When it comes to personal interactions I tend to have two main modes and a couple of lesser modes.
One I term “deer in the headlights.” Basically, I have no idea what to say. I freeze. It’s not just a matter of I need a second to think, I really just have no clue what words should come out of my mouth. I have had folk tell me that this comes off as brusque or downright rude. And, well, I’m not intending to be it’s just that a combination of social anxiety and utter cluelessness causes me to freeze. You can be my best friend in the world and I still have no idea what to say.
The second mode is when you get me going on a subject I’m passionate about. Then, the problem is the exact opposite; getting me to shut up. I get motivated about the topic and…well, that just takes over.
There are a couple of lesser modes for special situations as well.
The first of these is “polite greeting.” “Hi.” “How are you.” “Nice day.” “Things going well?” “Take care. Have a nice day.” Basically “canned” phrases (which doesn’t mean that they aren’t well meant) that I have sometimes heard described as “polite noises.” I can do that. I can even be sincere about it. It’s just, you run out of those pretty quickly.
The last is “on stage presence” which is what I use when doing panels at cons or when doing training related to my work. (Want to learn how to use a NanoScope AFM? We teach people that.) It’s sort of a toned-down version of mode 2 that relies on the more formal structure of a panel discussion or a training session to keep me from going overboard as I am wont to do without that structure.
“Stage Presence” mode is something I learned from a very early age. I was raised in a church with a “lay clergy” in which members of the congregation were expected to get up and give “talks” (what served as “sermons” in this church) or to teach various Sunday School classes. I learned early on to put on an appropriate “mask” for this, and it carried over nicely once I started participating in programming at science fiction conventions.
The observant reader will note that what’s lacking in there is a “mode” that is useful for social interactions, in particular for meeting new people. It is no great surprise that virtually all of my friends are folk I’ve met through cons and thus were able to interact with initially via “on stage presence”. Online also comes closer to that “on stage” than any in person interactions and, so is behind most of the rest of my friends–those I didn’t meet through cons I “met” online. Indeed, I tend to be a lot more “open” online than I’d ever dream of being face to face with all but my absolutely closest friends.
And this lack is one of the major challenges of my life: how to actually meet and get to know people in “meat space” beyond the rote (although never empty, not for me) pleasantries.