Monday, March 16, 2009

Lesson Learned From a Bowling League

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Since we are still the "new people" in town, I have been having quite a few discussions with the children about how to make friends.

It seems that it comes more naturally to some than to others and I have been stressing that, no matter how nervous you are, appearing friendly - even if you don't feel comfortable doing it - will show people that you are willing to make new friends.

I have pointed out more than once that sitting alone on the back row of your Bible class does not give off that super friendly vibe and people might just draw the conclusion that you are snooty instead of shy.

I was in my 20's before I learned this lesson and it happened in a bowling alley.

When we were first married, my husband thought it would be fun for the two of us to join a bowling league, so he signed us up at the local bowling alley.

It turns out that he happens to excel at near Olympic proportions at all things athletic, and I, well, am ball impaired. (It's even worse if the sport involves an implement with which to strike the ball.)

I am a good sport, though, and enjoy spending time with my husband, so I was determined to see it through.

Even though I was the worst one on the team.

And cigarette smoke gives me a headache.

And beer stinks.

And those shoes are creepy.

Basically, I spent every Tuesday night that year marking down my gutter balls and doodling on the score pad while I imagined the other players were scoffing at my bowling skills.

I was sure they wondered what in the world I thought I was doing joining a bowling league. I just knew they were talking about my grip and my release. I was positive they didn't like me because none of them ever came over to talk to me while I kept my head down drawing doodles on my score sheet.

One night, as I was walking back to the score sheet to mark down my (pathetic) score, I was about to walk past two of the ladies discussing something very seriously, with their heads close together.

As I got closer to them, I heard , "... because she thinks she's better than we are. She's a snob!"

I don't know what made me do it, but I stopped right in front of them, and it was only then that they realized I was there and both lifted their heads.

Their eyes met mine and I saw that stunned look that comes when people realize they have been caught doing something they wish they hadn't been caught at.

They both looked at me and then at each other, and back at me.

I guess I was emboldened by their discomfort, because I said, "Were you just talking about me?!"

The tough one, I'll call "Laverne", looked at her compatriot, nervously took a long drag on her cigarette, and said something like, "We... I ... ummmm... it's just that... I didn't mean..."

I interrupted with, "Did you call me a SNOB?!"

At this point, Laverne must have thought I was ready to take our little discussion outside to the parking lot of The Pink Poodle next door, because she took on a very apologetic tone and repeated, "We ain't tryin' ta start nothin'! We ain't tryin' ta start nothin'!

All at once I felt bad for all those Tuesday nights I spent talking only to my husband and no one else. All the time I spent with my head down instead of joining in on their conversations.

I had imagined that they didn't like me because I was a poor player, but I was wrong. They didn't like me for a better reason.

I was unfriendly.

I had rationalized my exclusive behavior by telling myself I was shy. They already knew one another from playing on bowling leagues for years. And besides, they wouldn't want to talk to me anyway because I knew next to nothing about how to bowl. I could barely keep score!

And all the while, they were interpreting my behavior as snobby.

I ended up apologizing for giving the impression that I was being a snob, and I made two new friends that night.

More importantly, though, I made a discovery that sometimes it takes effort to be friendly. If you are feeling shy or nervous and don't extend that effort, it can be seen as though you do not want to be friends.

Since that time, I always try to go out of my way to be EXTRA friendly in a situation when I don't know everyone.

I have been reminding my children that if you are wondering why no one talks to you, it could be that they think you don't want them to. If no one is talking to you, why not be the one to start a conversation? Don't wait for someone to be friendly to you. Show that you are a friendly person and people will want to talk to you.

Lesson learned.

Additionally, if you are confrontational, you will be favored to win a parking lot throw down.


Kris said...

I would ask if your husband and my husband are long-lost brothers...but my husband is an only child. At least, that's what I've been told. ;-) He has that same giftedness with all things atheletic and I...well, I don't.

Great lesson you learned at the bowling alley, though. I, too, have been accused of appearing to be a snob before. I found it just as shocking as you did. I try to keep that in mind, now, when I meet someone that I might label as a snob. Maybe she's just shy, too.

Brenda said...

Yep. You are so right. One of my very best teaching friendships very nearly didn't happen b/c the first day she met me, I appeared unfriendly. I believe she used a much stronger term.

She was a 2nd year teacher and asked me where I graduated from. I told her, but I didn't ask her where SHE had graduated from so she was put off. But I was nervous, first day on the job and she was already a teacher for goodness sake! You don't ask a real live professional teacher where they went to college!!!!

Thankfully, she found out I was not mean. But shy/nervous...doesn't come off too good.

Kim said...

Funny! I wrote a post a couple of years ago called, "Bowling is the Armpit of Something".

If that tells you my sentiments on the lovely aroma that only the bowling alley can produce ;)

We have been working on the exact same thing here. About four months ago we changed churches and ever since the conversations on Sunday mornings are centered around body language, smiling, EYE-CONTACT, and please uncross your arms and try to stop looking nauseous!

They are progressing but it has been slow. This is a wonderful reminder of how much intentional work it can be to seem friendly and outgoing on the outside & the inside ;)

And my husband? Everything from table-tennis to basketball ... there is not one thing he cannot do!

Mindee@oufrontdoor said...

That is SUCH a hard lesson to learn. I still fumble with it myself. It helps if I remember that shyness is really a matter of self-absorption and friendliness is an act of putting others before myself.

But I panic and forget. Next time I'll try to remember this story too. :)

Mommy Cracked said...

My husband and I were just talking about this today. I am so introverted and afraid I come off snobby most of the time. Thanks for the reminder.

Amy said...

Great post! It reminds me of a song my kids used to listen to in the car "to have a friend you've got to be a friend"... but that is the only part I can remember and it's driving me crazy, lol!

I am very reserved in real life and have wondered before if I come off as snobby. Something to think about!

Smockity Frocks said...

I have tried so hard to OVER compensate for this (because I truly don't want to be a snob) that I sometimes wonder if people are thinking, "Sheesh! That lady could turn it down a notch or two!"

Kara said...

Oh, this is a great lesson. I have been guilty of this myself. I'mlaughing at the bowling because when we moved to Pampa we joined a league...I am so bad!!! And I hate the smoke, hate it...the things we do;)

Shari said...

I know exactly what you are talking about. I still struggle with the shy and not sure what to say to new people. My husband has helped me a lot through the years with this. Thanks for sharing.

Nikki said...

There's a place on base similar to a McDonald's playplace. We call it Darbyland. And if I go there without too much pre-planning- just me and the kids, I feel like a loser. I sit there at a table by myself while my kids run and climb and play. And seeing as I don't want to appear as a loser, I usually pull out my planner and try to look busy. I probably come across as a total snob! Next time I'll get up and introduce myself to another mother sitting by herself.

Ritergal said...

Where was this post when I needed it thirty or forty years ago?

Kathryn said...

We just moved to a new town where I am finding it pretty difficult to meet people and make friends. The Lord has continually brought this verse to mind: "To make friends, a man must himself be friendly, but there is a friends who sticks closer than a brother." Prov. 18:24
(I hope I quoted that right.)

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