A few months ago, Pace and I joined Toastmasters. We quickly realized that, though they are an awesome group of people, most if not all of them are pretty far outside the usual circles we run in. This caused me a huge lot of worry and stress – I’ve been hurt by similar situations quite often in the past (I’ve had groups of friends find out something about me and kick me out), so finding myself here once again was frightening.
I agonized over my Icebreaker (that’s the first speech most newbie TM’s give) for many weeks. What could I say that would help them get to know me that wouldn’t include all the things I felt we didn’t have in common? Indeed, that we had anti-in common?
I decided to give my speech on motherhood. I talked about my pregnancy, from the day I found out about it to the day he arrived – all the joys and fears and cravings and moodswings therein. Most of the people in our group are parents themselves, so it was a theme nearly everyone could relate to.
Once I’d given that speech, everyone in the group had at least one thing they could relate to me with. We had at least one thing in common. And you know what? That made it far easier to talk about the ways in which we don’t relate. It made me a person to them, a compatriot, instead of that freaky lesbian girl with the tattoos and piercings.
There’s this thing, the monkeysphere, which affects how many people can be real to us at any one time. All primates have this, thus the terminology. If we’re not inside someone’s monkeysphere, we’re not real to that person. This is how wars can happen – those people doing all the dying aren’t real people to us. They’re too far away, too different, too unreal to matter. That’s how we can take rights away from whole groups of people. It’s the reason behind a lot of the atrocious behavior we see. Pace likes to ramble on about it for hours and Megan loves to listen to it all, but I’ll leave it at that for now.
What I’m getting at is, if you feel like an outsider, find some common ground. Find a way to relate to the people around you – something you’ve all done, something you all like, something you all hate, even. Talk about that. Make yourself a real person to them.
Then you can be as freaky as you want. Ha!