Well that’s just odd. Social interaction observation.

Long story.

My Wife is a Triathlete. She is training for an Iron Man.

A year ago, we met a mother and daughter at a half Iron Man and had dinner with them. My Wife met them through another race and the net. Well and good. But something was just a bit odd. I couldn’t put my finger on it at dinner.

It’s clear that the daughter is the real racer. She’s going to Kona. She is one serious person. I don’t think she has sponsors, but she could probably get them.

Over dinner we didn’t talk about anything but the race. No politics, no religion. The four of us only had polite conversation. We talked about the race and gear. I stayed out of it mostly since I’m not racing (I know when to shut up). I’m the pit crew for my Wife. And help at all her races and support her completely. But something was odd.

The next morning, very early, I saw them in the hotel. I said ‘hi’. Neither of them returned a greeting. Huh. I told this to my Wife and we both shrugged it off and gave them the excuse of an early morning hour (4:30 am) and that they where focusing on the race.

Fast forward a year to last night. They asked if they could spend the night at our house near a ride. My Wife is also doing the ride, so fine. My Wife and I prepared our house for guests, and I cooked a dinner for athletes (recipe from my wife). We are gracious hosts.

I finally put my finger on why I feel the daughter is a bit odd. She will not look at me when she speaks. She barely said hello to me when I welcomed her and her mom into our house. I don’t think this is a cultural thing. She’s as American as apple pie.

It was weird, the daughter ignored me in my own house. I don’t think she is afraid of men. She just got married. But the general interaction that you have with guests did not exist. I felt - judged. I guess it’s because I’m not a triathlete. I am an active, healthy 47 year old that volunteers at the races that my wife participates in. I know a bit about them.

Around the dinner table I finally got her attention (I refuse to be ignored in my own house, that’s just silly) when I asked about bikes and gear. She actually looked at me when she spoke.

It was like having brooding cougar as a guest.

I sort of feel sorry for her. Twenty Eight years old with zero communication skills. Her field of study? Physical Therapist.


I have an ex-boss and a friend who have the same problem. The boss and I are still very good friends, i.e., hug buddies, same sense of humor, etc., but he cannot make eye contact. He doesn’t even make eye-to-boobs contact or eyes-to-top-of-head contact. He looks way off to one side. Same with my friend. If I’m 3 feet from the refrigerator, she looks at the refrigerator. I haven’t decided if it’s some form of insecurity or what, but it’s very unsettling to me.

Some people just really have their game face on. I had a riding trainer who was a very high-level competitor (lon-g-listed for Sydney Olympics; her homebred, home-trained mare was the #9 mare in the U.S. on the national leaderboard, etc). Anyway, one time I was visting a friend in Virginia and we went to a competition where I was acting as her crew. A it happened, my trainer ended up attending the same show - we ran into each other in the warm-up ring completely by surprise. She was almost ready to begin - my friend and I were just beginning our warmup. I was like, “Hi Trainer!” and her response was to look at me and give me a curt nod.

Said Trainer is actually a very friendly, amusing person in real life, although people find her intensity off-putting before they get to know her. We laughed about it after we both got home - she was just so in the zone my presence didn’t even really register.

Anyway, my point is, some people get really get their heads in the competition and don’t have much interest in/energy for socializing. If she is as serious as you say about competition, she may feel that mental focus takes a higher priority than social graces.

It strikes me as more odd that someone you met briefly a year ago would ask if they could stay at your house.

I have friends like Kalhoun’s. It makes me jittery to talk to them.

It’s responses like these make it clear that not only is H. sapiens descended from primates but that the reach isn’t even very far.

Some people, by lack of socialization, inculcation, or natural ability, don’t read or offer non-verbal cues well. The o.p. clearly doesn’t work in a technical field, where such people are commonplace and where one’s technical ability to make hard things work is rewarded despite social ineptitude. One would not–at least, not in polite company–make fun off or criticize someone for having a cleft palate or mental retardation. Some people don’t do human interaction and social graces very naturally, through no fault of their own. (Conversely, I’ve met many veritable sociopaths with excellent interpersonal skills, honed to a fine point, allowing them to take advantage of the unawares.) Instead of being critical, find some way to accept them for who they are and what they can do.

