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The question I want to ask is this:

Can you please provide effective ways or best practices on how an individual from one socio-economic background can train himself/herself as quickly as possible to socialize with people of another socio-economic background, especially when the life style and interests between these two populations vary drastically. A plan/strategy that requires approximately 8 hours/week of training/implementation effort and can start providing results after 6-12 month (or sooner) would be amazing!

Background

I had a great and bad night tonight. The great thing was that I found the social challenge I was looking for. The bad thing was realizing how underdeveloped I am and the daunting road I must endure to complete this challenge.

I am 37 years old, and tonight was the first night I was invited to a dinner gathering that consisted of many financially established families. Of the adults that attended, the population can be segmented into the following:

  • 40% physicians and surgeons, many of whom also own a technology company, and own several patents
  • 10% very successful people in engineering, finance, real estate, law etc...
  • 50% spouse, relatives or parents of the segments above

Of the individuals I paid attention to or even tried to converse with, the popular topics of discussion were:

  • Medicine + Surgery - MDs talk passionately about their practice and experience at a very deep level; domain expertise is required for this discussion

  • Automotive - they were very informed on all aspects of automotive, from explaining the engineering principles behind different engines, to government policies on electric and gasoline vehicles, to speculating Elon Musk's motivation and strategy to open source patents on electric vehicle design etc...

  • Politics - very indepth debates on domestic and international politics. They seem very well versed on the specific responsibilities of numerous government positions in American and Canadian political system, and used this knowledge to ideate solutions to address current political dilemma

  • Legal and intellectual property - many academic or corporate institution would like to claim that any innovation that a faculty or employee develops during their employment is a property of the employer. People attending the party shared their stories on how to circumvent these issues and retain ownership of what they believe they developed independently

I could not intelligently engage in these conversations. I felt any questions I asked were too novice and only disrupted the discussion these people were enjoying. (Picture the scene when Tony Soprano, a mob boss, was invited to his neighbours barbeque and he amiably and naively asked a fund manager, "any changes in the stock market lately?", To which the fund manager replied,"....umm.... There are always changes..." The fund manger awkwardly returned to his financial colleagues to discuss intricate details of a particular stock at a level that lay people wouldn't understand) .

My hypothesis as to why I am socially handicapped is because I grew up in a financially distressed family for 30 years. My parents were immigrants to Canada many years ago, they never completed elementary education, and my dad was more or less a refugee. For much of my brother's life and my life, our priority was to help our family "stay afloat". For example, as teenagers getting our first paid jobs, all our pay checks went to our parents. I was finally able to pay off all my parents debt 2-3 years ago. And I am about to pay off the remaining mortgage for their house by this summer. I have been self employed as a software developer for the past ten years. I realized that for me , working as a software developer was more financially sustainable for my family than developing an interest in politics, economics, stocks, automotive, etc...

But now that I will soon be debt free, I need a plan that will cultivate me as quickly as possible to be able to socialize with wealthy people. I feel it is imperative that I befriend wealthy people because I need to leverage their knowledge and influence to help other people.

But studying any one of medicine, automotive, politics, law, finance, etc... To the level of detail and appreciation that they have will take many many years based on where I am today. Can any one share a plan on how I might realistically achieve my goal in as short a time as possible?

I will consider stopping my software development practice completely if it impedes my progress to socialize with influential people.

To this date, the only subject matters I am well versed in are:

  • software development - but the people I know in this area are often the grunt of the litter in the work force, or they will direct me to the population segments mentioned above

  • boxing (combat sport) - these people are from the same upbringing as me and are often at risk youth, or people with limited resources trying to help at risk youth, I don't see an opportunity here

closed as too broad by Ælis, OldPadawan, Alina Cretu, sphennings, ElizB Feb 25 at 16:14

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • Why were you invited to the dinner gathering, and by whom? If nobody is capable of having a conversation with you, it sounds like it might also be a social problem on their side; it's a lot easier to switch to a topic both sides understand than it is to learn how to converse with experts on a specific topic. – Erik Feb 24 at 8:44
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    I met a doctor who wants me to collaborate with him on a project. He coaxed me into joining him on a dinner party with his family and friends. His intentions were good because he wants me to see people I could potentially be working with some day – John Feb 24 at 16:05
  • To moderators, I've updated my question to clarify what I'm specifically asking for. – John Feb 25 at 19:00
  • @John: Sadly the edit just made it worse. The "specific" question you are asking, pointed out by your edit, is fine in that its showing clearly the goal you want to achieve. But its sadly too broad, as the answers this would generate are very open to tackle this from so many diferent angles. But we want questions on our stack asking for a very precise frame. Potentially, you could break this down into several questions and post them sperately and make this focus on whats for now most important for you. – dhein Feb 26 at 6:07
  • The questions had to be along the lines like "How can I use topic X to join a conversastion." or eventually even "What aspects to learn about topics(/specific topic) to make good conversations out of it". So questions with a clear single aspect. The problem is asking for "effective ways" is subjective about whats effective and openly phrased, cause you don't describe what exactly you consider effective and ask us for how do that one thing what you consider "most effective" That way you give a clear frame rather than inviting others to share their opinion (whats Off-Topic here) – dhein Feb 26 at 6:10
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This has nothing to do with rich or poor, it has simply to do with topics of conversation. If the individuals at the event can only talk on the topics you mentioned then they certainly have a problem equal to yours. To be successful socially you need to know enough about a wide enough range of topics to engage - it doesn't need to be in depth, but sufficient to have enough to talk about for a couple of minutes at a dinner party.

