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Building Social Skills in Gifted Youths? 1319

Posted by Cliff
from the creating-smart-extroverts dept.
UNOStudent asks: "I'm currently a Biotech undergrad at the University of Nebraska-Omaha and have spent the past several semesters mentoring gifted youngsters and have been presented with a challenge this semester. My student is unbelievably smart, however has very limited social skills, is unable to cooperate with peers, doesn't understand why they make fun of his uncombed hair, etc. Since many of us may have grown up in a similar circumstance, I'm looking for suggestions from my fellow geeks on ideas for how to challenge him mentally, while building essential social skills." How would you build social skills in someone more concerned with math, science and computers?
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Building Social Skills in Gifted Youths?

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  • by MrRTFM (740877) * on Monday March 08, 2004 @10:43PM (#8505513) Journal
    Then he wont need social skills - he can kick the bully's asses and get back to doing what he loves.

    There'll be time for girlfriends later (when he's rich), and who the hell said we all *have* to be open, loving marketing types anyway?

    • Re:One word - Karate (Score:5, Informative)

      by wankledot (712148) on Monday March 08, 2004 @10:48PM (#8505567)
      As flipant as this the parent is, martial arts might be a real decent way to build some confidence in pysical activity, and get him/her interacting with people. Sports are generally a good way to do it, and martial arts are far more geeky than the usual football/baseball/soccer stuff, plus it can be competitive or not, depending on preference. Seems like all the geeks these days are little japanese culture fanboys who are into anime, and this is a natural transition.
      • by jdm.LNX (709518) on Monday March 08, 2004 @11:00PM (#8505723)
        Another thing that will help you pick up social skills quickly is getting a job at a resturant or in sales. Cashier or a position as a cook in a resturant are two good choices. As far as the cook goes, you have to deal with 10+ waitresses and the people inside of the kitchen. As a cashier you've gotta deal with hundreds of customers a day. Working as a cook helped me out more than you can imagine. I got to know alot of hot waitresses and their hot friends.
        • Re:One word - Karate (Score:5, Interesting)

          by CosmeticLobotamy (155360) on Tuesday March 09, 2004 @12:34AM (#8506611)
          I don't know about being a cook. That seems like it might help. But I have a similar problem to this kid's, not due to excessive smarts but because when people talk to me I freeze up and imagine all the ways I'm going to make an ass of myself before whoever is talking to me leaves despite my best efforts to not, and I worked as a cashier.

          So I can tell you that being a cashier will only teach the kid to smile and nod while thinking, "Shut up and pay, shut up and pay, there's people behind you, they're going to yell at me for being slow and it's your fault, shut up and pay." Smile-and-nod skills are important, but there are better ways to learn them where no one yells at you.
        • by Killswitch1968 (735908) on Tuesday March 09, 2004 @02:08AM (#8507232)
          Working as a cook helped me out more than you can imagine. I got to know alot of hot waitresses and their hot friends.

          Wow, what's your charisma at, like 19? I'd get the kid to reroll if possible.
        • by bonhomme_de_neige (711691) on Tuesday March 09, 2004 @07:41AM (#8508400) Homepage
          Working as a cook helped me out more than you can imagine.

          Better yet, he could get a job as a cook and take up a martial art (specifically, aikido). After many years of this, grow out his hair and start wearing it in a pony tail, and start writing screenplays [imdb.com]. It may not develop great acting (or for that matter, social) skills, but at least he'll be able to randomly kiss women on battleships with impunity.

      • Cross Country (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Atmchicago (555403) on Monday March 08, 2004 @11:20PM (#8505950) Homepage

        Having never taken a martial art, I don't know how effective they are. However, an alternative is to start running. Running has to be one of the best physical activities, and can be done throughout your entire life.

        If the school has a cross country team, (especially if it is no-cut, like mine was), then that may be the perfect way to get involved with peers in an activity. It certainly opened me up more to other people and was one of the best decisions I ever made.

        • Re:Cross Country (Score:4, Informative)

          by Lotharjade (750874) on Tuesday March 09, 2004 @06:40AM (#8508219) Homepage Journal
          Actually my parents made sure I was in many sports and team events. Swimming, Karate, Gymnastics, Running, Basketball, Football, Hockey, etc... Just being around so many people forces good interpersonal skills.

          It is best at first if it is an EVERYONE PLAYS team so the kid also gets a chance to learn the sport as well.

          OH YEAH, don't forget the great non-athletic team/social groups. Such as Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Brownines, and Girl Scouts. Not only do they teach interpersonal skills, but they also try to build integrity and values in young ones.
      • by dbialac (320955) on Monday March 08, 2004 @11:25PM (#8506000)
        At his age, I was seeing the same things (and in all places, Omaha, NE). Kids making fun of me, but I didn't understand why. It's not his hair, it's him. Oddly, I thought it was my hair when I was a kid, but that was only the specific element, not the abstract element which I couldn't see. The crux of the problem isn't something you can do anything about right now -- connecting to people on the most basic emotional levels. He'll have to work it out on his own later in life.

        You can get him involved in activities such as chess club, etc. that are geared towards gifted children. If he doesn't have coordination, I wouldn't do Karate as it will only frustrate him. Help him build confidence in his strengths, which appears right now to be his intelligence. Chess, computer organizations, summer school programs for the gifted, etc.

        Just my $0.02 worth.
        • Re:One word - Karate (Score:5, Interesting)

          by ComradeX13 (226926) on Tuesday March 09, 2004 @12:07AM (#8506412)
          The point of Karate - or any martial art - would be in part *to* give him coordination.

          Speaking as a former "gifted" kid, and someone who started taking martial arts young, there's nothing like knocking the shit out of the school bully to give a kid some confidence.

          A lot depends on age, as well... hell, a kid like that in high school, I'd say find a cool kid his own age and throw him into your average high school summer party. Losing a few inhibitions can do a lot for a person.

          Anyway, though, show a kid with some smarts something he wants that he can only get through social activity, give him a few clues as to how to get started and I'm sure he'll pick a few things up (again, age - later on, sex is a big motivator.)
          • by mr3038 (121693) on Tuesday March 09, 2004 @04:12PM (#8512870)
            The point of Karate - or any martial art - would be in part *to* give him coordination. [...] Speaking as a former "gifted" kid, and someone who started taking martial arts young, there's nothing like knocking the shit out of the school bully to give a kid some confidence.

            Yep, knocking or kicking the living shit out of the school bully is something a gifted or not-so-gifted kid should do to get some confidence. Sure... Stop right there. Just how surprised would you be, if I were to tell you, that a skilled expression can modify your thoughts, a lot more than you have ever imagined? And it'll be subtle. As in, you'll not even realize. As you're reading the words I've written, and you're still wondering what I'm actually speaking about, it may be, that you already feel deep inside you, that words really can make a difference.

            Now, stop, just for a second, and think about the claim I made in the end of the previous paragraph. Would you've agreed with that unless I'd written the previous sentences? Notice that my English isn't perfect, English isn't even one of the official languages where I live, but still I can change your mind with just a couple of simple sentences of that language. Did you notice how this paragraph already changed your thoughts? If English is your native language, notice, for example, that you cannot fluently read over any sentence that contains the word stop. Just try not to stop while reading this sentence with words like stop and wait thrown in between other words like halt and pause. Did you notice that? You mind made a little pause during every one of those 'magic' words.

            If the kid were really gifted, I'd give him a psychology book or two. Or make it sociology or psychotherapy. And then I'd tell him to try the skills he learns from those books with people he doesn't already know. Let me tell you, it's sometimes frightening how closely some people follow the models listed in countless books. And in the same time, you value the people that go against the known models so much more. As he's trying the new skills in action, he'll, as a side effect, learn to deal with previously unknown people (also known as social skills). Soon enough, he'll find that the typical shit written in a typical psychology book, other than the basics, is just theories after theories and it doesn't apply to reality. But by that time, it's already too late; he's already learned some social skills! And it might be that he likes those new skills. I've one question to ask: how surprised would you be, if you had picked up some psychology books by the end of the next week just because you read this message? That's something to think about.

            Do you really think that having a good coordination has anything to do with good social skills? If not, why should a kid without social skills take martial arts course? To help with the lack of social skills? Why not something that helps, instead?

        • by kfg (145172) on Tuesday March 09, 2004 @12:26AM (#8506542)
          If he doesn't have coordination, I wouldn't do Karate as it will only frustrate him.

          Yes, if his Karate teacher sucks. Unfortunately there are many of these. As with all things one must be an intelligent and discerning shopper.

          In any case, a child such as this is quite likely to do better with one of the "soft" martial arts, such as Tai Chi and Aikido, where developing coordination is the principle focus of the art. They also require a good deal of intelligent thoughtfulness to do well. A good teacher will take him from wherever he is and train him from there, not from some hypothetical starting point where he's "supposed to be." Then when he develops skill, coordination and selfconfidence he can adopt a "hard" school if he wishes.

          KFG
      • or... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by dandelion_wine (625330) on Monday March 08, 2004 @11:34PM (#8506106) Journal
        Or if that's not his thing, and he isn't scared off by the new-agey fringers, yoga can work, too. Not for ass-kicking, but for getting in tune with his body, which, if he's a typical geek, is way out of whack.

        One of the best insights I remember from Coupland's Microserfs was the talk about a geek's disconnection from his/her body. How it's just this thing we pay little attention to, and consequently, it does not serve us well. I'm a runner, too, but while that works on a stress-reduction level, I don't think it puts you in tune as well as a more precise discipline such as martial arts or yoga.