On the other hand, people that drone on and on about their particular hobby or enthusiasm unrelentingly are exceedingly boring. This is hardly limited to people without social graces, though; indeed, I think it may be a prerequisite for scuba diving or surfing.


I don’t recall seeing a response to the OP’s observation in this vein.

Clearly ehhh? Is building a GIS system tech enough? I have my finger on many databases.

What did I say that makes you think that I’m not in a tech field?

Not that it matters where I work or what I do. It had nothing to do with my OP.

Or people that pontificate on message boards, instead of replying.

It took me years to learn to look at people when I’m interacting. I’m not shy, it’s just a bad habit for me.
I still don’t look at strangers. I never know who our server is when we’re dining out.


Huh? I’m also curious what this means. What’s up with the responses in this thread?

I have a lot of trouble with eye contact. I feel really nervous if I look at people I don’t know when I’m talking to them. (It takes about 5 to 10 times of encountering someone to feel comfortable making eye contact, or one or two times where the person is really super cool and friendly.) I don’t like eating with strangers at all, so I could easily see myself being like this young lady if I was in the same situation. I would probably not say anything the whole dinner, and wish I could disappear through the floor. I go to dinners where strangers are present because I’m trying to get more socially able, but it’s very hard for me. I feel like people are judging me when they see me eating, because I’m fat. I don’t even like to cook in front of my parents or my sister because I don’t want them to know how much I’m eating, even if it’s not a lot.

So, in short, I feel for this woman, but I understand why it doesn’t look that good to other people.

Yeah, but Iron Men are a different breed. Same can be said about any extreme sport. My wife and I also thought it a bit odd. The Iron Woman (our guest, in this case) seems to think she is better than anyone else.

:shrug: That is my interpretation. It did bug me a bit. I was just trying to be a good host.

I spend a bit of time at these races (every one that my Wife is in). Lots of very good people. Friends, family. And Racers. Great folks.

Some of the racers think that they are better than everyone else. I try to ignore them. I am just a regular guy. I don’t dare them to do what I have to do everyday. I wouldn’t expect they could.

I don’t think pontification is Stranger’s intent. His observation is that the small percentage of people noted by the O.P. are so into their aims and goals as to either be oblivious to social grace or consider them an unnecessary distraction from the business at hand.
A recent experience with a Myers-Briggs test indicates that ~12% of the population fall into such a category, noting “where one’s technical ability to make hard things work is rewarded despite social ineptitude”. Such a percentage is well below any “norm”.

Oh. I see this too. I tried to engage her in conversation. It took a bit of work, but I managed to draw her out.

And I learned some things that I can pass on to my Wife about 650mm bike wheels. Perhaps she learned that I’m not the devil in disguise.

Much to my dismay, I,m just a regular ole person, just like everyone else. ‘cept I’m a bit different, just like everyone else.

Ask the next person you see “How is your day”. You will either get a harrumph, or a diatribe of info. Neither will hurt you.

But doesn’t it follow that those that invite a condition of social grace should adhere to the same?

A study at my home has proved that anyone not pointing a pistol in my face will at least get a glass of water.

Dinner of course for those guest that present shotguns when the sun is past the hill.

Kidding aside, I do expect a small amount of courtesy from guests that invite themselves into my home.

And a necessary prerequisite to further invitation, for me. It sounds like you’ve gone beyond the call of duty here and I applaud your efforts to elevate human interaction.

I can see that it was annoying, and not the behavior you expected, but I think you’re taking it way too personally. There are a bunch of explanations other than “intentionally blowing you off because she thinks she’s superior” listed in this thread.

Sorry, I didn’t intend that to be an insult to anyone; rather, I was indicating that for all we prize verbal communication, most people expect and demand atavistic non-verbal cues, and when they don’t get them become upset or perturbed, as will chimpanzees if introduced to a chimp that has not been properly socialized.

