I Can't Even...
By Sara "Zarine" Jessop
Recently I have become aware that people clearly do not get any social training as children. This is no excuse, however, for becoming uncouth adults. I myself was raised by pirates. Somehow even they managed to instill basic manners in me such as saying please and thank you, but much of the rest I had to learn on my own. Some through some rather unfortunate trial and error in my younger years, some through careful observation of others, a good amount of reading about the topic, and of course a good healthy dose of common sense.
You all seem to have the trial and error method down, though whether or not you are learning anything from it is beyond my abilities to comprehend. More and more denizens of the Realms have upped their social game so there are more and more people for you to observe and emulate. We should all strive to provide a good example for those wishing to better their social skills. Common sense is hard to come by, despite it's name. It's something I often prescribe but cannot provide. But you all seem to have far better reading comprehension than I had initially imagined, so perhaps between my shining example and this article I can guide you in the right direction.
Often times in conversations people just do not seem to understand how to properly respond to certain social cues. Plebs always want to get too personal. Now, I am not speaking about when you are talking to close friends in an intimate setting. I am referring to how you should converse at grand social event where everything is just slightly impersonal. A certain level of aloofness needs to be maintained amongst the population to make these types of parties bearable. If folks start being too open and friendly we might all get to know each other and that would ruin everything. You should likewise use these suggestions when engaging in discourse with people whom you are not well acquainted with and thus do not have a personal connection to.
Most people commence an interaction by asking the simple question “how are you.” Despite this seeming like the perfect opportunity to unload all of your dirty laundry upon the unsuspecting questioner, it is not. “But Zarine, they asked!” They asked because it is polite and expected. They don't actually give 1.3 Saurabians about how you actually are. The proper response is “I'm well, how are you”, or some variation thereof, not an hour long rendition of 'woe is me'. No one wants an in depth description of your most recent medical issues, an update on your annoying children's unremarkable achievements, or really any description of your lifetime full of failure.
So restrain yourself from spewing unwanted information forth like verbal vomit, because eventually you are going to be on the receiving end of how the other person is doing and wouldn't you like to hear them say “I've been good as well”? If you break the social cycle by talking of personal things then they may follow suit and tell you all about their recent uninteresting and disturbing activities. Which brings me to my next point: don't reciprocate stupidity. Did you enjoy hearing all of that unnecessary verbiage? Of course not! So don't perpetuate it. Be the change you want to see in the Realms.
Eventually the conversation will either lapse and you will both move on to people you would rather be communing with, or it will continue on and get to a point where you are speaking of slightly more personal things. Dear reader, I am not saying that you can never speak of personal things, but there is a certain progression you are supposed to take to arrive at this point. A conversation is a journey, not a race. All information that you give should be asked for by the other participant and the information provided should succinctly answer the question asked. If they want you to elaborate they will request it.
There is a reason there is an emotional disconnect between people at social gatherings. Because we need it. Having everyone else's problems on your shoulders all of the time is draining. I speak to people every day. I get my fill of conversation. I also get my fill of people who pour their hearts out to me because they are paying me to care. There isn't a single marriage on the rocks within a hundred mile radius of the bath house that I don't know all the sordid details of. It leads to some good gossip in the upstairs parlor, but it is also rather exhausting to listen to everyone else's problems all of the time. At work it is part of my job. But at a social event, I am not obligated to listen to or care about your problems. So don't tell them to me unless I prompt you to.
Gossip about other people however, is a different story. Gossip should be shared early and often. Don't want to be gossiped about? There is a simple solution to that: Stop oversharing.
See you next Tuesday.
Zarine is the proprietor and Madam at Alchimia Lupanar, a magic marshal approved practitioner of medicine, an award winning author, and has 36 years of experience in giving her unsolicited opinion.