Why I’m A Bad “Networker”
April 5, 2009, 10:42 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

Megan McArdle wrote a good post about “networking” which is hard to excerpt but a key part is:

[Good networkers are] people who like other people, who talk to other people because they are interested in them, […] Other peoples’ lives are interesting, even if they themselves aren’t fabulous raconteurs. A good networker is someone who starts out on the presumption that you must be interesting, and looks for the things that make you so.

Struck me as words of wisdom. Also brought up something that I usually suppress and try not to think about too much:

I don’t really like other people, and I’m actually not that interested in them.

I don’t mean that in a bad way, or anything. ;-) Certainly I don’t mind most other people. I think they’re fine and ok. And there are, of course, some I genuinely like. But the vast majority of people, while I’m sure they have details and stories and attributes and likes and dislikes that I could get into if I were forced into a conversation with them – that all just seems so tiring. And in the end, after all that effort of having a conversation, it’s just been my experience that there are very very few people who would have told me or revealed some truly ‘interesting’ thing that I would’ve found worth the trouble. Like, you have a sister in Duluth? Wow!

Everyone has details. And everyone’s details are slightly different. But that’s not enough to make them interesting, not to me.

It’s like the jokey “proof” of the statement that All (Integer, Positive) Numbers Are Interesting. 1. Surely there are some Interesting Numbers (and you list some: 60=seconds in a minute, 9 = months in a pregnancy, whatever). 2. If you claim that not all numbers are Interesting, that would mean that if I listed all the non-Interesting numbers, one of them would be closest to zero. 3. So it would be the Smallest Positive Non-Interesting Integer – but that would make it Interesting. 4. So there can’t be any non-interesting positive integers. QED. (And this proof could be expanded to negative numbers, etc. in the standard ways.)

That proof is a joke. A nerdy joke, but a joke. In reality nobody thinks all numbers are interesting. And so I have a hard time believing a person who claims to think all people are interesting – but if there are such people, then God bless ’em. But it doesn’t work for me.

At least when I was younger and not married, there was an obvious incentive involved in talking to other people, or trying to, or finding them interesting, or pretending to, or even (at least) paying attention to them. That being: to get chicks. I might want to talk to a chick for obvious reasons (because she was a chick), or, at minimum, I might want to talk to a dude because he might know such-and-such chick.

Period. I’m not entirely joking when I say that I don’t even recall any other reasons for ever wanting (truly wanting) to talk to a person.

But now I’m taken, and so even that incentive is gone.

A corollary is that I’d probably be a better networker if I weren’t married. But only because then I’d be talking to and pretending to be interested in people more often.

Anyway, this would explain why I’m not a good networker, and apparently, never shall be. As Megan says later, it can’t be faked. There are times when I have to try to fake it, and there’ve been times when I thought I should work on it more, but it’s nice to know that it actually can’t be faked – takes the pressure off.

Phew. I feel better now ;-)

6 Comments so far
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Oh, that’s why you don’t answer comments.
I know, man. I’m the same way; when I was in mid-school I remember a silly questionnaire the classmates were supposed to fill up, with idealized questions about “humanity”, “peace for the world”, and all that claptrap. I recollect my thinking when faced with the blunt question: “do you like humanity?”; I sincerely answered No. I thought – who is humanity? why would I love him/her? if I’m supposed to honestly love all the idiots, arrogant bullies and cheating bastards that surround me just in my immediate environment, and then to extrapolate it on the whole wider world – and still being expected to love them – what kind of moron you think I am?

Comment by ETat

The weird thing is, I don’t consider myself a hater of ‘humanity’. I’m in favor of humanity. I just don’t like that many humans. But not even that. Most people, if I get to know them, I end up liking.

But the real point is just that I’m not that interested in them. Conversing/getting to know huge #s of people seems like an awful lot of effort and at the end of the day it just doesn’t interest me all that much.

I don’t even know what to call this. ‘Misanthrope’ is incorrect. That’s not what I am. But what then? Maybe it’s just ‘laziness’ ;-)

Comment by Sonic Charmer

It’s called “introvert”, I think.

We had a different early life experiences then. I always knew that people are not humane, in their mass, and especially in their mass.Personal observations came to sharp contrast with official line, and nobody believed the official line, so I knew I’m onto something.

I can’t say people don’t interest me, they do – from a point of finding like-minded individuals to converse with. Popularity contestants impress me in a negative way. I prefer two-three adequate friends to 2000 barely recognizable acquaintances with all kinds of unpleasant surprises in their breast pockets.

Comment by ETat

One of my best friends has a t-shirt that says, “introvert”, all in lower case, in a very small font.

I love that shirt, and it says it all about my friend.

He’s a Christian blues/rock guitar player, and one time I said to him, “Hey dude, I downloaded this album of great new acoustic blues guitar player, and he’s playing bluesy versions of all these cool, old hymns, but I forgot to bring it to give it to you today.”

And he said, “Oh, that’s ok. It’s probably just one of those things that would end up in a pile in my house somewhere.”

Really, nothing interests the guy much other than himself listening to himself play the guitar, with the occasional sushi dinner thrown in in between. Oh, he also likes guitar tech stuff – pedals and amps.

Comment by Pastorius

As for Etat’s comment; I agree. Most of “humanity” is not humane. In fact, if the word humane is not even equatable to the word human. Humanity is a rare and priceless thing.

And, if it is one’s criteria for friendship, well then, good luck.

I find friend’s in what Sonic Charmer is calling “details.” I like my “introvert” friend, because he likes to listen to me and his wife drone on about theory, and because he likes sushi, and because I admire his simple aesthetic approach to life and music. As far as his overall worldview is concerned, I’d really rather not know, because I’m afraid I’d be sadly disappointed.

Another friend of mine, a drummer; I like him because he and I both like boxing, drumming, basketball, and dirty jokes. But, I know his worldview, and it is full of blacklore paranoia and hopenchange b.s. If he knew what I believe, I’m convinced he’d think I was a racist. Which would be an amazing leap on his part, considering I’m married to a non-white.

Another friend of mine, I like because he’s Irish, and like me, he’s kind of a stranger in a strange land. And, he’s a great salesman, and a somewhat inspiring person. However, his worldview includes being constantly unhappy with his marriage. I’m convinced he’d be unhappy in almost any marriage. And, I’m also convinced he’d be unhappy if he were not married at all. So, that’s not fun.

Ultimately, I just concentrate on those “details” which I find enjoyable, and try to allow “humanity” to take care of itself.

Oh, and by the way, one of my biggest hobbies is collecting mental images and soundbites of the foibles of my friends. I am tremendosly cynical, and my friends crack me up to no end. No matter how much I may like/love them, believe me, and the end of the night, I come home and say to my wife, “Wait til you get a load of this …”

And, we laugh and laugh.

In a way, I am like Sonic Charmer, just far more cynical.

Comment by Pastorius

I want that “introvert” t-shirt ;-)

Having thought on it some, my position is a bit more nuanced, I think. I *do* kinda like learning the details of people, as Pastorius describes. But my role in doing this is often as an amused bystander. It’s the interactions that I could often do without. Just another instance of me being a movie-watcher at heart, I suppose. Speaking of, I just came across an interesting movie quote

After digging I found it’s from the movie Barfly, and it goes:

Wanda: I can’t stand people, I hate them.
Henry: Oh yeah?
Wanda: Do you hate them?
Henry: No, but I seem to feel better when they’re not around.

I can relate to Henry’s statement…

Comment by Sonic Charmer

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