        Beyond some frank discussion (everyone needs someone to tell them the truth about stuff), however, what more can you do? You can only do so much. In truth, a woman will change him -- for the better, if she's a good one. Let's face it, guys are extreme, and admirable for being extreme. We can live off very little and get by, and that lends itself to all kinds of single-minded dedication, and thus achievement, but women tend to bring temperance to what they touch. (again, the good ones). Just my $.02
        • or...Music & Dance (Score:4, Interesting)

          by goliard (46585) on Tuesday March 09, 2004 @01:36AM (#8507029)
          The other disciplines which have been helping us too-smart-for-our-own-good people get in touch with their bodies are the studies of music and dance. For the clueless, I particularly recommend study in strict formal traditions where they tell you things like "This is right/this is wrong" rather than "Just express yourself." In addition to making practitioners more in touch with their bodies, both disciplines have interesting social effects. They can provide a modality of interaction particularly suited to shy people, one which doesn't involve small talk; they can provide both cooperative and competitive interactions.
      • by PCM2 (4486) on Tuesday March 09, 2004 @12:56AM (#8506774) Homepage
        As flipant as this the parent is, martial arts might be a real decent way to build some confidence in pysical activity, and get him/her interacting with people.
        Unfortunately, he won't be able to actually practice the marital arts until he gets a girl interested in him...

        Oops! Damn dyslexia...

      • Re:One word - Karate (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 09, 2004 @01:13AM (#8506888)
        I have to agree. As a geek who has studied multiple martial arts (both un-armed and weapons), I can say that it is a great way to learn social skills and how to get along with people. You can learn a wide range of skills both social and physical, and have a lot of fun while your at it.
        Use a bit of caution when choosing a dojo however, many of the schools have (unfortunately) become overly commercial - as long as you show up and pay your fees, you can expect to advance "on schedule" - I've seen kids (and adults) with black belts who show none of the maturity and skills that should be present at that level. Others have become clubs for people who seem to think that everything you need to know can be learned from watching Jet Li movies, when this is a weapons class, it's a Darwin Award waiting to happen.
        That said, there are many very good schools out there. Visit them, talk with the Sensei and sit through a couple of classes before signing up.
        A couple web sites to check out as a place to start:
        http://www.askf.org/
        http://www.geocities .com/toyamanewsletter/index.ht ml

    • by Skyshadow (508) on Monday March 08, 2004 @10:51PM (#8505587) Homepage
      That's actually not a bad idea (not for the reasons you've mentioned).

      Martial Arts build self-confidence, discipline and involve teaching as well as learning (since the more advanced students will help the less advanced). This is probably a pretty good list of the things these kids need, especially if physical activity and the like aren't really their forte -- challenges are good.

      I'm taking Tae Kwon Do as a 26 year-old, and I just wish I'd gotten into it sooner. I've only been at it a short time, and I already sound like one of the cheesy recruiting flyers.

      As to your other point, you really shouldn't minimize the importance of a good set of social skills. Especially in our more complex world, interaction with others is a huge part of getting anything done. Being able to ask for (and accept) things, network, build relationships and function in social situations are damn nifty skills to have.

      Anyhow, I think martial arts would be a good way to teach smart kids to be *smart*, rather than just bastions of niche knowledge.

      • by Jexx Dragon (733193) on Monday March 08, 2004 @11:03PM (#8505763)
        Being able to ask for (and accept) things, network, build relationships and function in social situations are damn nifty skills to have.

        I can build networks. Wait...

      • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Monday March 08, 2004 @11:15PM (#8505896) Homepage Journal
        That's actually not a bad idea (not for the reasons you've mentioned).

        All of your reasons are valid, but being able to kick the bullies' asses is a valid one as well. The martial arts are the martial arts; they may have developed a layer of philosophy over the years, but at the root they're about fighting. And that's not a bad thing, at all.

        I was a punching bag all the way through elementary school and junior high. I started studying Tae Kwon Do -- from an instructor who had been a Marine stationed in Korea, and taught the art as a survival skill rather than a sport -- the summer before my freshman year of high school. I spent my freshman and sophomore years getting in a lot of fights. By my junior year, I had a reputation as a "psycho" (apparently when the jocks were pounding the hell out of me, that was perfectly normal, but fighting back was crazy). It wasn't quite the reputation I was looking for, but it was a hell of a lot better than going to school every day in literal terror.

        And by my senior year, once people realized that I wasn't a psycho, it paid off. I could still be a geek, still be really really good at math and science, still spend most of my time with my nose buried in a book ... and I also had friends, and a girlfriend, and invitations to parties, and, you know, a life. It wasn't something I had to work at, directly. It just kind of happened, because I had the self-confidence to live my life in a way that made me happy --

        -- and I trace that confidence back, quite directly, to the day I first felt a football player's nose crunch under my heel. Because sometimes, standing and fighting and winning is the best thing you can do.
        • Re:One word - Karate (Score:5, Interesting)

          by shadowbearer (554144) on Tuesday March 09, 2004 @12:24AM (#8506530) Homepage Journal
          Mod parent up

          Ditto, here. TKD, also. Never considered a psycho, AFAIK, but the bullying just stopped after I got my first belt. Might have had something to do with me demolishing a certain asshole in my sophomore year.

          I ran into one of the bullies who terrorized me during junior high recently in a bar in my hometown. His take on it was that I had "changed" and there was something about me that told him not to try it anymore, so he looked for easier targets.

          He'd really changed, too, when we talked. We'd both grown up a lot, and it was a great evening of conversation and reminiscence, and laughter at how stupid we both were. Holy memory, batman....thanks, DD

          SB
          • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 09, 2004 @01:54AM (#8507135)
            >>He'd really changed, too, when we talked. We'd both grown up a lot, and it was a great evening of conversation and reminiscence, and laughter at how stupid we both were.

            On behalf of tormented geeks everywhere with similar memories of childhood bullying, please tell us you ended the evening with a warm, friendly handshake... and then you kicked his sorry ass six ways to sunday, just for the fun of it.
      • by rumint (643005) on Monday March 08, 2004 @11:21PM (#8505965)
        I would add that the martial arts are particularly valuable for teaching the lesson that no matter how good you think you are, there is inevitably someone better. The same applies to intelligence. Learning some humilty now will help make him a better student and teacher in the future.

        My apologies to the .00001% of the Slashdot population who actually are the top martial artist and genius on the planet.

      • Re:One word - Karate (Score:5, Informative)

        by I_Want_This_ID (678839) on Monday March 08, 2004 @11:29PM (#8506045)
        Another good martial art is Aikido.

        Aikido isn't a "get in your face" type of martial art, it's more of a "take your opponent down as fast as possible with adding as little of your own energy as possible" kind of art. EVERYTHING is taught by example and partner/group work.
        Very cool stuff. Here [aikidofaq.com] for more information

    • by sonatinas (308999) on Monday March 08, 2004 @11:00PM (#8505718) Journal
      When i was 6 my parents enrolled me in martial arts. It really helped me socially. I didn't have that many friends at school, but i had plenty of martial arts friends. You get a great workout and develop some discipline. If you treat it as an art and discipline and not a way to kick ass, it really has a profound effect on your life. And helps you gain confidence.
    • by Glonoinha (587375) on Monday March 08, 2004 @11:00PM (#8505726) Journal
      Ausbergers syndrome - learn it, know it, ask yourself if it applies here. It is similar in nature to Autism (think of RainMan but really watered down, almost to the point of it being questionable as to whether or not he is / is not affected.)

      Do the youthes you are talking about have amazing technical skills, wonderful (photographic) memories, the ability to empathize with the computer ... while being totally socially inept?

      Anyways, it is worth understanding.
      • by NeoThermic (732100) on Monday March 08, 2004 @11:12PM (#8505868) Homepage Journal
        While being related to that, you could also say the child could be dyspraxic and dyslexic, as I am.

        In what has been described in the blurb, I see what I was when I joined year 7 at my UK school.

        The best way I coped with social situations was literlly to relate them to computer programming. Each individual is an object, they have the same properties, but diffrent values.
        The best way to socialise with one another is to exchange the diffrent values you have and try to find similar ones. When you do, its best to follow the similar ones, and thus you can become friends with them.
        If they have diffrent values but express intrest in the ones you have, you could show them about that value. Thus you have also made a friend through diffrences.
        I still find it hard to socialise with girls, however, with time comes perfection, as I currently have a girlfriend.
        You need to, without making them feel unwanted or put down by suggestions, make them think a bit about their outwards apperence. Hand them a comb in the morning, and make a small joke about why to use it. (E.g. better look snappy, you never know who might walk through the door - or something similar without the cheeseness).

        Do get them tested for all three, both of my points, and the parent posters point, as early diagnosis is very helpfull.

        Good Luck

        NeoThermic
      • by gregor_b_dramkin (137110) on Monday March 08, 2004 @11:15PM (#8505897) Homepage
        "Asperger Syndrome or (Asperger's Disorder) is a neurobiological disorder named for a Viennese physician, Hans Asperger, who in 1944 published a paper which described a pattern of behaviors in several young boys who had normal intelligence and language development, but who also exhibited autistic-like behaviors and marked deficiencies in social and communication skills. "

        By Barbara L. Kirby
        Founder of the OASIS Web site (www.aspergersyndrome.org)
        Co-author of THE OASIS GUIDE TO ASPERGER SYNDROME (Crown, 2001)
        • by rynthetyn (618982) on Tuesday March 09, 2004 @03:07AM (#8507549) Journal
          As a kid, I had a hard time with communicating with other kids my age just because I was so much smarter than they were. A second grader who reads highschool science textbooks for fun doesn't really have much in common with other second grade girls who's idea of a hard book is The Babysitter's Club series.

