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My wife is boring

(71 Posts)
sands67 Sat 05-Apr-14 12:14:57

OK, to sort out the flamers and haters from the helpers. Let me clarify. My wife is not very good in social situations. She struggles to converse and I would like some constructive advice on how to help please.

Making friends has always been difficult for her, long before she met me probably since school. When I first met her I couldn't understand why she didn't have more friends. She is a nice person, caring, thoughtful, helpful, genuine and one of the most simple and straightforward people I have ever met.

Yet people will make reasons not to meet up with her or politely avoid her in social situations. She thinks it is because she comes across as stand offish because she avoids conversation. I think part of that is true but having been out on many occasions I think it simply because she is not very good at making conversation, she can be a bit boring. Ironically she is not boring, she has a real zest for life, she is a successful business person and very good at what she does. But socially...she struggles.

I have wondered whether I should try and explain this, but to basically tell her she is boring would be devastating to her. I would like to help her but I am not very good at being supportive. She doesn't have many friends yet you wouldn't hope to find a better friend.

She had been at a business event and someone she met on the first week, really liked and thought she had got on with very clearly avoided her this week and it brought out all her insecurities.

I took the opportunity to give her a couple of books that I ordered for her a couple of years ago, books along the lines of "the art of conversation". I can't remember what specific event made me buy them or why she wouldn't read them but I gave them to her, she looked a little flat when I did (unsurprisingly).

I tried to find a course that she could go on "better conversation" on Google brought up language classes and other phrases didn't' fare any better so I wondered if there was anyone on here that could suggest ways to help. Soft skills classes, social skills courses. That sort of thing or even some practical advice. It is making her unhappy and I want to change that.

mrscumberbatch Sat 05-Apr-14 12:17:32

Why doesn't she try an adult amateur dramatics class?

It's great for getting out of yourself and builds confidence.

There's nothing wrong with your wife, she just hasn't met the right people yet to bounce off of.

MummyCoolski Sat 05-Apr-14 12:20:35

Have you read the books? If so, could you chat with her about the contents in a conversational way so that she gets to hear the tips without having to have a conversation about how people find her difficult to talk to?

Lovingfreedom Sat 05-Apr-14 12:25:45

Has your boring wife asked for your help or for recommendations of books or training courses? I'm assuming you are well meaning but I think you're in danger of getting something shoved up your arse upsetting your wife

sands67 Sat 05-Apr-14 12:26:28

@mrscumberbatch i think her confidence would hold her back, to stand up in front of people (even though she can and does do it) fills her with dread.

@mummycoolski - you know what, I haven't. Thats a really simple idea, thank you.

Toohardtofindaproperusername Sat 05-Apr-14 12:27:59

Does she want help with this issue? If so - encourage her to post and ask for it herself..... ?

Toohardtofindaproperusername Sat 05-Apr-14 12:29:32

X post - same as lovingfreedom! Potentially patronising....?

MummyCoolski Sat 05-Apr-14 12:29:38

Glad to be of help!

You seem like you really care about helping and that you realise it's not going to be easy for her, which I imagine will be a good start. Tread carefully!

BoffinMum Sat 05-Apr-14 12:33:06

A couple I know did a drama improvisation course together which proved very successful.

Out of interest, are your in-laws poor conversationalists?

HecatePropylaea Sat 05-Apr-14 12:35:12

If she has expressed unhappiness then it is entirely reasonable for you to suggest things that you think might help her.

Under no circumstances utter the word boring grin

Instead, talk about struggling in social situations.

That's what my husband does for me.

Because I am very much like your wife.

He has taught me how to mimic the social dance. I still don't understand why most of it is done, but I understand that it is. Once you know what is expected, it's easier to fake it. Those initial interactions - they are the key. Learn them and you can create rapport and progress to the next level.

