conversation is an engine

A lot can happen in a conversation

When Talking with the Queen: Do You Avoid Conversation Because of Social Status?

leave a comment »

Have you had this experience?

Tell me in a comment (I won’t make it public unless you grant permission)

tumblr_mj8ak31l8X1rwtjveo1_500-02192013Consider the lowly species of a short, thin 7th grade boy. This particular boy wants to ask a girl to the school dance. As a 7th grader, he is on the lowest end of the social structure: 8th– and 9th-grade boys cherry-pick the pretty and popular girls and have no problem asking out the 7th grade girls out. This particular 7th grader has his eye on a brown-haired girl he likes. She is pretty and popular and funny—and also very much out of his league. She seems to exist in an alternate universe at the center of activity and power in his 7th grade class. To even speak with this lovely being would be a huge, baffling step. How to accomplish such a feat from his place of dwelling in weakness?

This is one of the problems of conversation. We sometimes find ourselves tongue-tied around people we perceive as having higher social status. Talking with the teacher or principal or Queen or CEO or chief cardiologist or the pretty, popular girl can bring to mind our inadequacies. And with those neon inadequacies before us, we lose all semblance of ordered thought and advance toward becoming the tittering sycophant.

When our kids were in middle school and high school I sometimes tried to convince them that social structures and cliques were all enculturated figments of the collective imagination. Some people seemed more popular, some people seemed at the center of things, but if you asked them, nearly everyone felt alienated and isolated.

“Pretend power is the nature of our schools,” I would say. “Any school.”

Social structure is all make-believe: blow through it. Talk to whomever you like.

But then I would remember my own high school experience where cliques were both fiction and real and ruled the place—somehow the student body agreed on who the cool people were. How did that happen? And then I remembered the same unwitting agreement happened in other organizations. In fact, get a group together and there always seems to be some popular person at the center. And then there is everyone else.

But today: do you ever avoid conversations because you feel less powerful or less popular than the person you would speak with? And how do you overcome that? Do those feelings still exist in the adult world and if so, how do they hold you back?


Image credit: queataquemasgratuito via 2headedsnake

Written by kirkistan

March 19, 2013 at 8:54 am

But wait--what do you think? Tell me:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: