She’s Such a Charmer

A few years ago I had to take a personality test for work. StrengthsFinder‘s shtick is that it focuses on areas identified by the test-makers in which you excel and not areas in which you could improve. My top five strengths (including “Analytical”, described with a sentence that begins, “You do not necessarily want to destroy other people’s ideas…”) were left-brained, logical and cold. They basically indicated that I’m Mr. Spock.

Some versions of StrengthsFinder will also tell you the characteristics in which you are less strong. Normally, I would call those “weaknesses”, but the test’s feel-good doublespeak doesn’t allow it. The area in which I am weakest most not-strong is WOO. WOO stands for Winning Others Over and not the act of wooing someone, even though one could argue that to woo is to Win anOther Over. (There I go, being all analytical and destroying other people’s ideas.) WOOers attend parties full of strangers and chat up a storm. They make friends in an elevator. Captain Kirk is an uppercase WOOer.

And a wooer, for that matter.

And a lowercase wooer, for that matter.

It was hard to argue with the results. The only problem is that I don’t want to be Mr. Spock. I want to be Captain Kirk.

For some reason, I’ve convinced myself that I’m very charming, despite having no evidence to support this theory. In my head, I’m the kind of person who wears a beautiful dress to host enormous dinner parties for interesting people. I own five chairs and zero beautiful dresses. I do not know how to cook or have any interest at all in actually hosting parties like that, but some crazy part of me sincerely believes I can do it.

My dumb brain is positive that there is a beautiful lake of charisma deep inside me but it’s frozen over by a crust of socially awkward ice. There is absolutely no reason for me to think this. I have opportunities to be charming all the time, and I never come through.

I Should Have Turned on the Charm…

…interviewing for my job.
Instead, I pretended a cold hadn’t totally robbed me of my voice, tried to talk through it, refused water when it was offered, and left the room mortified and sweaty. I came painfully close to not getting the job.

…at any party I’ve ever attended.
Instead, I usually sit in a corner, petting the nearest dog or cat. If there are no pets available, I feign a deep interest in the selection of dips.

…during the networking portions of work conferences.
Instead, when one startup’s CEO approached and said some wildly inaccurate things about the geography of my home state, I just nodded my head vigorously until he left me alone.

…meeting my boyfriend’s parents.
Instead, I panicked while trying to come up with conversation topics at dinner. I solved that problem by getting most of a corncob stuck in my teeth. TIP: Discreetly trying to dislodge the corn kernels in your teeth by taking a bite of hamburger only results in more varieties of food stuck in there.

To increase the genetic diversity of U.S. corn...

A close-up of my mouth that evening.

After every one of these moments, I’ve thought, “I could have been more engaging, of course. I am a charmer, after all.”  But I’ve been hacking away at that socially inept ice for almost 24 years and the only thing under it is more ice. I’m starting to suspect I’m not a lake full of charm at all. I’m probably more like Antarctica, in that if I ever get through the ice, the only thing I’ll find is dirt. (That was a weird metaphor. In my defense, I’m still very cold.)

I wish I was charming enough to set my fellow introverts at ease at parties, but I mostly want more charisma for entirely selfish reasons. The anxiety and endless shame cycles that come with being awkward are exhausting. Charismatic people have an amazing social lubricant (ew) the more inept among us would kill for and they don’t even know it. If I was charming, I could stop worrying about not being charming. I can’t even imagine how much smoother I would be if I was smooth.

So smooth.

So smooth.

So I’m working on it. I’m trying to be more present in conversations. I’m attempting to ask questions about people’s interests without coming off like a Spanish Inquisitor. I’m providing more information about myself to complete strangers, and I’m learning how to use touch in a not-creepy, totally normal way during conversation, even though it freaks me out. After all, a lot of people throughout history have exhibited great charm and nothing bad happened to them.

Famous Charismatic Figures

Teddy Roosevelt
– Audrey Hepburn
– Ferris Bueller
– James Bond
– John F. Kennedy
– Oscar Wilde
– Charles Manson
– Ted Bundy

Boy. That list really took a turn. Turns out there might be such a thing as too charismatic.

Charles_Manson_-_Lie-_The_Love_&_Terror_Cult

Maybe I’ll just stick with petting dogs in the corner for now.

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26 comments

  1. curiousj0

    Hi Mr Spock,

    I am so socially awkward that sometimes I leave places early without even being noticed. I HATE walking into places ALONE. Everyone is aware I am on my own, that I have no friends. And I feel I stick out like beetroot in natural yoghurt when I scan the room looking for a familiar face. I try to engage in conversation but have forgotten the person’s name before they get to what they do for fun. I listen but don’t really listen, if you get my drift. I really have difficulty entertaining and hosting parties. Anxiety takes over and I cannot think straight and I rush things, then I break things and then I have wine…and more wine…till I’ve had too much. Hey, now I feel ok.

    Jo

  2. Aiming for Simplicity

    Awesome post, had me giggling as you socially inepted your way through to more social ineptitude. I’ll be sending the link to my daughter, who claims she has the most social ineptitude of anyone, perhaps she can apsire? Thanks for sharing! Meg.

  3. Guinivere

    I have been told that no matter how you try and be charming and likable, other people will make up their own minds about you anyway. Intellectually it makes sense to stop trying to ‘fit’ in and just be, but the need to change seems as part of the person as the hacking away at ice is. Totally get the post!

  4. red1263

    Ha ha ha, I think you should practice talking to people to get through some of the ice you have there, and I’m certain that you’ll find some pools of charm rather than an ocean. All it takes is a little practice.