First of all, if I’ve given offense I apologize. I was attempting–incoherently, it seems–to point out that what you regard as normal social behavior which you do as a matter of course may not come as readily to others. You are assuming that the lack of eye contact, et cetera, is an expression of presumed superiority, a snub on you (I guess for not being an “Iron Man” competitor). You are, in effect, assuming that everyone is just like you in their behaviors and responses–a common and generally misleading presumption–and attributing to your guest malicious motives for her lack of affect. This could be the case, I suppose–although this behavior would be peculiar indeed–but I suspect it far more likely that she is not as adept at social behavior; not just shy or preoccupied, but lacking in the ability to render interaction into non-verbal cues, or make appropriate eye contact, and so forth. There are, as Carson O’Genic notes, a non-trivial minority of the population who do have difficulty with social interaction, from borderline ASD behavior to full Asperger’s Syndrome. Take a look at Temple Grandin or Cliff Stoll and you’ll see what I’m talking about; a lack of eye contact, discordance in speech, focusing on material topics rather than small talk, et cetera. These people don’t behave this way out of volition; it is, for many, at the limit of their abilities to socialize even this well. (Grandin describes how her mother spent years teaching her to simulate basic social graces, which allows her to be at least marginally functional within a narrowed range of interaction.)

The technical give a home to these sort of people, because it gives them an opportunity to exercise their technical abilities with far less judgment of their social limitations. Not all engineers and scientists are socially inept, but there is certainly a larger proportion who are, especially in the mathematically intense fields. (I suspect that the same is true for musicians.) However, outside of that métier, and of activities that require a high degree of focus and low socialization (like bike racing, for instance) they just don’t function that well. This doesn’t make them bad people, or mean-spirited, or snobbish, or whatever attitude you attribute to them, any more than a stutterer means to interrupt the flow of conversation.

I have a coworker who is clearly very bad at social interaction, rarely making eye contact or participating in group social activities even when explicitly invited. He’s actually quite a funny guy (once you get to know him) and a great jazz musician, but he’s never going to get up on stage and do a stand-up routine, or walk into a crowd and start introducing himself. I can see him doing the same things you describe, but without any malice, and indeed, probably in embarrassment for not being able to response correctly.

Personally, I’ve learned to do the fundamentals of social interaction in a certain set of circumstances–I’m great in job interviews, presentations, and other scenarios where there is a focus and purpose–but it is at the cost of substantial and continuous effort, and even at that I miss quite a few things that any normal person would pick up or do without thought and as a matter of course. Eye contact is a particularly difficult one; I can make contact just fine, but as you describe of your guest, I don’t really know when to break it, which people then find threatening. I actually count periods for eye contact to make certain that I don’t overdo it, and make a habit of looking away at something in case I forget. Small talk is infuriatingly tedious to me, to a point of causing anxiety and headaches; I’d rather solve second order differential equations with polynomial coefficients in my head than pass time talking about the weather or sports. And if I’m focused on doing an intense task or learning a new skill, forget it; I’m in my hyperfocus zone and anything you say to me is just a distraction.

So have a bit of empathy for those to whom socialization and conversation are not native abilities but difficult and never-ending hurdles to be leaped.


I agree that a small portion of the population have varying degrees of difficulty navigating the world socially. However, I’ve been in IT on and off for 20 years and I’ve never noticed this to be a trait of the techno-folks I’ve worked with. Quite the opposite, in fact. YMMV.

However, as enipla pointed out, he didn’t push himself into her world. She invited herself into his. If she’s incapable of mustering the most minimal of social courtesies, such as small talk with the person she’s imposed herself upon…she ought to be looking for a hotel instead. It’s not the end of the world, for sure, but the OP is certainly entitled to expect to be treated a bit better than vapor!

Yeah, I agree…it’s one thing if someone just can’t deal with social interactions, but another thing if you’re asking to stay with them, etc. Then I think you have some obligations to them.