political philosophy reference, those rights come from individualism, possessive individualism or the economic rational man.

In other words, Western political philosophy has essentially established certain negative rights because without people agreeing to them, we would supposedly have anarchy. But, in the long run, until very recently, only white men got those rights.

White men essentially got those rights and freedoms of individualism because everyone else provided them with a supportive foundation for economic and rational freedom. Without that supportive foundation (in other words, if men had an equal share of domestic or reproductive responsibilities), they wouldn't necessarily have come up with all their innovations, or at the very least, individualism wouldn't have the form it has now.

Political philosophy would probably have more emphasis on the community and a person's embeddedness in that community. But by trying to rag on people Saturday night, trying to have them give me their rapt attention and provide me with a degree of support (at the fiancee's birthday party, at that!), I found myself supporting the dominator, male individualism at the center of my culture. Instead of trying to have a sincere conversation between people, I tried to create my own personal supportive foundation.

I doubt my co-diners have had the same reaction as me. Nonetheless, after coming home, I found myself somewhat distraught and angered by the whole experience. I, admittedly, had felt self-righteously wronged. After starting to read a book called Conversationally Speaking: Tested New Ways to Increase Your Personal and Social Effectiveness by Alan Garner, I began to see the error of my conversational strategies of late and the opportunities they've made me miss.

The Blue Green position had taught me some useful skills for having conversations, especially active listening, which includes focusing more on what you want to say than actually listening. I came to see that approach as useful for the event marketing situation, though, and eventually had just started approaching each encounter formulaicilly. Find people with just the slightest interest in the product (walk away from the ones I could sense didn't have an immediate interest) then build up the excitement for the product and me. Until that last crazy woman, this approach worked pretty well and got results I wanted.

Getting dropped by Fannie Mae didn't necessarily help. Thinking back to it, the actual dropping didn't get to me that much. The temp jobs I got afterward did. A couple companies asked me back a couple times, one to do receptionist work with very minimum activity or any real intereaction and the other, to take notes and transcribe market research interviews. Social interaction reduced to a minimum. I think my social skills got a little rusty, and my self esteem took something of a beating without getting responses to my job querying.

In the end, I need to actively work on my conversational skills. Conversing like a guy doesn't help me at work nor do I necessarily want to act like a generic guy. Sure, I could somewhat miss out on something of a full experience. Looking back into my history, though, I can see myself experiencing life more fully when not conversing like a guy. Sure, I wanted attention just as much and didn't get it when I REALLY wanted it, but when things worked, THEY REALLY WORKED.

This whole experience and some research I'll do into it has provided me some interesting data to use for writing. I can apply it quite a bit to the main character of that short story I want finish relatively soon. In addition, though, this whole experience has provided me with an interesting direction to think about my personally perceived dysfunctions. Possibly, I don't have some crazy deep psychological emotional abandonment issue, as I had thought at times. Maybe I just never really had good conversation skills taught to me in the past, which then led to not so positive encounters with people. Just the possibility of this having occurred gives me tons of hope, not only of having good conversations in the future but also for reconciling negatively perceived past relationships.

If that doesn't provide for plenty of story fodder, I don't know what will. . ..

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