For those of you who watched “The Sopranos”, you may recall that when Christopher decides to go clean, he stays away from the other mobsters who are always drinking.
Tony takes him to task for not keeping tabs on things. “This is a social business”, he tells Christopher.
All business is at least somewhat social, some very social. One thing I didn’t like about “The Sopranos” was they were always talking on cell phones. In reality talking any illegal business on a phone is pretty dangerous and all such conversations would be conducted face to face. When people meet they like to eat and drink; thus being a recovering alcoholic mobster would be pretty difficult. Not to mention that people somehow trust and like people they eat, and especially drink with. See my earlier mention of work socializing.
There are various degrees of this, with different goals. You have to be comfortable and functional with the basic ones at least.
The first level is that people must think you are at least acceptable, and not offensive. This is harder than it would seem. Just showing up, keeping your head down, doing your job and going home is not enough. You have to greet everyone in a friendly manner, ideally with a bright smile. Don’t assume that because people don’t greet you they don’t want to talk to you or don’t care. One of the strange things about people is that even if they never greet you or make any effort to make you feel welcome, if you don’t do it to them they will think you are a jerk. It’s dumb, and it’s not fair, but that is the way people are.
One of the difficulties of low social status, particularly for men, is you become kind of invisible. Part of this may be if you spend a lot of time in a hostile environment- family or school- as a child, you develop a way of not drawing any attention to yourself. This may be by walking calmly and quietly, not making eye contact, and appearing focused on your own thoughts. This discourages positive attention and a certain amount of negative attention, but does nothing to deter real bullies, and may even encourage them. No one can physically attack you as an adult, and verbal attacks are discouraged, so make yourself visible. Walk with an upright posture, relaxed and confident. Have an open facial expression, and scan and observe the area around you. If you are ignored a lot you may have trouble drawing attention. Look at people and attempt to make eye contact, but only for about two seconds or so. Longer and it seems like you’re staring at them or begging them to notice you.
When you get eye contact, say “Good morning!” or “How are you today?” or some other innocuous, friendly greeting with a smile or at least a relaxed, pleasant look on your face. If you know their name, include it. They may want to chat, but we’ll deal with that later.
Get used to the idea that the same people who would have yelled “Faggot!” or “What are you looking at, faggot?” or “Get the hell away from me, faggot!” when you were in high school will feel terribly snubbed if you ignore or avoid them now. And I mean the actual same people sometimes. I have a couple of times met people as an adult who were really mean to me as a kid, and they seem to remember us as being friends. Again, yes, people are evil and disgusting but until you become emperor of the world you have to deal with them on their terms.
What have you accomplished with this effort? Surprisingly little. You have merely persuaded your coworkers you are a normal human being and not some weirdo who skulks around silently and may be a serial killer. However this is absolutely necessary, since you can’t afford to have people you work with think you may be a serial killer, even though actual serial killers tend to be handsome, charming, and outgoing like Ted Bundy. Yes, Ted Bundy would have been a lot more popular at the office than you.
The next level is what people call “small talk” and I will get to that another time.