  5. pensitivity101

    I’ve never consciously tried to be charming, but an old boss once told me I was a People Person. For some reason, people will talk to me, whatever the situation or place, and I’m confident I can hold my own in conversation at most levels (not politics, stock markets or religion). Bad news? If I’m such a People Person, why do I have few friends? (those I considered to be dropped me as soon as I wasn’t there for and at their convenience) Nah. I’m better off with dogs.
    You’ll find your own level once you find your personal key to unlocking it.

  6. Lily Byrne

    There is really nothing wrong with being a quiet person who isn’t the life and soul of the party. Many people prefer quiet, thoughtful companions who don’t fill the room with their presence, talking loudly and interacting with every single person. You are obviously better in small groups of people you know well, as am I.

    I often think, if the world was full of extroverts, nothing would ever get done because people would be too busy socialising rather than noticing the small details which need to be attended to. It isn’t a curse to be ‘socially inept’ as you put it, its just a different way of interacting. Don’t knock it.

  7. battlewagon13

    I’m just like you. While at one point I wanted to be Kirk, now as I’m getting older i find that I’m becoming more and more fine with Spock. It’s a LOT less stressful for the most part – while you’re still responsible for certain things. Plus, you don’t have to go on ALL the away teams wile still getting to captain the ship occasionally. Wow. This comment took a very nerdy turn.

  8. theliteraryhorse

    Your brilliantly logical mind unearthed a strength that clearly StrengthFinder did not think through, in their lack of (brilliantly logical) to-the-ends-of-the-earth pursuit of strength-finding research.

    Hilarious, and true, turn of the charismatic list: SuperScaryCharisma. Also known as “San Quentin” charisma. I’m relieved to read you are not in danger of developing your charisma to that level. The world needs people who can logically see through the flaws in some folks charismatic logic. Go, Stephanie!

  9. SousEtoiles

    I took the StrengthsFinder test in college, fulfilling a requirement in the freshman orientation “class.” Woo was my top strength, and to this day, it surprises me. College is when I started coming out of my shell, and I guess that came through in the test. However, I’m still socially awkward sometimes. I’m painfully aware of awkward moments and within myself, I desperately search for a quick remedy. Maybe I got Woo because I am intrigued by new people. *shrug*

  10. Alex

    I think that every time I try to touch someone in a “natural” way during a conversation, I move to slow and robotic that it puts people off. Also, what exactly is the appropriate timing during a conversation to casually touch someone? And where on the body?? Usually the shoulder touch (my go to) comes off as my clammy palm on too much shoulder and I give up and walk away. This is stressing me out already. Anyway.

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  12. justaddtea

    Socially awkward is really cute! You just have to find a group of equally socially awkward people and be awkward together. I thought I had to be Kirk, but now I wish I was more Spock. It would make life simpler. I find that I surround myself with Spocks, and now I feel like I don’t speak the lingo. So, I’m a Kirk (WOO is one of my traits) surrounded by Spocks, feeling very much like I’m the socially awkward one.

  13. Laura S.

    You know being charming is not always thing. At least that’s what I try to tell myself. I like being me – unless I have to socialize with strangers then I want to be a rock. Does that make sense?

  14. 2summers

    I actually worked for the Gallup Organization during the time that the StrengthsFinder tool was being developed. I took it several times and WOO was always in my top 5. (‘Analytical’ and all the other smart-person themes were way at the bottom.) I could never decide whether to feel happy or depressed about the fact that ‘winning others over’ is supposedly my greatest talent. Is it better to be charming that smart? I still don’t know. Anyway, thank you for reminding me about this.

    • 2summers

      I also just remembered that my other top ‘strength’ is something called ‘Flow’, which means I go with the flow all the time. Not sure this is really a positive thing either. Although it certainly explains why I am sitting on the deck at 9:40 in the morning, drinking coffee and reading blogs, rather than working.

  15. musingsoftheamusingmuse

    As an avowed Introvert, I repeatedly have to remind people that I’m a “poor joiner”. I don’t like large parties, especially if they will force me to interact with lots of people in group activities. My company Christmas party was pure torture: group activities, loud group activities and it was at the office, during the day… I just wanted to go to my desk and work, but every time I did that, people yelled at me and made me go back to the party.

    I’m okay with my Antarctica-esque layer of ice.

  16. emisformaker

    Charm is fine, but I’d much rather be able to get a chuckle from the grocery store cashier than be able to WOO the world. As I work on quelling my social anxieties, I just try to take it one interaction at a time. Also, though Spock’s demeanor is cold, logical and analytical, he’s still half human; not only did he (somewhat) successfully woo Nurse Chapel, his alternate timeline self hooked him up with Uhura.

  17. Lesley

    I totally agree with your comment about not wanting to sound like an inquisitor when you meet people. What is the line between friendly chit chat and being completely and inappropriately nosy? My bestie, when she meets a new person, will interrogate them relentlessly until she finds a link between them and her, no matter how tenuous. Having found a link she’ll screech loudly “OOOOOHHHH!!!!! What a small world, isn’t it a small world? I can’t believe that your Mum worked with my second auntie’s uncle twice removed in pre war Japan. That’s just a-maaaaaaaa-zing!!” Well, y’know.
    Not exactly those words, that’s just be weird.
    Me? I sit in a corner cringing.

  18. D'Ma

    I just wanted to tell you that I found this post extremely charming. And if you speak to people the way you write you have to be a total charmer(maybe just not in a Captain Kirk kind of way). Also, I think you can be completely charming without having to touch anyone. That’s just kinda weird.

    If not, just continue to be the pet charmer. I usually find them more interesting anyway. The pets, I mean, not the charmers.

  19. Denise

    Have you read Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking? I just finished reading it and then this post. Anyway, you might find it interesting. And I agree with many of the other commentators that this post and your entire blog are very very charming. I’m totally WO. (won-over)

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