Looking for a good NormalSpeak course, preferably by correspondence

want to watch a fish seriously out of water? place an introvert in a social gathering consisting of more than, I’d say, six people and you will see someone seriously struggling to breathe. and it’s so much worse when you’re actually surrounded by people that you do generally like and want to communicate with. it would be different if it was something you were doing just out of duty – a work drinks party that you just go to for a short while so as not to offend whoever’s birthday it is, or a boring conference that everyone moans about having to attend. but yesterday I was at the graduation ceremony for my counselling course and I was surrounded by my classmates, who are all people that I feel in some way connected to with this special bond of people who have survived something really tough together. of course you connect more closely with some than with others, but there’s no one in my class who I wasn’t pleased to see there, each of these people has become special to me and, in some peculiar way, I love them all.

after the ceremony there was afternoon tea – sandwiches, cakes, tea, coffee, some kind of cold drinks which I didn’t explore as they looked kind of chemical so I got water from the machine instead. it was a hot and sunny afternoon and we all headed outdoors, shunning the comfy sofas and armchairs of the lounge in favour of the garden furniture or, for those young and fit enough, the grass.

I did manage to have a few really good conversations with some people, and that’s what made it worth the effort. But I find it so hard to actually get a good conversation in these situations. First of all, you come outside with your drink and look around and have to somehow decide which group of people to head for, and then you have to try and somehow edge your way into the conversation, and it all stays at the shallow end for ages. Once you’ve worked out that this is all that’s ever going to happen round this table, you use some excuse to get up – going to get another drink/more cake/whatever – and hope to collide with someone who does actually want to talk for real.

That process can continue for a long while, having a whole load of non-conversations with people until – at last – you find a soul mate and sit down happily to talk about what’s really been going on in your lives.

until someone else turns up, of course…

But you may be wondering what that stuff in the title was about.

The thing is, in all these various conversations you have in these kind of situations, things come up and I absolutely know that my reaction was totally weird but I have no idea what normal people would have said.

Like, what do you say when you meet a girl you haven’t seen for half a year except for facebook and the last you heard was she’d finally broken up with that guy and she is now standing in front of you with a very nice looking bloke by her side and after you and she chat for a bit she suddenly remembers about introductions and says: This is [insert name here], my new man.

These are the sorts of times when I know that if this was happening on multiply or on facebook I’d be fine because I’d have all the time in the world to think about a response.

or, later, when I bumped into someone I hadn’t seen for even longer – she was in our first year but not in the second, and was there as a guest this time – and she said she’s getting married next month.

I think the word I was fumbling for was “congratulations”, but it definitely didn’t come out at the time. I was trying to think what to ask, and I still haven’t a clue what would be an appropriate question. I mean, what I want to know is: who is he? But how do you ask that, in a way that doesn’t sound like you’re completely surprised that there actually is someone who is marrying her?

*sigh* if you do hear of a good course in NormalSpeak do let me know, but as an introvert I would much prefer if it was a correspondence course – having to go out and meet people is… well… you see what I mean…

8 thoughts on “Looking for a good NormalSpeak course, preferably by correspondence

  1. Somehow I think a correspondence course for something like this just wouldn't work. It really is an immersion kind of thing. I found I got over the hump after taking an intensive public speaking course. Once you get comfortable with talking in front of an audience then talking in a small group becomes effortless. Of course, there will always be those small groups that you find yourself in saying, "How do I politely get out of this because me and these loons have nothing in common."

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  2. oh, you're absolutely right, Michael – my reference to a correspondence course was tongue in cheek, I'm sure the only way to learn this stuff is through practice.interesting what you say about public speaking – that's something that I did learn to cope with, just through being in situations where I had to do it. I was very very very nervous to start with, but came to actually enjoy it. But here's the big difference: in public speaking you are (mostly) the one who is in charge of the situation, you (normally) prepare beforehand what you're going to say, whereas in these sort of party situations you have to keep improvising, you never know what's coming and you have to respond quickly. Which is when my foot gets inserted in my mouth so firmly, it's amazing that I can carry on speaking…

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  3. well i've had to start many conversations with a lot of different teens through the years (that i had no clue who they were) or even conversations with ones that disappeared and came back. i'd be more than happy to help you, if you want. if not, here's some unsolicited ideas that help me get things rolling.i find it's easier to ask the questions than to try to talk about my life so i usually start with, "how's life?" it's a little more personal than "how are you" and yet vague enough that they don't have to go into details if they don't want to (but i have my mother's gene and people tell us everything usually). even the generic question of "so, what's new with you?" could fit in here.as in the case of the girl with the new fella, a good question to ask would be, "so, tell me how you two met!" although not really a "question", it shows you're "enthusiastic" about this and she will gush with probably all the details you really wanted to know.

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  4. and just so you know, it's perfectly okay to be quiet. once you get them started, more people than not will want to fill that silence with something. although they may ask you about your life.and we've all had those foot-in-mouth moments. my worst one was there was this gentleman at our church who just lost his wife to breast cancer. i went up to him and offered a hug, said i was sorry, and then for no sufficient reason, i added, "that's life."he handled it well. he kinda looked surprised and then he said, "ya know, you're right." i'll never know if he was okay with me saying that but from then on i just say "i'm sorry" and stifle the rest. :)

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  5. thanks for the tips, Shell, and for sharing your own foot-in-mouth moment… and yes, I'm sure if I'd have asked how they'd met she'd have been happy to tell me, it's just that with me, I'd only think about that question about three hours later… it's like my curiosity takes a very long time to kick in, so I hear someone's news and think, oh, ok, and can't think of anything to ask there and then. Whereas if they said something about emotions, I'd be totally within my element… or if they expressed an opinion about something and I could get into a debate… either of those will do just fine for me, either listening to someone talking about their feelings or having a discussion about some controversial issues… just not the sort of stuff that most people seem comfortable talking about – that's where I am totally out of my depth…

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  6. yea, that's why i keep those two questions in my little pocket as my normal questions. that way i don't have to think. sometimes i can't think of anything either, or if i do, it's usually me cracking a joke about something….really it's just the one question: how's life. i take that one with me wherever. it gets hard when people say, "good" and that's it.of course if you like to talk about emotions you could start with "how's life" and when they say "good" you could go on to say…and how does that make you feel? (in your best freudian voice.) :)see. cracking a joke.

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  7. lol… yes, I do often crack jokes as a way of making conversation – the trouble is sometimes they're the wrong jokes… and yes, really hard when someone gives you a one word answer, and you think, oh, ok, where do I go from there…I do think "how's life" is a good question, it's very open, it leaves people free to take it in whichever direction they want. I hate the "how are you" question because I often feel people ask it whilst actually not wanting to hear the real answer. I also really hate being asked "what have you been up to" because I feel all defensive when I'm asked that, because in my case the answer is usually "by most people's standards, not a lot". But the more general "how's life" or "how's things" – I think that's really good and non-threatening.

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  8. oh yea! the wrong jokes…or the right joke, wrong person….i have that issue sometimes. but then i just laugh and move on. :)so many people ask "how are you" alongside "hi" and then they just keep on walking. and when i'm asked "what have you been up to" my brain goes blank cause i don't know where to start.i think you just need some good "generic" phrases to keep in your pocket for those times when your mind goes blank. sometimes it's those little things that make us feel safe in those great big groups.

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