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Spare me the small talk

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By Carolyn Ten Broeck, Editor

I enjoy lively, spirited conversation. And in order to enjoy that, I have to like being around people.
No doubt in anyone’s mind, I am a people-person. I  come by it naturally because everyone–and I mean everyone–on my father’s side of the family was blessed with the gift of gab.
At family gatherings it was difficult at the end of the day to figure out just what you may have gleaned from each other because topics were loud, broad and scattered.
In high school, I put that gift to good use by being in the Speech Club and arguing on the debate team.
My friend Denise jokes that I can get a life story out of a stranger at a football game in 10 minutes or less.
Well, it’s not a joke. I did it at a UGA game a few years ago.
I have meaningful conversations with people in long lines at the grocery store.
I put telemarketers to sleep (but they never call back).
Yes, I like to talk.
But put me in a party, a mixer or a social setting and you’re most likely to find me hugging the wall.
I am not a mingler.
I don’t do small talk.
I am socially inept.
My intimate circle knows how much I dread attending soirees.
I want to go, do what has to be done and leave.
Some of you may have seen me at such events and thought I was aloof.
Not true.
Just scared witless.
I can stand in front of 500 people, speak off the cuff on any range of topics, but put me at a party and I clam up tighter than Dick’s hatband.
Unfortunately for me, my job mandates a certain amount of this mingling.
I confess. I don’t do it well.
In fact, if a teacher graded me on my  party skills, I’d probably score a D+ and that’s just for showing up and wearing the right thing.
It bothers me that I, someone in the communication field, has a hard time communicating.
Is it possible to be incredibly shy and be, at the same time, outgoing? Isn’t that an oxymoron? A conundrum?
Trust me. If you see me out and about, I am not being a snob.
Invite me out for a cup of coffee and I’ll prove it to you.
If you dare.