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OK So I am looking for a job right now, was out of the country for some time and now back in trying to settle. I am a software engineer with 10+ years of experience, I am having a bit of hard time finding job but that's not what I am concerned about, I am concerned about my nature as not being very social at workplace.

I don't feel the need to socialize with other people, to mingle with them and for that reason I pretty much don't interact much with colleagues at workplace unless it is for work related. Apart from that, I am just not a gossip type person and very much oriented toward humanity, tech, politics to some extent and religion etc. But the main point here is I don't interact much with colleagues or don't feel the need too. Part of the problem may be, on a hard note, that I am not much liked person that people want to talk to me or discuss things with me, and yes there might be deficiencies in my personality, I don't think about other people much how they will think or feel (I am very sensitive btw) and as such I kind of 'live in my own world'. Its not that I don't enjoy company, it is that I lack those skills. There were opportunities that I got invited to lunch etc with senior managements but I declined politely just because I dont have the confidence and know that I dont talk much in groups and thus I try to live in my 'easy circle' where I can just interact with my self and family. Although I once used to be great orator, things changed. I wont go into detail, but I am not a fluent person, sometime stumbles on words that I probably need to focus on. I am not the person who makes friends at work place, I almost never go out for lunch from office in group just because I dont have much to talk about and 'I am happy alone'. Some incidences that are work related

  1. Once out with lunch with friends (that I went along well), one them said, 'you say something also' coz I was mostly listening and not saying much

  2. A collegue order lunch for himself, in the same room with me, he invited another collegue from different room to share meal with him, even though I was in same room. I felt odd. Had the odd feeling of being rejected and ignored because he did not want my company.

  3. In an interview, which seem to go well, they asked me if I would like to join them for lunch (it was kind of part of the interview process etc just to see compatibility). I declined politely that I need to go run somewhere etc.

So you see the problem, I probably have communication/personality issues. How can I overcome them or will they pose serious threats to my career as I know these skills go a long way building your career even getting a job.

I have a couple of my own startups, just did not pay much attention to them but one way I think I can thrive is built my own company but again communication skills and other leadership skills are important there too. Advice need. I am worried about my career as Software Engineer and need help with my social/work-related skills.

  • Clarification: you say you are sensitive, yet you say you don't care much about other people's feelings. What do you mean by sensitive? Also, there are two different questions here: "how do I overcome these problems" and "will these behaviors be a problem for me". Which do you want to focus on? – LokiRagnarok Feb 24 at 15:24
  • 1. "will these behaviors be a problem for me in my career" 2. I am very sensitive toward other people emotions, never want to hear them in any way but my problem is I never think about how other people will react to what I say, I think one to evaluate peoples reaction first before you say something, I never do that. I realized that very recently. It is kind of my shortcoming. I used to be sensitive person, could be easily hurt :) – enthusiast Feb 24 at 15:35
  • The society I come from, social interaction is everything, but unfortuantely I never developed those skills. Mainly because I was in some coplexes, superiority complex mostly. And then I was not a gossip person, mostly would say the truth and only the truth. – enthusiast Feb 24 at 15:41
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    Are you sure anti-social is the right term? What I understand with this is someone rude and impolite who hates everybody and gives damn of everything. I believe you simply want to describe yourself as a person who is missing social skills? Perhaps you want to rephrase your headline. – puck Feb 24 at 17:18
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    Can you edit this question to have more focus? You can probably cut out 90% of the post... – Mars Feb 25 at 2:59
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It sounds like you already know what the problem is and basically what needs to be done to overcome it. Your friend said "You say something too" and that is what it boils down to.

If you want to become part of a group then you need to be part of that group. It is fine to be work focused and not want to gossip but small talk IMO is an important skill to have. A lot of companies are looking for the right fit personality wise. So if you cannot bring yourself to interact with people then your options will be limited.

Think of it as a job skill. Learning to "small talk" will allow you to build a professional network. This can help you get things done by build up a group of people willing to assist you with cross team issues and will help with all aspects of work life.

I myself had to struggle with this and eventually I had to come to the realization that people generally are kind and accepting and willing to be friendly with you if you just try.

For your 3 questions here are my thoughts:

Once out with lunch with friends (that I went along well), one them said, 'you say something also' coz I was mostly listening and not saying much

Your friend just wanted you to join in and have fun with them. You can just piggy pack of what they were saying. Bring up something similar and discus different points of views with them. Fearing conversation will just alienate yourself.