          Plus, it can be rather isolating when even most adults haven't got a clue about the things you're interested in.

          Sometimes I think that it would be easier to be average and to go along happily clueless of anything below the surface of things.
      • by Muhammar (659468) on Monday March 08, 2004 @11:22PM (#8505968)
        Asperger

        (Ausberger is a german take-out food, eaten by highlanders, with lotsa sauerkraut and no iodine).
        • by kaarigar (663458) on Tuesday March 09, 2004 @01:16AM (#8506911)
          In this country it's almost a fashion to brand socially inepts as having Asperger's. With whatever limited resources public schools are lrft with, they send their special resource teachers and psychologists for a course somewhere, and they come back and start labelling everyone having slight solical ineptness as having Asperger's. After changing 4 schools in first three school years, in three different countris, my son ended up being labelled as Asperger beause the teacher's Hawaiian accents were kind of out-of-the-world for him. Anyway, what I am saying is that everyone have traits, and one desn't need to be labelled as having something or suffering from something in order to be qualified for assistance. And definitely not to be labelled by those half-baked pseudo psychologists from the school district, who will not get federal funding unless they had classfull of Asperger's. The best thing is to completely ignore the social ineptness of these kids and just throw them into the crowd where they will be exposed to "normals and regulars" and realize the importance of having good social skills. They might suffer a bit in the beginning, but will learn to adjust. Just make sure the "regaulrs" are not "hostiles" (oh, I just love the labels!)
      • by JabberWokky (19442) <slashdot.com@timewarp.org> on Monday March 08, 2004 @11:52PM (#8506267) Homepage Journal
        Why do geeks, who can look up anything on Google, have no idea what Asperger's Syndrome is? They seem to think that it is some sort of light preference away from social skills.

        I am quite close to someone with Asperger's. I met him because I know his sister. It's unlikely that I'd meet him otherwise. I've met several people with Asperger's since then, as they live together at an assisted living facility.

        Asperger's is a social handicap. He cannot distinguish lies from truth because he cannot read faces or tone of voice. The assisted living facility watches everybody's budget because they are prone to being swindled. At the same time, he is outgoing, gregarious and generous. He remembers everybody's birthday and spends plenty of time on the phone with everybody and goes out most nights, socializing with people.

        But he's on a twenty minute loop of topics. He'll bring something up, then the next topic, and so on, and then twenty minutes later brings up the first topic again. His roommate and he have circular conversations without any hint of discomfort. He also tends to bring up things that happened 20 years ago repeatedly, sometimes without being aware of what has happened in the interval. He talks about his childhood pet cat as if it were still alive.

        He is very intelligent and fun to hang out with because he is so outgoing. We went over to his apartment for the Superbowl (he's a big football fan), and he had a GI Joe tablecloth. He invited a bunch of people and was a wonderful host.

        But he just didn't get some of the jokes or stories because he simply can not read sarcasm or irony.

        Asperger's is talked about on Slashdot as if it were some sort of light geekish introversion. Asperger's has nothing to do with introversion, and many geek tendancies (senses of humor that tend toward the ironic, sarcastic or double meaning) are completely beyond the capabilities of someone with Asperger's. One test for Asperger's is asking someone to draw a person. Children with Asperger's tend not to draw facial features, and if they do, they lack any emotion. Asperger's is complicated because the person may be intelligent (or not... they have the normal range of intelligence), but they simply lack the fundimental ability to parse many parts of social communication.

        Asperger's is not a minor handicap. Nor does it cause introversion. It is the inability to understand the social interaction inherent in communication. The fellow I told you about is up for assistant manager at a major pizza chain. He's doing well in the world and has made many friends. But he is handicapped, and it's not the minor "geekish tendancies" that people on Slashdot seem to think Asperger's is. He'll never be able to live on his own, always needing some supervision. It is a real, major handicap.

        --
        Evan

        • by KiwiRed (598427) on Tuesday March 09, 2004 @12:22AM (#8506520)
          Aspergers isn't necessarily as bad as you are portraying it - at least, not always and not necessarily as visible. (I have a diagnosis of AS (Aspergers Syndrome) myself, so i think i have some idea of what i speak.)

          There is a great deal of variation in the intensity of an autistic person's behaviours (for AS is a 'milder' form of autism); in my case i'm pretty clueless about social cues and pretty much lost in social group situations.

          Autistics aren't the emotionless robots we're all painted as, although the way we can express our emotions can be so powerful/uncontrolled that it's considered dangerous, or so subtly expressed that the emotion is simply not seen as such.

          Humour varies with autistics just as it does with everyone else; i have something of a reputation amongst my peers (both autistic and not) for my wit (when the joke works, which is usually the case).

          But AS is a serious obstacle when seeking (or attempting to remain in) employment, and it can make social contact something of a challenge (for both sides).

          Yes, it's a handicap, but not always incapacitating.
    • Re:One word - Karate (Score:4, Informative)

      by d.valued (150022) on Monday March 08, 2004 @11:02PM (#8505756) Journal
      If you want another reason to nudge towards physical activity: Exercise promotes brain function.

      Beyond research showing that exercise alters the function of the brain in a beneficial manner, just simple biology will tell you that increased cardiovascular activity leads to increased oxygen capacity in the blood, which can carry more of that precious O2 into your greymatta and increase mental function.

      The ancient Greeks had a point in training minds and bodies.
      • Sports (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Skyshadow (508) on Monday March 08, 2004 @11:20PM (#8505954) Homepage
        More than just physical activity, I've recently started thinking that *competetive* sports are a Good Think for a kid to experience.

        I have a cousin whose parents always labeled him as "too good" for sports (so of course he ended up believing that, too). So, now not only has he never played a sport, but he looks down on people who do.

        Just recently, he applied to one of the better acting schools in California. When he didn't get in, he threw a hissy fit worthy of a six year old -- stomped around the house, yelled at his folks, cried, made quasi-abusive calls to the college demanding to talk with the people in admissions, etc. This wasn't one night, either; this went on for months.

        Simply put, he doesn't know how to lose. Or, maybe more specifically, he doesn't know how to react in a positive way when things don't fall the way he wants them to. All his life he's been sheltered from competition and told that he's gifted and better than everyone else and all the other crapola that parents in the 80's pushed on their kids, so when something happens to challenge this point of view he falls to pieces.

        So, instead of getting a spot at another school and working on a transfer, he's convinced himself that the people in admissions are threatened by his talent and that they don't deserve him. When the school year starts, he'll be working part time at a coffee shop in San Francisco instead of going after his dreams.

        Anyhow, when/if I have kids, you can bet they'll play something. Soccer, baseball, football, whatever -- aside from the other benefits of physical activity, I think it's a valuable place to learn how to deal with adversity (aka, lose).

        • Re:Sports (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Daetrin (576516) on Tuesday March 09, 2004 @12:47AM (#8506717)
          I don't know what's wrong with the kid you're talking about, but it certainly wasn't the lack of competition, or at least not that alone. I never did any sports or anything else competitive, and when i got wait listed on my first choice college i didn't do any of that crap. I felt kind of sad but went on with my life and planed to go to my second choice.

          Of course a few months later my first choice college realized they'd underadmited and started calling up people on the wait list and asking if they wanted to attend, and i was near the top of the list. Of course if i'd reacted like your example and had a hissy fit they probably wouldn't have considered me.

          It sounds like the parents raised the kid all wrong, and the belief that he was too good for sports were only a small part of it. I'm sure there are pleanty of other spoiled brats who took sports and it didn't make them any better.

  • by HoxBox (670161) on Monday March 08, 2004 @10:44PM (#8505524)
    Incoming a million "This is slashdot, what's a social skill" jokes....
  • by chrisopherpace (756918) <cpace.hnsg@net> on Monday March 08, 2004 @10:45PM (#8505527) Homepage
    asking slashdot on social skill questions is like asking a factory worker which distribution of Linux is better.

    This is a joke, laugh.
    • by liquidpele (663430) on Monday March 08, 2004 @11:07PM (#8505814) Journal
      Hey now! I have a great social life, and there is really only one secret to it...

      Alcohol. And lots of it. :)
      • by the_mad_poster (640772) <shattoc@adelphia.com> on Monday March 08, 2004 @11:12PM (#8505865) Homepage Journal

        After a younger me consumed 108 ounces (9 bottles) of Coors Light (I don't drink that watery shit anymore... Arrogant Bastard [stonebrew.com] is my new love) at a local club full of plasticized morons, I got ahhh... slightly... uh... tipsy.

        I told my girlfriend's friend who is severly overweight that she'd have much better luck finding a guy if she'd "do something about that fat ass".

        Despite this unfortunate incident, my girlfriend says I am much more sociable when I'm drunk, and she prefers me that way.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 09, 2004 @01:10AM (#8506873)
        When I was 16 I decided that I would be happier if I normalized myself. Based on studies on soviet alcholics I concluded that if I did enough brain damage I'd be close to normal

        Well it didn't normalize me but the thing I discovered was that when drinking heavily I was charismatic and appraochable. I had spent 2 years in the gym but had no luck with women. *bang* as soon as I have as much booze in me as a squad of navy pilots on leave I was irrisistable. by the time I was 18 there was a list of girls who would go to parties only if I was going to be there.

        I also figured out that all I had to do was act like I did when drunk and I was much better with people (the eye contact, energetic voice, the warm smile, being happy to see people, etc). You do not have to ever have the "social skills" all you really have to have is the ability to emulate the social skills. this is basic acting people. It doesn't have to come naturally but you do have to be able to study what charismatic people do and be able to parrot it.

