The Conversation Problem

The first hint occurred after a meetup. As we trooped off to the pub, everyone split up. Into their pre-existing groups.

I wasn’t shocked. There would be someone to talk to. Or ask questions. Or if none of the above applied, I’d leave silently.

But one of the group I was with that night said this. The only people who really make friends in Sydney are the leftovers. Everyone else in Sydney keeps to their schoolfriend group and doesn’t befriend anyone outside of that. 

I didn’t accept that. Until I read this Why it’s so hard to make friends in Australia’s biggest city. And so many patterns fell into place.

But naturally,  I thought it was me. Maybe I talked too much. Maybe I talked too little. Maybe I didn’t listen. Maybe I didn’t follow up if the person wanted to see me again.

Perhaps now none of the above ever applied.

Of course with most meetups, there’s a core group and a floating population. Yet most times, the floaters were long-term Sydney residents and the core were outsiders.

The floaters would inevitably disappear. Or attend so intermittently that one lost continuity.

And the pattern I noticed, with the floaters, was almost an aversion to long conversations. Nearly everyone spoke to time (not me despite Toastmasters). Meaning that rarely anything interesting or meaningful was said. Or as I said to myself. whether at work, or  outside it, Andrew, your time ends now.

And consequently, when I did ask people about themselves, (as per my mother’s advice to my brother), they’d close up.

Except for the exceptions however. Those that did open up to me didn’t know what to do. And their reactions were extreme.

The most negative example was a person who on a walk told me her autobiography. And then more or less ignored me the second time we met. For she had said too much the first time. We did eventually talk and I worked it out what happened. But I left the group for good. Not again. And my heart breaks for the truth I found.

But the most positive example was a person who also told me her autobiography. And learnt some of mine. But left me with more wisdom than I could pay for. It cost me a cappuccino.

Hopefully more exceptions exceed expectations like that…

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