You will never have the deep knowledge of trading minutia that an FX trader will have, or the latest case law a lawyer will have heard of but conversely those individuals are unlikely to be able to discuss complex software or programming techniques. The problem you have outlined is that you are interested in being able to engage in their topics but don't think they will want to speak with you on yours, which could well be true - it sounds like they are a bit elitist.

So, your solution: study the topics you want to be able to converse in. At least at a high level, these are doable online. To go in depth you could choose a topic to formally study.

Or even better, practice talking about your specialisation in social circumstances. That way you will also be the expert in the group.

But if the aim is to be accepted into that group, which it sends like, reading between the lines, you may find that it isn't possible without becoming a lawyer, or surgeon etc. Sometimes elitism is real.

  • One plan I'm considering...I want to spend 4-8 hours per week talking with random MDs in person or over skype. I will try to volunteer at some clinics/hospitals as well. I hope that in 6 months, I can have conversation that are not as superficial or novice. Do you think that's a reasonable goal? – John Feb 24 at 16:40
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    @John: I doubt that. Remember, they are usually busy at their work and wouldn't have too much time for talking while you are volunteering. – dhein Feb 25 at 7:40
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    @dhein they won't have time to talk, but the OP will get an understanding of their workplace and can empathise with conversations, even begin to recognise some lingo. – WendyG Feb 25 at 15:28
  • @WendyG I totally see that, but OP stated the goal to get very deep understanding and mentioned volunteering for having conversations to achieve that. I just asked so OP not possibly gets dissapointed – dhein Feb 25 at 15:33
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    @dhein, I wasn't disagreeing with you, but just pointing out something would be gained by volunteering, unless the volunteer job was in the cafe/ shop in reception – WendyG Feb 25 at 15:41
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Politics is an easy thing to learn more about. It gets hours of coverage on the news every night. Experts say that this development means X, or that if the government does A then B will surely follow, and so on. Investing two hours a night watching, say, The National and Power and Politics will enable you to keep up in those sorts of conversations. (You might want to watch two different networks to get a wider variety of opinions and viewpoints.)

If you were interested in the car discussions, or the investment discussions, or how to structure companies to protect your wealth long term, then you can learn some ways to ask questions that don't make you look stupid. You gave the example of "were there any changes in the stock market today?" that reveals the person doesn't know there are changes every day. Here are some more neutral questions than can sound deep but don't require you to really know things:

  • why does that make a difference?
  • has it always been that way?
  • do you think that is likely to happen?
  • would that be fair?
  • how did things get like this?
  • are things moving rapidly in this area?

Think of these like "but will it scale?" in a software conversation. Of course if you're genuinely interested, there is a whole internet out there with articles on investment, business, tech, and so on, and these conversations will have given you some words to look up.

A tip: when you're using what you've heard or read, don't "cite sources". Say "if that happens there will have to be another cabinet shuffle" not "I heard that if that happens there will have to be another cabinet shuffle" for example. Saying you heard or read something makes it sound like you haven't truly learned or believed it yet. You sound more confident when you just give the opinion. And if you're not confident enough to do that yet, don't do it at all - trying to appeal to authority or hold back from committing to the belief doesn't make you look better informed.

If you're not interested in these topics at all, you can still find some "keep talking" questions to ask:

  • does this affect you more than other [doctors, lawyers, homeowners]?
  • how can someone protect themselves against [the bad thing they were talking about]?
  • how did you come to learn about this? (not if it's their job eg don't ask a lawyer that if they're discussing a law or court case)
  • is it fun/scary/exciting/risky to do that?

These questions lead to answers that focus on the person talking, rather than providing an opportunity to learn more about the topic. They're likely to give you a reputation as a great person to have dinner with :-)

  • thanks. I was about to post another question, "Tactics to engage in deeper conversation despite little or no knowledge in the subject matter". Because I know someone who's facing a similar discussion when interviewed for job in a new job sector. When the interviewer describes advanced subject matter, my friend is worried her questions will expose her ignorance on the matter, and discredit her in the eyes of the employer. Your "neutral" questions can help in this area. – John Feb 25 at 15:42
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Okay, I had rather liked to write a comment for this, but still find this a very valuable side note:

First of all, I totally agree with Rory Alsops answer.

But I would like to give you an somewhat obvious suggestion what I consider a good place for obtaining the knowledge you need for what you want.

I would consider my self having already enough superficial knowledge in most topics I am interested in to a point where I can at least join discussions by asking questions sometimes (more and more often as time goes by) even add to an discussion with things I recently read about. And the place I got the wide spectrum of topics I like and learned about was... stackexchange.com

We have here such a wide spectrum of professional platforms. And the HNQ's were a good point for me to start, they usually are interesting to read, and give you an idea of things you could dig a bit deeper into by yourself if you find the content of a specific post interesting. Doing that at least a few hours a day, gave me quite an idea over the last years, what the topics I am interested in are about. Also they are very(!!!) good stuff for engaging small talk. Cause when you see fit, you can throw in a little story like.

Oh yeah, I once heared/read/noticed a story where someone faced problem X.... In the end they solved that problem the following way....

It took some time having gathered enough interesting posts to be able to come up with them regularly related to random topics but stackexchange.com for me was totally the platform that brought me to a point where you want to get.

Doing that 1~2 hours a day should be sufficient you won't get there within 6 months. But you will already be able to feel a difference at least after that time (At least I did notice it after half a year already). I am doing this for 3~4 years now and am very satisfied with the socializing tools in regards to more or less technical topics I obtained by doing that.

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