        Body building also doesn't hurt. Women as well as men judge you initially based on the only thing they have and that is appearance. Besides it is just like any other RPG, it is all about leveling.

        Martial arts? been there done that. If you live in fear this might seem like the answer. Unfortunatly your charismatic martial artist is about as common as your charismatic astro physisist (maybe less, I understand that Hawking used to be great fun at parties). This is only a good idea if he is getting beat up and then, only if he feel the opposition is not going to feel his new found skills entitle them to equalize the situation whether it be through numbers or weapons.

        If he is as sharp as you say; above and beyond all else remember he doesn't have to socialize with people his own age. Grab him a few PHDs and post grads from fields that interest him and let them play together. Or see if he can just start college early (some places will pay for it if he his still a minor) The people who are mean to him now, will dead end shortly after high school and that they will never matter like they seem to right now. It is a couple rough years but after that everything gets better.

        This one should go AC as some of it sounds like bragging and the rest might sound sociopathic to some.
  • Easy... (Score:5, Funny)

    by ErikTheRed (162431) on Monday March 08, 2004 @10:45PM (#8505528) Homepage
    You need incentinves. Simply explain that better social skills lead to more sex.
    • Re:Easy... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by KingOfBLASH (620432) on Monday March 08, 2004 @10:54PM (#8505630) Journal

      The parent post should be modded up Insightful and not funny. One of the major reasons, IMHO, geeks and nerds do not develop social skills is because they see no need. Most kids are concerned with their classmates opinions, and being liked. Those that do not care about being liked and just want to do what they want to do -- i.e. learn math -- develop in other ways their peers do not.

      Another reason I believe that gifted children do not develop social skills is they lack peers. Think about talking to a child when you're an adult. You don't talk to them on the same level because they are immature and inexperienced. It's the same sort of thing for gifted children, they see themselves as the equivalent of a 20 year old trapped in a group of 10 year olds (or whatever). Solution? Put them with people of their intelligence level in their age group and watch them grow socially. (Not an easy task if they are in the top 1% or less of the population)

      • Re:Easy... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by whereiswaldo (459052) on Monday March 08, 2004 @11:03PM (#8505769) Journal
        Sure you can get away with being a nerd/geek for a long time, but in the end a balanced life is the most sustainable. The hard part is, it's hard to actually have a balanced life. If you don't have a significant other, then that part is missing. If you don't have friends who like to do what you like to do, then that part is missing. If you don't have a job, same thing. Of course there are other areas you probably like to have.

        So if you don't have a certain one of these things, then ask yourself why. Is there something you can do about it. Do you care. If not, why. If not, make sure it's not because you think you can't have one of those things. Once you decide you want to make a change, decide how. Is there something you can stop doing or start doing that will help make it happen. Or maybe you have to go somewhere like a (gulp) night club or gym or supermarket or just for a walk. Maybe you need to hang out with a new crowd. Maybe you need a good friend to take you out on the town or out to a new group of friends.

        Anyhow, it's all out there. You just need to find your reason for doing something about it.
        • Re:Easy... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by thrillseeker (518224) on Monday March 08, 2004 @11:53PM (#8506282)
          Sure you can get away with being a nerd/geek for a long time, but in the end a balanced life is the most sustainable. The hard part is, it's hard to actually have a balanced life. If you don't have a significant other, then that part is missing. If you don't have friends who like to do what you like to do, then that part is missing.

          It doesn't work that way for some kids (or adults). They are not missing out on the particular social items you mention in the slightest - because they have no interest in them. Such people have to be taught social skills - and it's not that they need social skills to be happy from their own perspective - it's that other people will tolerate them better if they can exhibit what most of us consider normal politeness.

          Asperger Syndrome kids have great difficulty recognizing the visual cues in a face for example - they don't know that they are missing out on anything at all - and they don't understand but can experience as much frustration as any other human at people that shamelessly make fun of them (well .... if they notice). Such people are very sensitive to being crowded, or loud or sudden noises, or in the case of my son, the high-pitched whine of an ultrasonic cleaner (such kids tend to have excellent hearing it seems). Think of all the little things that kind of irritate you a little - people interrupting you when concentrating, strong smells, sirens, etc. You're likely able to just tolerate them without thinking about it - people with Asp. Syn. don't have that trivial self control - they have to make a concious effort to not be overwhelmed by such "little things".

          To their advantage most of them also tend to be really smart and/or have superb memory.

          Anyway, these kids can't just ask themselves why they don't have certain social lives - they are unable to recognize that they don't.

      • Re:Easy... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mnmn (145599) on Monday March 08, 2004 @11:23PM (#8505990) Homepage
        Hear hear. I remember just wondering why other kids in class never joined my world domination plans and always laughed. I drew many sophisticated diagrams of vehicles, rockets etc that worked, and took great interest in Chemistry, Trignometry etc which related directly to my plans. I drew a helicopters gear system in great detail including materials used, and later saw a real heli used the exact same structures, gears and materials. Thats a whole lot of motivation to go on.

        What did kids talk about in class? Laughing at teachers, cynicism, I like this car, that girls great in bed, I had cheerios this morning, I havent done my homework etc. I did come across other geeks and had great conversations with them. With some, I argued over some philosophical things for years (specifically that God doesnt exist), and others gave some good advice, and lent books they never got back.

        Put gifted kids together. I understand they can be seriously egoistic, considering the time they spent with uninteresting kids. But that will only challenge them further. If you want your kid to be 'normal', your post on slashdot will earn you many, many, many enemies.
        • by TekGoNos (748138) on Tuesday March 09, 2004 @01:46AM (#8507094) Journal

          Put gifted kids together.

          Yep, that is the best way (from my personal experience).
          It not only helps them to gain some social skill from the interaction with similar kids, the moral support I got from these groups was very healthy too. You are surrounded by a bunch of kids who all have the same problems, and that helps you to deal with the bullies. I developped a "I am more intelligent than this jerk, so I dont care what he says"-attitude that helped me survive school.

          Granted this is arrogant and needs to be overcome when you reach adulthood, but IMO it's still better than what other people I know have experienced. Not knowing that they were more intelligent, they felt as "cheaters" because they performed well on tests without learning, something that was preached by their teachers to be "impossible". Thereof their whole succes in life seamed a lie to them and they lived in fear that this lie will be discovered one day. Also they felt isolated because nobody understood them.
          And they were the lucky ones that did well in school instead of malperforming because they got bored.

          The day they first joined a group of very intelligent people generally comes to them as a relieve and sometimes even as an "enlightenment". I literally saw a woman in her fifties burst in tears on her first Mensa meeting. Having contact to other kids that understand and respect him will not only teach him social skills but also show him that he's not alone in the world, but that there are others just like him.

          So dont wait for him to make this discovery later in life, but get him in touch with similiar children now. Contact the gifted children program [mensa.org] of Mensa [mensa.org] or a specialized organisation like the American Association for Gifted Children [aagc.org] to see if they have a local group of gifted children.

          BTW, from my experience gifted children are far more likely to accept someone much younger or older in their groups than "normal" children. I guess they are happy to find someone that understands them at all, so age doesnt matter that much. (I still wouldnt advice to put a 5-year-old in a group of 16-year-olds ;)

          I also was a member of a chessclub which is important as it gets you in touch with "normal" people. Not hyperintelligent, but not the typical school bullies either. But it didnt gave me the same emotional satisfaction as the gifted children group.

          Finally, dont expect wonders. I still wasnt "Mr. Popular" in school, but I always had some few, but good friends, even some (even fewer) girlfriends and was happy. But even then, and despite the fact that I got to a highschool for "better" students, it was sometimes pretty rough at school. But when I got to (I guess the US equivalent is college), I fund it very funny that the same people that bullied me before became very nice to me. Suddenly they were concerned about their marks and guess who they did turn to with their problems in Math ;-p
          I didnt abuse my new power and didnt let them abuse me with this new promise of "popularity" either, but kept friendly and acquired a nice middle position in the hierarchy. I suddenly got invited to parties and became a somewhat more normal, but rather shy student.
          Now, at university, I'm almost on the top of the food chain ;-p

    • Re:Easy... (Score:5, Funny)

      by nbvb (32836) on Monday March 08, 2004 @11:15PM (#8505901) Journal
      Get the kid a "happy ending" somewhere and tell him that he'll get more if he cleans up his act.

      You can *explain* it all you want, but till he's actually had the, uhm, pleasure, he won't understand. :)

  • Work in Teams (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Grassferry49 (458582) on Monday March 08, 2004 @10:45PM (#8505534) Homepage
    Divide up the project so that he only has a piece of the puzzle and will fail unless he is able to interact with the other team members to get it to work. Also play lots of games where social interaction is involved to solve the problem, human knots, simple ball games, you know those group building games we all hate.
    • Re:Work in Teams (Score:4, Insightful)

      by metlin (258108) on Monday March 08, 2004 @11:02PM (#8505752) Journal
      Although I do not question your methods, and I do realize that team-work is needed in real-life too, I'm quite against the concept of forcing people who are not socially comfortable into teams.

      I've always felt comfortable working by myself - give me a task to do and I will do it well, and do not force me to get into teams, or do any of the teamwork stuff.

      I cannot help it - trust me, I've tried hard to work with teams, but even in a team I really need to work with people who understand me - and that includes my social shortcomings. Unfortunately, that almost never happens in real life, and its a sore point for me and for many others like me.

      And I question the submitters need to ask such a question - why should I learn social skills and sacrifice my other skills? It has been proven that gaining social skills often comes at the expense of your problem solving and other intellectual abilities.