A collegue order lunch for himself, in the same room with me, he invited another collegue from different room to share meal with him, even though I was in same room. I felt odd. Had the odd feeling of being rejected and ignored because he did not want my company.

I doubt his intentions were to ignore you or reject you. I work in a building with over 1000 people and often my co-workers offer food or offer to go pick up food for another person I do not directly work with.

This can be for many reason. Maybe they are just good friends outside of work. I do the same thing. Maybe they tried to ask you before and you just as you say "politely declined". Many people will stop asking after a while. So again you may be alienating yourself. You can start to fix this by starting up a conversation here and there. Doesn't have to be gossipy but could be work related.

In an interview, which seem to go well, they asked me if I would like to join them for lunch (it was kind of part of the interview process etc just to see compatibility). I declined politely that I need to go run somewhere etc.

If you knew it was part of the process and suspected it was to judge compatibility then you likely affected your chances by turning them down. If I have learned anything about being a network engineer for over 12+ years and a developer for 2+ years its that technical groups often hire those who they think will fit culturally with the group. So again you may want to just take that lunch and interact.

I know how difficult it could be for someone who is unsure of themselves but if you just be yourself and be honest most people are willing to listen and engage, and if they are not then they were not worth working for/with :D

Update: Based on your question in the comments:

Can I thrive with not being social?

In many cases maybe even most cases especially in this particular line of work I would say not likely.

That said I do know a few people who basically stay to themselves and often turn down group/team events for whatever reason and still manage to "thrive" and be liked and respected by their piers.

Often they are very busy and focused on work but willing to chat if you speak to them. Mostly for a work related question. So on that note yes it is possible but I think only for the right circumstances. Finding the right team is a big part of that.

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  • 1. Regarding point 2, yes he never wanted to hurt me but kind of judged my personality I would decline even if he offered and preferred someone else from another room which was kind of hurting (but you see the problem) 2. Fully agree, they will hire a candidate who fits well culturally (he might even lack skills), that's how it goes and hence this question. Can I thrive with not being social? Any options πŸ˜„πŸ˜‡ – enthusiast Feb 24 at 15:51
  • @enthusiast Honestly I am not sure you can "thrive" in this field of work without being at least a little social. I do however know several people who do just fine for themselves without being social at work. It is really very dependent on the team and work culture. Some people would prefer you work all day and don't chat with others. But in my experience those kind of jobs often leave one overwhelmed and unhappy with their work. Again you do not have to be the life of the party but at least have a friendly chat from time to time with people (can be work related). – Sierra Mountain Tech Feb 24 at 15:54
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    @enthusiast - Your option is to learn to be social at work. You need to treat is as a technical skill rather than a personal issue. I don't mean go out socialising at every opportunity, but say hello to people in the morning, show an interest, ask about their job/task etc. Treat it like learning how to drive or ride a bike. When you are at work, it isn't about your personal worth or self-esteem, it's a tool to help you get things done. – Dave Gremlin Feb 24 at 16:01
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    @DaveGremlin exactly. Like I said it can be look at as a job skill to improve efficiency. Networking is a very useful tool. – Sierra Mountain Tech Feb 24 at 16:02
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    @SierraMountainTech - oops, we overlapped. +1 – Dave Gremlin Feb 24 at 16:05
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We kind of get into a labeling game here. Either

  • it's a social disorder, in which case you see a therapist.... or
  • it's a social or career hinderance, in which case you see a life coach... or
  • it's none of the above, in which case you have no complaint.

The point is, there's something you don't like about your life and you want to change it.

The therapist will obviously treat it like a disease and do doctor things. And who knows, maybe there is something to that, and they have a magic bullet.

The life coach will treat it as a life skill which you need to develop further. And they get the big bucks to help you do that. Fair chance the homework will require you to temporarily operate outside your comfort zone, but school is always like that, isn't it? :)

The logical flaw I see is in people presuming that since it's outside their comfort zone now, it will remain there in perpetuity. That's not fate; that's a self-fulfilling prophecy. 10 years ago I wouldn't even change a light switch. Then I was forced to rewire a factory building (or spend $20,000 I didn't have)... and now I do it for fun. I'm top 10 in electrical over on diy.se.