I have learned patterns of eye contact. - too much or too little are both a problem. I have learned a formula for social interactions that, basically is about obtaining two pieces of information for every one you offer. It demonstrates interest in the other person, can help a conversation progress and stops that awful thing where you whitter on about yourself for hours.

It's really complicated but it is doable. She may need some other input, maybe from courses or books. I know you have tried books but you made a mistake when you presented them to her. Here's a few books to help you cos you're shit with people, dear. Never going to end well.

I am now waffling on so I will end here. But honestly, if your wife wants to learn how to better interact socially, then she can. I have a friend now. An honest to god real life FRIEND! We spend hours chatting and laughing and it is never awkward or false and the time flies. I never thought I would get to a point when I would have that. I have now been able to reveal the real me and - she likes and accepts me!

That's what your wife needs.

sarahquilt Sat 05-Apr-14 12:36:41

The key to conversation is asking other people questions about themselves as everyone loves droning on about their own lives. Once she gets that she's set.

BeforeAndAfter Sat 05-Apr-14 12:36:52

I read on MN that someone joined Toastmasters to develop their confidence and it worked. Not done it myself mind.

dreamingbohemian Sat 05-Apr-14 12:37:45

Is it possible she's mismatched with the social circles she's hanging out in?

What I mean is -- sometimes I've been at social events and I know I'm coming off as boring, but it's because I don't have anything in common at all with the people there and I just don't know what to say. Is she struggling even in situations where she should have a lot to talk about?

Does she suffer from anxiety?

I would be careful not to help her too specifically, it will not come off well. I think just be supportive and talk to her whenever she wants to talk about it.

mrscumberbatch Sat 05-Apr-14 12:40:35

Yes confidence is an issue at drama classes but you don't actually have to get up in front of people at these groups.

A lot of it is improvisation and role play which, without you even realising it at the time, is a great way to learn/practise different scenarios or conversations.

QuiteSo Sat 05-Apr-14 12:40:38

Echoing other posters above, does she actually want to change? Perhaps she's a contented introvert and doesn't understand why you want her to be a sparkling conversationalist. Are you ashamed that she's not as extroverted as you?
I personally hate making small talk in party situations. I can do it, but I hate it. I think I have other great qualities - maybe your wife does, and perhaps she excels in one-on-one situations. So just leave her be!

Twattergy Sat 05-Apr-14 12:41:50

Could she find a business /management training course that covers personality types (I think its called Myers Briggs?) That would enable her to reflect on her preferences/modes of communicating and think about her limitations/challenges in this area? I found that this kind of learning helped me top learn that I could play with different ways of 'being'that would help me make impact in a variety of settings. Suggesting this as a career development thing might be easier than taking the personal approach. Or what about coaching?

ravenmum Sat 05-Apr-14 12:45:23

"someone she met on the first week, really liked and thought she had got on with very clearly avoided her this week and it brought out all her insecurities" - makes it sound like she would like to be more sociable but finds it stressful and is over-aware of what others might think of her, making it hard to act naturally? Have you googled avoidant personality? Might be a key word to start out looking for tips. If she is struggling with self-esteem maybe a little therapy would help?

Timeforabiscuit Sat 05-Apr-14 12:47:12

second that Myers Briggs really helped with the different personalities, how to recognise and work with them while acknowledging your own style.

Cringechilli Sat 05-Apr-14 12:47:51

Well, firstly don't use the word boring!

Is it really a problem for her? I personally like having a small number of trusted friends rather than having lots of superficial and meaningless exchanges with people I don't know very well. Perhaps she isn't interested in having a wide social circle.

dreamingbohemian Sat 05-Apr-14 12:51:28

Oh yes, I think Myers Briggs is really helpful. You can do the online tests for free if you google it.

Ubik1 Sat 05-Apr-14 12:57:00

Does she have outside interests?

Talking to people in a work or social situation is difficult if you are not a natural smalltalker.

Much easier to talk about some shared activity, build up intimacy through shared experience with people.