      Is it so hard to understand that some people work better all by themselves? That some people are loners, and thats the way they are wired? And yes, when it comes to it I get myself a girlfriend the way _I_ see fit - and trust me, I've found pleasant geek girls this way, and these are ones who accept me despite my shortcomings.

      The submitter made it sound like having no social skills makes us deficient in someway. Perhaps it does, but hell it more than makes up for it in other ways. Why should the ones who are socially inept and deficient try and be socially pleasant and accomodating to others?

      Now if the smarter ones were to demand that those who were socially better off learn to be more smart and learn to solve more problems, lets see how the world takes that. Lets see the world taking to people saying that your IQ skills are bad, you need to develop them else you will not be accepted into the community. They will cry wolf. Then why should the socially inept have to learn social skills?

      Oh well, enough with the ranting already. Somethings never change with time, I guess. No matter how advanced we become as a civilization, we will always fall back as a society.
      • Re:Work in Teams (Score:4, Insightful)

        by DeusExLibris (247137) on Monday March 08, 2004 @11:31PM (#8506072)
        I have often wished that when I was in middle/high school, my teachers and parents would have emphasized the development of my social skills to the degree that they let did my analytical skills. Instead, I have spent the better part of 20 years developing the ability to work well as part of or leading a team, and socializing with people.

        I have done this for one very good reason - I realized very early in my career that brilliant, but socially inept engineers/scientists/programmers always end up reporting to managers of average intelligence that have developed (or were born with) their social skills.

        The reality is that business is conducted through social interactions. So, if you are happy to spend the rest of your career reporting to someone that you are certain isn't as smart as you - by all means, do not develop those social skills. However, if you have ambitions to run or start a company, or play more than an consultative role in the running of a company, get a clue soon that your social skills are just as important as your technical skills.
      • Re:Work in Teams (Score:4, Insightful)

        by prockcore (543967) on Tuesday March 09, 2004 @01:35AM (#8507017)
        Is it so hard to understand that some people work better all by themselves?

        Is it so hard to understand that most business requires working with co-workers?

        I would never hire you. I don't care if you're the best programmer on earth, if you cannot work with our designers, our reporters, and our editors, you are useless.
        • by oneiros27 (46144) on Tuesday March 09, 2004 @09:04AM (#8508693) Homepage
          (sorry, I don't have the full quote)
          Bob Slidell:
          What.. what would you say... you do here?
          Tom Smykowski:
          Look, I already told you! I deal with the goddamn customers so the engineers don't have to! I have people skills! I am good at dealing with people! Can't you understand that? WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?
          I freely admit that I have some problems with my people skills -- but when I'm combined with a good manager, most people would never know it. I had one manager who made sure to control how I interacted with people, so make sure that he got the best possible work out of me.

          I remember on one project, I was so pissed off that someone had given us something completely stupid, and practically impossible to do. Mark knew exactly how to handle it -- he told me that they were expecting me to fail, and that I should do it just to prove them wrong. He knew exactly how to turn my anti-social tendancies into a benefit, not a handicap. [and I turned my part of the project in on time... too bad the contractor never did, and walked with over 50% of the hardware, and never produced any of the software, that he was supposedly 'working on in [his] test lab'.]

          In a small company, yes, everyone will probably have to do a little bit of customer relations. In a large company, with good managment, they will know how to deal with various personality quirks, and how to get the most of each person. [And likewise, if a particular person is worth the trouble]. Unfortunately, Mark got promoted, and I was hung out to dry by a completely 'hands off' manager, and was fired by his boss for pointing out his mistakes repeatedly.
  • by Discopete (316823) on Monday March 08, 2004 @10:45PM (#8505535) Homepage
    This did wonders for my social skills.

    Get him into dungeons and dragons. Find a group at a local shop or a campus club that will allow him to join as a newbie.

    Most experienced DM's enjoy seeing new players grown and mature while learning and playing the game.

  • Work = People (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SillySnake (727102) on Monday March 08, 2004 @10:46PM (#8505543)
    Get him a job dealing with people, and offer some sort of deal for him to get new tech toys to play with as a result. I was once much the same way but after working with people, and being able to reap the rewards, I am now a lot more functional in public than my peers. I've come so far as to hold a fairly decent sales job for my age and location, where I deal face to face with people constantly. Just like getting over your fears of anything else, confrontation is the easiest way to solve the problem. Granted, your student isn't AFRAID of social situations exactly, but I think more interaction would have the desired results.
  • by TerryAtWork (598364) <research@aceretail.com> on Monday March 08, 2004 @10:46PM (#8505546)

    I mean it. Tell him he might have to wind up running human emotions under emulation if necessary.

    Not knowing what the hell is wrong with him will stress him a lot more than having something, anything, he can deal with.

    Good luck with this.
    • Re:or don't..... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by deglr6328 (150198) on Monday March 08, 2004 @11:43PM (#8506182)
      "Tell him he might have to wind up running human emotions under emulation if necessary.

      Not knowing what the hell is wrong with him will stress him a lot more than having something, anything, he can deal with."


      Maybe this is an improper or even crass question, but when exactly did it become popular for everyone to have a pet disorder? It's really quite pathetic. No one is a bit shy anymore, they have Asperger's syndrome, no one feels under the weather for a time, they have chronic fatigue syndrome, no one dreads going to work in a drab boring office tower, they suffer from sick building syndrome etc. If you want to teach him about Asperger's syndrome, do him a bigger favor and also teach him about how certain psychoanalytical trends have all the earmarks of fad diagnoses [quackwatch.org].

      I submit that what you have proposed here is possibly the worst solution to a kids problem of shyness (even if it's to the point of 'painful' shyness). Telling him: you have X syndrome, you better learn to deal with it now so you can start spending the rest of your life "running human emotions under emulation" is downright depressing and gives him an excuse to throw his hands up and essentially absolve himself of any personal responsibility to remedy his situation.

      Would it not be better to provide guidance on how to have REAL relationships with people, find friends of his own interest and maybe gradually introduce him to participation in fun activities with his own peer group??
  • by Ayandia (630042) on Monday March 08, 2004 @10:46PM (#8505547)
    There's the natural course of geek development and we should mess with it as little as possible.

    New young geeks should have to wait for beer to develop social skills just like we did.
  • by dancingmad (128588) on Monday March 08, 2004 @10:47PM (#8505552)
    Comic Book Guy : Someone has mixed an "Amazing Spiderman" in with the "Peter Parker - The Spectacular Spiderman" series. This will not stand.

    Woman: Pardon me, but I wish to tender a serious cash offer for this stack of water damaged Little Lulus.

    CBG: Huh, "A" that is not water, it is Diet Mr. Pib, and "B" I... (CBG turns to look at the woman) Ohh... Err... Tell me, how do you feel about 45 year old virgins who still live with their parents?

    Woman: Comb the Sweet Tarts out of your beard and you're on.

    CBG: Don't try to change me baby.
  • by i.r.id10t (595143) on Monday March 08, 2004 @10:47PM (#8505557)
    of course. And the poster above is right about D&D or other role playing games. Heck, there were THOUSANDS of people to socialize with at GenCon!
  • Surely You're Joking (Score:5, Informative)

    by evilad (87480) on Monday March 08, 2004 @10:48PM (#8505559)
    Give the kid a copy of "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman."

    He comes across as an arrogant bastard, but I sure did enjoy the chapter about the intellectual challenge presented by learning how to pick up chicks.

    N.b.: Feynman's technique was probably valid in the 50s, and is definitely not useful now. The valuable part is getting this kid to treat "learning social skills" as an intellectual exercise.

    I.e., what makes these stupid apes TICK?
    • by AMystery (725537) on Monday March 08, 2004 @10:58PM (#8505691) Homepage Journal
      I haven't actually read Feynman yet, but he is on the list. However, I have to say that the intellectual approach is the wrong one if done exclusively, I tried it and all it does is lead to further ostrization. It finally resulted in me asking this girl if I could "study" her. No, you don't want to enable that type of humiliation.

      Getting the kid involved in any social skill is better, intellectual observations tend to be solitary. Team sports are of course good, but as most geeks are completely ungifted there, something like the science olympiad or governors academies are great. I learned a lot from each, how to work in a group, made some good friends.

      If you have it in your area, JETS (Junior Engineer Technical Society or something like that) is a wonderful competition. A group of people that work as a group to solve some hard engineering problems and think outside the box. Get 100 young geeks together in a large room, they compete, they break for lunch and massive studiest of the aerodynamic properties of paper, then some more competition. Wonderful memories.

      Play to the geek skills of random knowledge and challenge, but avoid the solitary activities and also downplay the sex angle unless they bring it up, let him do what he wants, just give some direction and motivation.

      Most of all, let the kid have fun!
  • Asberger's Syndrome (Score:5, Interesting)

    by squozebrain (742576) on Monday March 08, 2004 @10:51PM (#8505592)
    I'm not a psychologist, but there is a lot of information on the web concerning Asberger's Syndrome, a social learning disability which often occurs in gifted children. See this site [ccthd.org], for example:

    Asbergers syndrome is a severe disorder typified by difficulties in social interaction, restricted interests, and unusual patterns of behavior. Like autism, boys are more likely to suffer from Asbergers syndrome than girls. Although the children often have well-developed verbal skills, they are severely lacking in social skills. Their ability to interpret social cues is impaired, as is their ability to empathize with others. Even though they can describe the emotions of others and the gists of conversations, they are unable to act upon this knowledge in an intuitive, spontaneous fashion. They often have clumsy, stiff body language, use inappropriate facial expressions, and may speak in a monotone. Some talk incessantly, but usually about a topic of interest only to themselves, so they bore the listener.

