A Hack for the Unsociable

As an extremely unsociable person who is forced to come into contact daily with at least several people who expect verbal contact, I invent little hooks, or small entertaining anecdotes, that I can deliver without much effort. To give an example, my current seasonal hook is “there will be 5 languages spoken around my Thanksgiving table.” I have fed this hook to about half a dozen people today. It works well because I don’t have to come up with a new line for each individual who awaits verbal reinforcement from me. I don’t have to think about what to say at all. I memorize one line, and then people kind of start talking to themselves about it, and all I have to do is make encouraging noises while thinking about something else.

If I’m so unfortunate that I find myself having to go to a party, I prep a hook in advance, and then go from one little group to another, repeating it to each group in turn. It looks like I’m circulating, which gives me an excuse to disappear in the folds of the venue after a while.

People are like hungry birds, constantly needing to be fed with meaningless little chatter. I don’t understand this need but I have learned to pretend to participate.


9 thoughts on “A Hack for the Unsociable

  1. Yes, this is a great technique. I do a similar thing, where I save some innocuous and mildly amusing bit of news as a nugget to feed to people who want small talk. It can last me weeks!


  2. In Israel with this new government we are likely to have the unholy combination of right wing economic policies, imported from US via Kohelet Policy Forum, and welfare state for chosen groups (Haredi and national-religious Jews) 😦 😦 :

    // The new government is supposed to bring to a peak the connection of the decision-makers in Israel with the Kohelet Forum, a research institute that has been working in recent years to promote right-wing and conservative policies in all avenues of society in Israel, on issues related to the economy, law and even culture.

    The forum, which receives funding from libertarian American Jews, supports the annexation of the territories and opposes raising the minimum wage, and among other things has been accompanying right-wing politicians for several years, advising and actually outlining concrete steps. In the upcoming right-wing government, the forum is expected to be one of the policy dictators that influence it. In order to understand its general spirit, it is worth mentioning some of its position papers, which dealt with limiting the powers of the Attorney General, adding positions of trust for the sake of “increasing governance”, reducing support for academic courses that do not contribute to a salary advantage, adding difficulties for labor unions and opposing demonstrations during Corona.

    While Bennett focused more on taxation, Smotrich chose to focus on the public sector and the workers’ committees. He wants to completely give up tenure for employees in the civil service, and he proposed to tax civil servants retroactively for not being taken out on sick leave during the Corona period.

    he is also interested in reducing taxes, and in as much privatization as possible.

    In other words, a free market that is broken and brutal for the secular – and next to it a padded welfare state for the religious and ultra-Orthodox.

    The Ecclesiastical Forum doesn’t like this wording, but it really is. Smotrich needs Ecclesiastes to wink at liberal voters, and the privatization of education will allow him to take control of more centers of power. Religious-national education is already semi-privatized, and all the elites in this society study in private yeshiva , in ‘recognized unofficial’ education, which the state still budgets for, but in which they have more control over the content.”

    What does all this mean for the country?

    “This is actually a model of a clientist state – of favored clients. We like to compare Israel to European countries, trying to imitate their model, but in fact we are similar to countries in the Middle East – like in Syria they give more to the Alevis and in Jordan they give more to the tribe that is close to the king, the method is to give to whom who is close and whom you want to support you.”

    Full article (in Hebrew, can be google-translated):


  3. Really? This works?

    I mean, I’ve done it, but this is a thing I obsess over, like… if I have the same short conversation about topic H with too many people at church, will I become the “crazy H lady”? What if I forget which people I have had this conversation with, and end up repeating it with the same person?

    And then, you know, what if this fake, rehearsed, performed conversation is actively preventing me from finding that one person at the gathering with whom I can strike some common chord and reach geeky conversational nirvana, launching volubly and recklessly into arcane topics and learning fascinating new things… ?


    1. I do exclusivity instead of inclusivity.

      Dialling down my intensity doesn’t usually work anyway, and so I try to find someone who seems just as intense.

      Then we just double down on blocking out everyone else so that we can enjoy what we can get out of the gathering.

      When people show up that do what you’re doing, I have fun parodying it.

      “Ah, hello, we must have started off wrong … I’m Unscripted Person 1, this is Unscripted Person 2, we’re having a lovely unscripted time, how are you?”

      It’s not nice, but you know what else isn’t nice?

      Interrupting the conversations of people who are trying to have deeper ones by inserting badly staged linguistic hacks.

      And so I try to encourage awkward conversations because perhaps we could have Unscripted Person 3 join us.

      Yes, that’s right, we’re the Cool People, don’t you dare try to join us unless you already are us. 🙂


    2. … ah, er, meant to post that in the mainline as a response to Clarissa, didn’t notice where the reply box was …

      Well, that’s an awkward conversation for you. 🙂


  4. Экономгеограф Наталья Зубаревич в интервью Forbes: “Крупногородское, образованное, не старое население все понимает. Но те, кто в бизнесе, принимают ситуацию как данность и адаптируются к существующим условиям. Они не обременяют себя часто причинно-следственными связями. Почему им сейчас надо устраивать вот такую вот чехарду? Они догадываются, но думать об этом не хотят.

    В перифериях просто нет навыков логического мышления, никакая экономическая аргументация не пробивает [людей]. Люди там покупали дешевые товары в основном, были обвешаны кредитами, а сейчас уйдешь в армию, тебе кредит или простят или отложат. Очень многие жили от своего огорода.

    Что поменялось? Ничего. А тут еще возможность заработать, а тут еще ты родину защищаешь. Я пытаюсь донести до этой московской тусовки, что вы не очень хорошо понимаете страну. Страна не совсем такая, как мы себе ее представляем в Москве.

    Выставлены все мыслимые и немыслимые барьеры, чтобы не думать, чем это [«спецоперация»] может закончиться. Человек, погруженный в заботы выживания, в целом неэмпатичен, потому что все его силы уходят на выживание.

    Мир ограничен выживанием и сохранением бондингового социального капитала — это взаимоотношения с близким кругом, то есть родней и несколькими друзьями, которые, если что, тебе помогут. А вот бриджинговый социальный капитал — когда вы общаетесь с широким кругом людей, и надо быть априори эмпатичным, чтобы это общение существовало, — это не про них. Не надо этих людей ругать, они просто живут другой жизнью.

    Это издержки чудовищного обнищания значительной части российского населения. У 40% россиян денежные доходы ниже чем у среднего жителя РСФСР в 1991 году.

    В значимой своей степени Россия — бедная страна. Ведет себя как бедная страна: «Я забочусь о себе, о своем близком круге, остальное меня не касается».

    Вы становитесь включенным в более широкий мир, когда у вас появляются возможности. А возможности держатся во многом на доходах и на образовании. В России сейчас люди среднего класса тоже пошли вниз, в сторону выживания. Потому что родное государство четко таргетировано на свой базовый электорат пенсионеров, на поддержку уязвимых групп населения. И ему в общем по барабану этот самый средний класс: «Ребятки, ну у вас есть какие-то компетенции, какие-то навыки — крутитесь».

    Поэтому мы фактически воспроизводим отсталую и ущербную модель человеческого капитала. И никакими рассказами о том, какие у вас будут экономические потери, это не снимается».


    1. This is an attempt at justification. I’ve heard it all a million times. “If only somebody gave us more money, we’d not behave like homicidal maniacs and wouldn’t rape toddlers.” It’s always the same. Always somebody else to blame. Always some mysterious “government” that didn’t do enough for them, which somehow justifies their horrific behavior.


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