Social Skills

One other item surfaced on my walk yesterday. This has to do with social skills.

In my last meeting with Dr H, I mentioned I felt my social skills have declined. How do I know this?

The most recent evidence comes from an attempt at humour during a recent brain injury support group meeting. I tried to say something funny; the attempt fell flat. I realized I was “off” and made the decision to remain quiet.

Similar events took place during my volunteer work period. I noticed two things. The first was an attempt at humour which had results similar to those described in the above paragraph. The second was what I call “Spock Mode.” In this social interaction I say something that is accurate and to the point, but which, while rational and completely accurate, is discomforting to the other party. I am not sure how to describe this other than “Spock Mode.” This mode of interaction was unintentional.

Dr Spock mode was most evident during the periods I worked extended hours. The volunteer work was highly routinized and I felt able to perform it. When I started, I was initially overjoyed to learn that I could do it. The immediate outcome was a significant boost to my self-confidence. I undertook multiple shifts as I really appreciated this sense of “normalcy,” of being able to plug-in and perform satisfactorily. It was during these extended hours that I first noted Dr Spock mode. I also found that while I was subjectively pleased with my performance, there were objective reasons to doubt the quality of work I performed was equal to my subjective evaluation of my own performance. Towards the end of a four hour shift my error rate increased significantly.

Similar behaviour occurred during meetings of the non-profit I participate in. My attempts at jocular humour fell flat. I sought to ask questions only to realize later that my questions were either redundant to the dialog, or incredibly stupid. I should not describe my own behaviour in such pejorative terms but this is an accurate description despite being unflattering. With the non-profit, I moved into silent helper mode. I performed set-up and clean-up activity and avoided any involvement in the session dialog.

I also responded in an extremely negative manner to a woman who slighted me (I had provided her with a lot of my ideas for a web initiative, she borrowed my ideas and then sought my unpaid assistance to work on “her project” which now incorporated the ideas provided to her by me). Sounds catty, I know, but there it is. I believe my letter to Dr McGill falls into the same category.

Against the above errant behaviour, there stands my twelve years with Gargantua Computing. The Gargantua work demanded a high level of positive customer interaction. We had to meet specific metrics and we were constantly evaluated on our ability to deliver the required high level of customer service. For two years I served on the audit team, observing and providing remedial coaching to other agents. I would not have been selected for that team if I exhibited poor social skills. When working as an agent, my weekly performance audits typically scored at 100%. I was one of the leading members of our team.

All of this suggests there has been a decline in my ability to engage in social settings. To the best of my knowledge this performance decline has not been captured by any instrument in the test battery delivered by Dr McGill.