    Although they may appear to be rude, this is a neurological disorder and not insensitivity. In fact, children with Asbergers are keenly aware of others around them, and become anxious in social settings. Because they tend to be "nerdy," these children often are subject to social rejection by their peers. This, in turn, frequently leads to anger, depression, and withdrawal, compounding the problem even more. Like their peers, children with Asbergers syndrome want to be accepted, but their disability makes this difficult. These children do well with logical, sequential thinking, so they tend to be successful academically and even have superior skills in an area of interest to them. However, holistic thinking is different; they often cannot deal with metaphors, puns, and creativity. Holistic thinking is required to be successful at reading social situations and responding appropriately.

    Since the child with Asbergers syndrome primarily has problems with social skills, especially relating to peers as opposed to adults, the diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis are very different than for classical autism. Psychotherapy and treatment in a program for the emotionally disturbed tend not to be helpful. (In fact, one school of thought regards Asbergers syndrome as a nonverbal learning disability as opposed to a mild form of autism.) One therapy that has been effective is Computer Aided Emotional Restructuring (CAER), which greatly reduces the anger, anxiety, and depression brought on by the social rejection these children usually experience. As they become more relaxed in social settings, these children become free to learn to effectively read and respond to social cues, and social skills training becomes more successful.

  • Acting lessons (Score:5, Interesting)

    by esnible (36716) on Monday March 08, 2004 @10:52PM (#8505604)
    Acting lessons, especially improvisation (comedy or drama).

    Acting teaches how to communicate intentions and how to show interest when listening.

    Acting can also provide a second social network (with people just as interested in role playing as you, except without silly costumes), with few social interconnections to the tech social networks (so you get to be a social hub.)
  • A bit of advice... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dancingmad (128588) on Monday March 08, 2004 @10:52PM (#8505606)
    Being a genius is one thing and it can get you ahead in life, but it's nothing if you can't deal with people (look at Jobs and the Woz, for example).

    Even in modern programming, no one man can tackle enormous projects - we break things into functions and into parts and put them together.

    Being ethnically different, "smart" (so said my K-12 schools, but college makes me doubt it), and by nature and culture alternately shy and arrogant, I've had to work to A) get to know people and B) work with them instead of going off on my own.

    I say you give him group assignments where he has to work with other people (programming seperate functions in a larger program). Also, for kids, the great equalizer is video games - I've been playing Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles for a while and that game really emphasizes team work and people talking together.
  • by DaveJay (133437) on Monday March 08, 2004 @10:52PM (#8505610)
    ...because ultimately it's up to him to do the learning. Unless he's asking you for help (which I doubt; this isn't an episode of "Saved by the bell") he's going to have to figure it out for himself, which includes him figuring out that there's something to figure out in the first place.

    Ultimately, the motivator for him to learn social skills will be other kids interacting with him in a positive way, and you can't force that. What you CAN do, however, is get him in social situations where his brains will be considered an asset.

    For instance, set up class lab activities that require teams of four, and make sure these activities require serious brains to complete. Sometimes, he should be in charge of picking people for his team; sometimes he shouldn't. Does this mean he might get chosen last? Sure, until a lazy and popular kid decides it's better to have this smart kid doing his work for him. Once your smart kid is selected by the popular kid, and they get an 'A' AND get done early because of it, he'll be considered an asset.

    The flipside to that, of course, is that the other kids will initially be using him. The thing is, learing that you're being used and learning how to deal with it is as important a social skill as any other, so while it's painful in the short term it's beneficial in the long term.

    Also, you'll be giving popular and lazy kids a reason to view him in a more positive light, which is a good lesson for them. :)
  • by oldosadmin (759103) on Monday March 08, 2004 @10:53PM (#8505620) Homepage
    The best way to build social skills is to get them involved in a group of people who actually -care- for them as a friend. The rest is easy.

    (sad story, warning)
    When I was a kid, I was the fat, alkward kid who nobody liked. I was never able to get over my alkwardness until I found a friend, Melissa (Mel) who accepted me as I was.

    Most of the time, these "socially enept" people are only socially enept because society has turned them away.

    If you want these people to be socially acceptable, try accepting them first.

    Not that I'm cool or anything now, but I do have friends, people who I care about and care about me. Popularity isn't everything. Friendship is. Thank God for friends.
  • by tekiegreg (674773) * <tekieg1-slashdot@yahoo.com> on Monday March 08, 2004 @10:54PM (#8505636) Homepage Journal
    Recalling from personal experience, I am by most definitions a dork and have been one since I picked up my first book in life.

    As a general rule I was more inclined to read books than socialize granted that was all I knew. Everyone would want to talk about the latest fad or trend and I just simply was never interested. Whenever company was over, I'd just simply ignore all that and go to my room and read. I had few friends in my life, mostly those I could relate to. Aside from the occasional bully, I was happy socially.

    However my stepmom couldn't stand that being a social giant. I was to relate to everyone and anyone. She would constantly drag me out of my room and try and get me to talk to people. I never did out of spite, mostly just clamming up or worse being nasty to anybody she tried, until I could get back to my book (and later computer games). I was not a pleasant conversationalist when forced like that. Therefore I question the value of corrective action against a socially dis-inclined person.

    For what it's worth tho, I'd like to think I turned out normal. I'm the first of my brothers to get married (well in 2 weeks anyways). Generally people say I relate well to others. However you generally find me talking to people I can relate with intellectually rather than people who are more inclined to talk about the latest "survivor" episode or some other gunk (I didn't even watch the Super Bowl!). However I can BS my way through anything if needed, for exapmle a job interview or performance review, etc.

    Your turn to rant!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 08, 2004 @10:55PM (#8505654)
    I graduated from one of the top schools in Computer Science. Needless to say, the majority of students were male and it was "difficult" to find a girl. I was working as a 'Desk Attendant' (which meant that I checked IDs as people entered a dorm) and I realized that it was the PERFECT opportunity to meet women. Everytime a girl passed that I didn't know, I simply smiled. The next time I saw them, I smiled again. If I was feeling lucky, I engaged in conversation. Eventually, it led to completely random women coming up to me on campus saying something as simple as "Hi!". My friends were amazed. "How did you meet her?" they'd say.


    The lesson is that social interaction doesn't require a major breakthrough. Slowly build up your confidence and you'll be amazed at the results which follow.

  • Empathy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FunWithHeadlines (644929) on Monday March 08, 2004 @10:57PM (#8505681) Homepage
    I wouldn't classify myself as such a geek, but I sure hung around with those types in school and know the mindset very well. I was always the type who thought somewhat like a geek, but not all the way. I was fascinated by tech stuff, but it was not all-consuming for me. I enjoyed writing as much as I did programming, for example. So I served as a kind of bridge for my more geeky friends to the "normal" kids. I could get along in both crowds, and made friends easily among all types. (In fact, I usually would try to befriend the tough kids so as to have protection ).

    What I saw missing from my geeky friend's social skill set was empathy. They knew they were different and smarter than the rest, and they liked being smarter. Made them cocky, and they looked down upon the rest. The more they were teased, the more they withdrew, and the more they looked down on their tormentors. So how does empathy help? Look, these are smart kids and they can be reasoned with that they are going to have to spend a lifetime among people not as smart as they are. There is no getting around that unless you become a near hermit. So wouldn't it be smart to try to see themselves as others see them?

    Yeah, who cares if you comb your hair anyway? Aren't there more important things in life, and besides people shouldn't judge me by my outer appearance! True, all true. But you know what? They do and they will. So does it make a difference whether or not your hair is combed? If no one cares, no. If people do care, yeah, it causes hassles for you that can so easily be avoided by a 30-second brush with a comb. Not hard, appeases the ignorant. Comes in handy if you ever have a job interview (and you will want one someday, won't you?).

    Empathy allows you to think through the other person's eyes. Yeah, they aren't as smart as you, but they can't fully help that (biology and all that) and yet they are still humans with as much right toward dignity and respect as you would want for yourself. Apperances and actions shouldn't matter in a perfect world where intellect was all that counted, but we don't live in that world. We do have to interact with people who judge us for all the wrong reasons. Isn't it smart to spend just a minimal amount of effort to smooth our way in life? If you are perceived as a jerk by others, no matter how invalid the reason may be, it will cause friction in your life.

    The smart person sees that friction coming and heads it off with a few simple social tricks that fool the ignorant. It's great as a party trick too!

    • Re:Empathy (Score:4, Interesting)

      by TheLoneDanger (611268) on Tuesday March 09, 2004 @01:36AM (#8507031)
      There's one thing that always bothers me. Why is the onus for empathy always on the geek? Do jocks go out of their way to try to understand geeks? I mean, it could probably even be explained to them that geeks feel the same way about say computers as they do about sports and stats.

      Essentially, it seems the reason is that because there's more of them than there are of us, that it is our duty to change. Because there are more of them then there are of us, they're the normal ones that we should be more like.

      You may be right in that I find it difficult to know what another person (non-geek) is thinking. That makes me nervous and anxious. So how come the other person doesn't know to empathize with me feeling anxious and nervous? Why is it only a one-way street? It isn't that I don't try, I'm just not very good at it (with non-geeks). If they are better at empathy, is it just at empathizing with others like themselves (non-geek). If so, then isn't that just as limited as our ability to speak to other geeks better than we do to non-geeks?

      Note: I realize I am sort of making an us/them type argument. It's just that I believe that people are just wired in different ways, and some people will always get along better with one group than another.
  • by jlusk4 (2831) on Monday March 08, 2004 @11:06PM (#8505798)
    Find a school for gifted and talented kids (some states have 'em) and get him to apply. Find a summer camp for him to go to (e.g., math camp, science camp, computer camp, chess camp) that will be populated w/kids like him. Get him in some kind of peer group.

