Being a keen observer of people, a student of human behaviour, as many writers are, I enjoy going to parties. I like to watch people and interact with them. (I sound like an extraterrestrial spy!) The way we (it's okay, I am one of you) relate and respond to one another fascinates me.
I went to a birthday party last night. My very good friend, one of my best mates, turned 40. I looked forward to attending, not just to have a celebratory beer or two with the birthday boy, and to catch up with some other mutual friends but also to meet new people. I knew less than a quarter of the party goers. I like meeting new people because, although small talk can be hard and ultimately unrewarding work, there is always the chance that you will meet someone you really click with. I was also hoping the topic of conversation would turn to books and that I could hand out a few book promoting business cards which I just happened to have on me. (shameless self promoter!)
It was interesting to note that, despite some mingling which mostly occurred at the bar and on the bowling green, there were distinct groups. There were a couple of family tables, a table of church friends, a table of running club friends and one of old friends. Most people prefer to stay safe in familiar territory. Who knows if a woman at the running table would laugh at a joke made by a man at the church table? Most of us are insecure to some extent. Some just find it hard to make conversation or to get along with people.
Regardless of what social phobias we may possess there is no excuse for rudeness. No justification for excluding people or making them feel uncomfortable. It really isn't that hard to be nice and if you haven't tried it lately you'd be shocked at how much impact a smile can have. In Loathe Your Neighbor, David Lavender is basically a good bloke: easy going, friendly, charming and chatty. He's an ex sales rep so he knows how to talk to people and he likes people. Granted, he is inclined to extreme behaviour on occasion: the public snub by his neighbor contributes to feelings of hatred. The polite conversation of his communications trainer leads to fantasy and flirtation. Sometimes he gets things wrong. Sometimes we all get things wrong. Next time you go to a party, try to get it right. Smile. Be a good listener, and be yourself. And writers...watch closely and have your notebooks ready.