My husband is not great in social situations until he has had a few beers but can then go completely 'the other way' and rant - football, Scottish independence, politics in general, religion... I have learned to step back and let him negotiate these social occasions himself.

sands67 Sat 05-Apr-14 12:58:57

Wow, thank you. To be clear she is "ultra" aware of the fact she struggles with this and it does make her anxious,. She hasn't asked for help, she has said she wants friends. I gave her the books as i didnt' know how to address it, not to patronise. But there is an issue there. I am not looking to make her a sparkling conversationalist. I want to make her happy.

@ravenum I'm going to google "avoidance personality"

I'll read up more on Myers briggs. Similar insights show me as (very) red DW as green/yellow

@ BoffinMum very inciteful. In laws found it difficult as well.

@HecatePropylaea - Yeah, you get it. x

MrsAtticus Sat 05-Apr-14 13:00:43

I think the phrase "you are boring" would not be helpful, or from what you've said accurate either. It sounds like she might need a bit of encouragement to talk about the things which she is interested in and passionate about. I think some sort of self-help strategy might help, but I think you need to be very sensitive with how you approach this with her, which obviously you are trying to be.
I am quite a chatty person, and there are people that I really like but because they are not very talkative I feel a little embarrassed in their company sometimes, because I'm not sure what to do and it makes me chatter on about rubbish. Perhaps the people that avoid your wife feel a bit like that?
Perhaps an easy thing for her to do would be to ask people questions about themselves, which puts the emphasis on them for making conversation, but also seems friendly and interested.

LesserOfTwoWeevils Sat 05-Apr-14 13:03:46

If she suffers from social anxiety, telling her she is boring is the worst and nastiest thing to do.

It's probably not even true. Most talkative people can babble on for ages without really saying anything about anything, whereas shy people only speak when they actually have something to say, and struggle to do small talk.

The problem is that other people are made uncomfortable by any silences.

Not that that helps your DW. But neither does criticising her.

SuddenlySqueamish Sat 05-Apr-14 13:17:56

Hi sands

What you have written about your wife you could have written about me. I am not very good in social situations and get very anxious that people may perceive me as boring because I am terrible at instigating conversation or talking to people.

I am very introverted, quite shy, and have generalised anxiety disorder so basically socialising is a nightmare for me! The thing is, once I get talking to people properly on a deeper level, I actually enjoy it and am capable of making good friends. However I really struggle with the initial bit. I find small talk really tedious. Most people understand social basics to kickstart conversation - they ask about the weather, or their journey, or their job etc. I don't ask this stuff. It's hard to explain why and I'm aware that it makes me seem stand-offish and rude yet I still find myself unable to do it.

However I do go to events and can survive them.

First of all, I almost always go late. When you're early and there are just a few people standing around feeling awkward, it's even harder.

If I'm with somebody, I'll find a way to be alone so I can assess the situation. This is usually by going to the bathroom then taking the long way back so I can get a feel for the room and who is there. I always get a drink before starting any socialising - taking a sip is a useful distraction in awkward silences!

If I'm with a friend, they understand the difficulties I have and so will initially include me in their conversations to get me started. This is something you can do with your wife - rather than going to a friend or a group and starting a conversation leaving your wife standing by, keep your body language open to her and make your conversations joint. Bring up topics you know she is interested in and ask her questions that introduce her to the conversation. When she's really in to it and feeling more comfortable, you can then excuse yourself and leave her to it.

If she's alone, conversation starters will help. Making it about the event will help avoid bland topics like the weather - maybe something about the event, the venue, or the speaker. Asking questions is always good - get people talking about themselves to deflect the attention.

Definitely do not tell her she is boring. And conversation guides may make her feel inadequate. I would suggest the book Quiet by Susan Cain and taking a Mayer Briggs test - even if you don't believe the labels, better understanding her preferences and way of dealing with the world will help you both.

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