    I hope this isn't too obvious.

    John.
  • by quantaq (643138) on Monday March 08, 2004 @11:12PM (#8505875)
    I met a high school kid a couple of years back who blew away any anti-social geek I've ever known. The /. crowd only *thinks* it's out of the social loop, but trust me, this kid has everyone here beat (the fact you come to this site at all makes you more social and recreational). To begin with, he read no fiction whatsoever. Only text books. High level math and physics. Neither science fiction nor fantasy appealed to him. I wish to god I could remember what he said about the /. site after I pointed him to it.

    Anyway, I *tried* to get this kid into something that even the geek crowd would think was recreational, but nada. No music, no movies, no video games, no sports (assuming foozball counts as a sport). Sure, he's headed to Yale, and he knows assloads about engineering already (he could talk down to a master's student from GA Tech), but I can't imagine how lonely the guy may one day end up. It's *possible* that he'll meet a girl who'll fall in love with him for what he's like now, but his playing field is severely limited as such. And yes, I understand that his idea of recreation was the things he was into, but it isn't exactly common ground when it comes to finding friends. He basically reminds me of the guy from Sneakers who made robotic dogs, but more limited.

    I finally decided that it wasn't my place to help this guy. That might be the case with the student in the article. I personally think that it'll take a psychologist/psychiatrist, and not the /. crowd, to really help this kid. You may have no idea why this kid is acting the way he is, so don't try to fix him. He's not an iPod mini. If you screw up and make things worse, it's a person, not a couple hundered bucks, that's lost.
  • by brunes69 (86786) <slashdot@kHORSEe ... minus herbivore> on Monday March 08, 2004 @11:13PM (#8505879) Homepage
    . My student is unbelievably smart, however has very limited social skills, is unable to cooperate with peers, doesn't understand why they make fun of his uncombed hair, etc.

    This is step 1. Honestly, I know that it's shallow to judge someone on their looks, but hey, it is something that we have *evolved* over millions of years. People who look better succeed, it is a *fact*.

    If the kid is upset that people laugh at his hairstyle, then, duh, maybe he should *change* it?

    I honestly don't understand why geeks will get upset when people mock their style.. you have thousands of examples of (halfway) decent style to draw on daily, and you don't have to spend a bundle to be dressed normally for your age group. Unless you are going out of your way to look different on purpose (goth, etc ) there is no need for *looking" like a loser before anyone even speaks to you.

  • What worked for me (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dkleinsc (563838) on Monday March 08, 2004 @11:17PM (#8505915) Homepage
    Believe me, I went through this in a major way, since I grew up in a sports-loving-intellectual-hating public school. Here's what helped me break out of it:

    1) The kid should make no apologies for his brains. Unfortunately, many such kids are bright enough to realize that people like you if you're stupid, and thus try to act like an idiot to try to make friends.

    2) Show the kid that social issues can be solved just like mathematical and scientific problems. Individual people, especially children aged 8-12, are pretty easy to predict, so encourage the kid to try experimenting with various approaches, changes in appearance, etc, and noticing how each classmate reacts. You might try having the nerd take notes and create a report findings to the teacher, and if their not inflammatory, to the rest of the class.

    3) Provide opportunities for the kid's intelligence to be used to the benefit of classmates in a context which matters to them. For instance, give them a mathematical puzzle to solve as a group with a reward based on how quickly they can do it. Suddenly a nerdy kid becomes useful, and everybody's friend.

    4) Make sure the kid knows that eventually the nerds win. Big time. They control almost everything, from sciences to many businesses to sports teams to governments. Also make it clear that bullying is a sign of weakness, not strength.

    5) Let him find some nerdy friends. They often exist.

    -------------
    Here are some ideas which you should never ever ever try:
    1) Don't blame the nerd for bullies. Teaching a nerd not to be a victim is fine, but to blame the nerd is to tell him that you support the bullies. Dumber kids might not see that connection, but a nerd definitely will.

    2) Don't give the nerd self-help books. That just encourages more reading and less social behavior, which makes matters worse.

    3) Don't force the nerd to spend time with a particular classmate. The nerd doesn't enjoy it, because the classmate is clearly pretending to be a friend, while the classmate immediately resents the nerds presence because it was imposed by an adult. No one wins.
  • A few ideas. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by An Onerous Coward (222037) on Monday March 08, 2004 @11:22PM (#8505978) Homepage
    Since we don't actually know much about this kid, the best I can do is try to address some common problems.

    First, the kid is smarter than just about everyone around him. Way smarter. You know it. He knows it. Make sure that he understands that just about everyone else already knows it as well, and those who are too dumb to recognize it aren't worth impressing. So he doesn't need to beat them over the head with the fact.

    Tact is often 90% of the battle. People who are intellectually gifted but socially maladapted tend to be insecure about it, and will retreat into whatever they feel they excel at. So it's pretty frequent that "the smart guy" is the one who ends up jumping down peoples' throats over minor errors. It's not a good friend-winning strategy, but people tend to build themselves up by tearing others down.

    So, he has this brain on him. How to get him to use it for good instead of evil? How about teaching him how to tutor his classmates? If you can drill into his head that he needs to be forgiving of mistakes, and compliment people for their effort, it could lead to some positive interactions. For geeks his age, positive social interactions are often few and far between.

    Fashion shouldn't be too hard. He doesn't need the $50 jeans or the $200 shoes. Just throw away everything that's too threadbare, or actively hideous. The goal isn't to turn him into a GQ model, but to simply raise his fashion sense to the point that his clothes aren't a limiting factor. The same goes for hygiene. Get him to do something with his hair. Doesn't much matter what.

    He might want to take up weight lifting or running or cycling. Something to give him a bit of confidence in his own body. Karate might be cool as well. If he can find something he enjoys in the way of team sports, all the better.

    Now the word we've all been waiting for: Girls. I can't say I'm wise in their womanly ways, but let's get a few of the serious no-no's out of the way. Treat them with respect, show interest in their hobbies, don't insult their friends, and for god's sake, don't bitch and moan about how girls all want guys who treat them like dirt. That attitude is both insulting and wrong, and I've seen way too many guys who do it. Occasionally, it's true, but far more often it's just a defensive measure to keep the guy from having to evaluate what he did wrong.

    Find something he likes, and find a way for him to get others involved in it (even if it's "just" his fellow geeks).

    Just remember that you won't be able to do anything without his cooperation. If he's totally stubborn, help him with the scholastics and hope that he figures the rest out on his own.
  • by Jerf (17166) on Monday March 08, 2004 @11:36PM (#8506116) Journal
    Social skills are a two way street. Make sure that the people around him are interacting with him, too.

    Today, I am a fairly stereotypical introverted nerd. However, I have heard from my family that I was actually a fairly extroverted kid.... until school. There I committed three sins: I was ugly (a tooth issue not diagnosed correctly until later), uncoordinated and couldn't play sports well (just nearsighted enough to ruin my depth perception, also undiagnosed for many years), and I knew stuff (could already read and do simple arithmetic in kindergarten). Hattrick.

    I'm sure I wasn't a social wonder in kindergarten, but who is? My point is, I never had a chance. Now I'm introverted. What choice did I have?

    Mind you, I'm happy enough with the outcome; you can't hear my tone so this might sound bitter. It's not; to me this is just how I am, I figured this out years later.

    "But what about his hair?" Well, social skills form via feedback, which must be both positive and negative. If a kid is simply ejected from society at a young age, then he's never had an opportunity to learn about hair styling; he literally doesn't know about it. I recall not caring, either. So even to the extent that you may have a kid clueless, it may even be a result, not a cause.

    Can society take the whole blame? Beats the tar out of me, but I doubt it. Maybe he's got a light case of Asperger's syndrome... I'm pretty sure I don't, though. But you can't write the effect of his society off, either. I recall trying to reconnect and being firmly ejected over and over.

    How does this help? I don't know. Let me know if you find out. Seems people don't get mature enough to allow kids to re-enter society until somewhere around high-school. Getting out of his age group might help.

    (Stuff like this makes me strongly sympathetic to the homeschooling system, which often involves significant out-of-age interaction, short-circuiting the need for every kindergarten class to reconstruct society from scratch; is it any surprise they get it so wrong? What do you expect from five-year-olds?)
  • by ispeters (621097) <`ispeters' `at' `alumni.uwaterloo.ca'> on Monday March 08, 2004 @11:37PM (#8506127)

    On my 20th birthday I happened to meet my grade 3-5 teacher in a restaurant over lunch and he remarked how I had survived the social experiment that was my 'gifted class'. It wasn't until I managed to find and keep a girlfriend that I found out I was an arrogant ass-hole (why she's with me I'll never know). Since learning about social skills from my gf, I've discovered that the praise culture that develops in gifted classrooms leads to egomania among the students. Gifted students learn faster/better, but that doesn't make them special. They have other failings that average students may not have. I still have ego problems (I'll do just about anything for praise, and I have real problems internalizing criticism) but I'm better than I was. I don't know how any of what I've said answers your original question, but I guess I'm trying to say that teaching and raising 'gifted' kids is definitely not a solved problem.