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  • β€œThen I was forced to rewire a factory building (or spend $20,000 I didn't have)” I really hope you got formal training on how to do it first! Down here in Australia, that would be flat-up illegal to do unless you were a licensed electrician who had completed a 3-4 year apprenticeship. – nick012000 Feb 24 at 20:19
  • @nick012000 Here too if the building was active, not a nonprofit, and not repair work. Thieves stole all the breakers and just cut every wire at the edge of each service panel. They also stole all the long wire runs they could reach. This was all "repair work" in a disused building, so not a permit issue. It was inspected by a real electrician at the end (NOT the local guy; I know they were stealing $5 breakers and not GFCIs; GFCIs wouldn't have tolerated the shabby work I found.) – Harper - Reinstate Monica Feb 24 at 20:35
  • The fact is, I never went outside my comfort zone which could be reason why I ended up in this situation. But then I always loved talking to people, going to gathering etc. An aspect of it is that may be I am not that likeable/attractive person and that's why people dont approach me which could be the reason. Some of it could be my fault, but there could be some aspect which is not in my control. – enthusiast Feb 24 at 22:26
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    @enthusiast Well, charisma is 95% attitude, just look at Scatman John. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Feb 24 at 23:19
  • @Harper-ReinstateMonica I have 0% attitude, down to earth type of guy and like the same. – enthusiast Feb 24 at 23:48
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Yes, you need some social skills. Even highly technically skilled nerds need some social skills. If you're liked, people will do more for you, help you out when you need help, open doors to opportunities for you etcetera.

That doesn't mean you have to learn ever possible social skill at the same time. Consider that there are many different social skills -

  • The guy who keeps note of when peoples' birthdays are and makes a point to get them a card.
  • The girl who spots the awkward guy in the lobby who's not sure which floor his job interview is on and points him in the right direction.
  • The boss who remembers where her employees said they were going on holiday, has the leave arranged without fuss, and wishes them a good time.
  • The guy who does the shopping for lunch and makes sure not to forget the vegetarian stuff, and tells the forgetful developer to come to the lunchroom with the rest.

You don't have to be a smooth seducer to be social. A big part of it is simply taking an interest in people. And I say taking an interest; I understand that you weren't born being interested in these people. But they're your coworkers so you have to put in a bit of effort to get to know them. You don't have to stalk them, no need to exaggerate.

A key thing is that it doesn't matter if you don't have all the possible social skills. What matters is that you have a couple and that people remember you for those. We're happy to overlook a lot if someone has a redeeming feature.

So you need to develop some social skills, and which particular skills those are depends on what you're comfortable with. I think Harper is on the right path with the labeling game; I'd say what you need is probably in the life coach bracket.

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I am not a people person either, but there is a certain expectation that you be reasonably friendly to seem normal enough.

My solution to this has been if I have to be social, I do it with management. If I have to remember the names of someone's kids, it will be the kids of my boss. If I have to have lunch with someone, I will have it with the boss (or when I was younger, the senior developer).

Then I seem social and normal, just someone who is too close to management and liable to use any information they tell me against them (which is somewhat true). I have a careerist vibe.

There is still the same nonsense, gossip, and asking about their family crap, but at least you can use that info to your advantage. Ask about their new baby before you ask for more responsibility and you are more likely to get it, especially of your boss is overworked.

Ask them about their time at a conference you want funding to attend and if they enjoyed it, they are more likely to pony up too.

Realistically, I prefer getting to work through lunch instead. Either pile up work and make them look like slackers at the end of the sprint or work on earning my degree.

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  • A few words come to mind when thinking about the kind of person that only talks to those above them, yet social and normal or not in there. From your other post, I think maybe you haven't stuck around at a company long enough to really know the consequences of this kind of behavior... – Mars Feb 25 at 5:58
  • @Mars fair point. I don't need to get along with people for long. – nopromotions Feb 25 at 6:25
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You said 2 key things that should make the answer clear to you:

In an interview, which seem to go well, they asked me if I would like to join them for lunch (it was kind of part of the interview process etc just to see compatibility). I declined politely that I need to go run somewhere etc.

and

I am a software engineer with 10+ years of experience, I am having a bit of hard time finding job

It sounds like you didn't get this job, so clearly this is effecting your career, before you even start at a company.

Harper's suggestion for a life coach is a good long-term idea.
To answer your current question though, try thinking of everything as "part of the job."

Going to lunch with coworkers/bosses when invited is part of the job.
Making an effort to talk to people sometimes is part of the job.
Keeping up with some sort of social news so that you have something to talk about is part of the job.

This little tip for how to approach it makes it much easier to get past the mental hurdle of doing the social things that you don't actually want to do.

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