    I think humbleness is sorely lacking amongst people with talent. When you match humbleness with talent, you get people like Linus Torvalds. Check out this article [wired.com] at Wired. It was linked from the front page of Slashdot a while back but I'm too lazy to look for the link. The first sentence of the article is "Linus Torvalds wants me to believe he's too boring for this story." I kinda doubt someone like ESR would ever be the subject of an article that started out that way. Arrogance is a real problem amongst the geek culture, and I think it's arrogance that stands between many geeks and a thriving social life. I work as a co-op student at a local software company, and I'm fortunate to work with a few bright people--all graduates of computer programmes at a fairly prestigious university. The social lives of my co-workers are just about inversly proportional to their level of arrogance.

    Perhaps it is the socially-skilled people who curtail their arrogance, and not the humble people who garner lots of friends--I can't determine causation from correlation--but it's obvious to me that the two attributes go hand in hand, and I think it's telling that my circle of friends has a rather narrow radius whereas my ego sometimes gets stuck on the doorframe.

    Ian

  • by steveoc (2661) on Monday March 08, 2004 @11:38PM (#8506133)
    What is the great need to 'change' him, so that he 'fits in better' with 'normal people'.

    Let the fucking kid be himself, and allow him to be proud of who is is. Allow him to grow into whatever personality he is most comfortable with.
  • At least, to some degree. I am still something of an introvert, though lately I simply don't have enough money to go out. (I don't really have enough money to put gas in my car this week.) Before you ask, since broadband costs per month about what it would cost to go to dinner someplace decent once, I don't feel like it's an inappropriate use of my money.

    I was considered a "gifted child", I went to a private school only for gifted children for a year and a half or so, before I was apparently kicked out for being violent or something. I have no recollection of the event, besides crying on the way home, and that they gave me a coupon for a free ice cream cone. After that day I went to public school, which was bad from start to finish. They had a GATE ("gifted and talented education" program) which was a sad and pathetic joke. For example, because I was one of the younger students, they wouldn't let me participate in their astronomical pursuits. The only thing I really remember from the GATE program was the speed-reading machine, which looked to be of a fairly ancient vintage, and which has pretty much ruined reading for me because I kill off novels in just a few hours. Now that they're $7 for a goddamn paperback, I can't afford to buy new books, except every so often I'll throw down the money for a nice hardcover - the last two non-textbooks I bought were Cryptonomicon and Quicksilver, can you tell I'm a Stephenson fanboy?

    Added to all of this was the fact that my parents split up when I was five, and my father (who is an alcoholic, in recovery, and hasn't touched alcohol except to hand it to one of his sons :) in several years) was not around for most of my development - actually, he wasn't really around for most of the time before I was five, either. We have a great relationship now but that definitely altered who I was, and arguably not for the better. Of course, we'll never know, but one thing it certainly must have done was harm my ability to socialize. In addition my mother was somewhat manic depressive and had her own problems forming attachments and my half-brothers were troublemakers (and only lived in the same house as me for about a year and a half, little of which I remember) so the only male role model I ever had was my "Big Brother" as in Big Brothers and Big Sisters. He was a great guy (Hi, Gary!) who worked for Parallel Systems (I think that was the name, they were someplace in or near Santa Cruz which is where I am from, it was definitely Parallel but I don't remember if it was computing, systems, whatever.)

    Now the moment you all are waiting for, the moment where computers enter the picture. Actually throughout this time I had a series of computers. The first one I ever owned was a Commodore 16 which my father got me, he got it "cheap" whatever that meant, probably in trade for something. It had no storage, but it did have the box and the manual, and I fiddled around with BASIC. Gary loaned me his Apple ][+ with two floppy drives for a while, and that was much better. Later, I got a shiny new Amiga 500, and a BSR 1200 baud "phone modem", and the rest, they say, is history.

    Back then of course internet access was available only from schools or very expensive services, so I BBS'ed, and made friends that way. I really only had a couple friends growing up, and at this point I had made a few more (like five) from summer school, other ingrates like myself who were of course all intelligent and mostly misunderstood. (A couple of 'em really were violent, thieving little bastards, but they were people that I could get along with for the most part.) But the BBSes were a whole new world in which I could represent myself with words until I had the confidence to meet people face to face and employ my drastically underdeveloped people skills, which like most other skills, improve with use.

    One of the people I met through the BBSes was another social inept like myself (he, too, improved greatly over time, partly due to social

  • by Beardo the Bearded (321478) on Tuesday March 09, 2004 @01:01AM (#8506811)
    When I was going to College, the biggest influence in my confidence and people skills was a job in retail. NOT something even remotely connected to technology. I.E. No Future Suck, Elecsucknics Boutique, etc. Selling clothes or glasses are probably the best.

    Other benefits:
    1. Money. I mean, who couldn't use some more money? You can buy clothes, haircuts, women, toys; hell, he could even buy a gold brick if there's nothing else he wants.

    2. Dress sense. Unless you're in a job that supplies a uniform, you're going to have to learn how to put together a good outfit. Some outfits will suck, especially at first, but soon the good outfits will outnumber the bad.

    3. Talking to people all the time who don't give a nut how smart you are. As far as they're concerned, you're dumber than they are.

    4. You will learn that a company will stab you in the back, then figure out if it's cheaper to pull out the knife and stab you again, or use a new knife. That's a VERY valuable lesson.

    If he'd rather not work, then he's probably already too far gone to help, but the College / University that he's going to should have dozens of clubs. That's probably an okay substitute.
  • by bergeron76 (176351) * on Tuesday March 09, 2004 @01:02AM (#8506823)
    RELAX!

    As a coder and socialite, I can fill you guys in on the secret.

    Coding is a VERY PRECISE SCIENCE.

    Talking to people is a VERY RELAXED ART.

    On nights that I'm in "code mode" I don't go out and socialize, or party, etc. I write code. The problem with geeks is that we don't spend enough time in social situations. Just like everything else in life, you have to put time into things that are worth doing. In the same way that you can soak up some code by spending time with it, you can soak up social graces by being around people (that aren't close friends).

    PEOPLE ARE NOT COMPUTERS. If you don't put a comma in the right place, or you don't puncuate your sentences properly, your conversation will still compile. The only way to mess up a conversation is to OVERTHINK or OVERANALYZE it. The best thing to do is just talk to everyone as if they were a close family member or friend. Ask them about their day... Ask the cashier at Publix or Kroger if she/he's been busy today. They'll chat with you.

    Also, don't chat with people just for a predefined GOAL. People can see right through that (especially girls). Share a few sentences with the grocery bagger EVEN THOUGH YOU HAVE NOTHING TO GAIN FROM HIM. It will do 2 things - it will relax you when talking to a stranger, and it will help you build your basic conversational topics.

    Hell, start small. When you call 411 and ask for a number, and the chick is looking it up, ask her if she's been busy. Ask her if shes based out of your town. If it's a dude, do the same thing. Learn to just talk to people and act like you care what they are telling you. But DON'T BE CREEPY. Listen to what they say and follow up on it briefly, but don't linger on things. When your bags are done being placed in your shopping cart, tell the person, "good luck."; or "have a good day". or whatever. Being social is not nearly as complex as learning a programming language; so stop looking at people like every period, semicolon, comma matters.

    People are very basic.

    The end result is that you'll be more relaxed in general when talking with people. You won't have a "goal" when talking to someone, and people won't think that you do and they'll just talk about whatever with you.

    Alcohol helps, but it's not a solution.

    Once you find the "keyword" that you and the little slut have in common, you can milk it and show your intelligence on the subject and then bed her.

    Stay tuned for Chapter 2: Intermediate conversation - In this chapter we'll discuss how to tell her things like, "Don't wake me up when you leave tomorrow..." and "I really appreciate the head, but I'd be really impressed if you made me a sandwich..."

  • Ultra-radical idea? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cr0sh (43134) on Tuesday March 09, 2004 @01:36AM (#8507028) Homepage
    Want to get him or her to open up? Want to change their world perception?

    Take them to Burning Man [burningman.com]!!!

    I guarantee you - if you have never been, you and your outlook on life will be different.

    If you want the least frustrating experience - find some friends to go with, or ones who have gone. Or, find out if you have a regional burn group - and go to the regional burn, or any one of the other events that the group may sponsor or host. Get involved with the art, with the sound, with the sights - get involved with the people!

    Believe me, you won't feel too weird anymore afterward - Burning Man introduces whole new levels of strangeness into your life.

    My first Burn was last year. My only regret is not going sooner. The people I met, the friends I made, the art I experienced - I was made anew.

    As part of this re-making, I learned something that should be common sense, especially for someone my age - but it wasn't. It is something fundamentally important, that I missed all of these years - and learning it led to my final decision to go to Burning Man. If it hadn't been for the wonderful friends I have, I might have missed this simple truth:

    A stranger can only become a friend through getting to know them. If they act like they don't like you, or don't want to talk to you, it most likely isn't you. It's them. In other words, if you are being polite and doing everything to be friendly with someone you don't know, and they still shun you - move on. It is they who have the problem, not you.

    Teach them that, let them learn it - then take them to Burning Man.

    Both of your lives will never be the same again.

  • by lxs (131946) on Tuesday March 09, 2004 @06:24AM (#8508153)
    When I was in college, We had this one professor who was brilliant at his work (numerical methods in astrophysics) and a good teacher. However the guy had no social skills outside of his teaching, and he looked like a tramp. A fellow student ran into him at a train station one day and said "hi!", the professor actually RAN AWAY SCARED.

    I was a terminal nerd at the time, but meeting an intelligent guy in his '50s who was less well adjusted to the world than most students, scared the hell out of me. It was like being visited by the ghost of Christmas future.

    I'm still rather antisocial, but after watching a possible future played out so vividly, I started to take acquiring social skills a lot more seriously.

Karl's version of Parkinson's Law: Work expands to exceed the time alloted it.

Working...