I have been struggling with this for quite a while now. Sometimes, I have to interact with people whom I did not choose as friends (read: family and neighbors). After the last event (a neighborhood barbeque), I had a talk with my mother about me leaving (in her opinion) too early. I told her I didn't like the event at all because
- the food wasn't especially good
- the temperature wasn't nice for having a barbeque
- the general vibe wasn't fun, there was nobody there that I felt I could and wanted to talk to.
So, we had some more talks about me talking with family and neighbors. Mom stated: "You always give the impression that people are too dumb to be worth talking to". This is bothering me a lot, because I don't want people to think that I think I'm better than them. I know I have my flaws and shortcomings as well, so I don't consider myself to be 'above' them.
Last night we talked a bit more about it, and we came to the conclusion that
- I'm talking about topics that aren't considered fun by them. I like talking about politics, current events, ethics, philosophy, sociology. Just exchanging facts, broadening my horizon, no fierce discussions are necessary (although I do like having those as well, within reason).
- They are talking about topics that I'm not interested in at all. It mostly consists of the latest small-town gossip like those people are getting a divorce, they are selling their house and he's homosexual. I come from a small village where there are a lot of people that call themselves Christians, so things like divorces and homosexuality are scandalous and gossip about them can go on for an entire evening.
So basically, since I personally don't like gossiping, when somebody brings up a topic of divorce, I usually try to gently steer the conversation away from gossip and to current events or, if we keep with the divorce example, to e.g. the merits of pre-nuptial agreements. According to my Mom, this is considered rude by some people, and others have voiced to her that I'm coming across as more and more haughty/snooty.
I honestly want these people to not think of me that way because I honestly don't think they're 'below' me, and I hate being seen as haughty because I'm always trying to be polite and humble. But I'm not the kind of person that can participate in gossiping either. So I'm wondering if this gossiping is a skill that can be learned. If yes, how do I join these people in their conversations without being seen as haughty? How do I prevent changing the topic to something that would be considered snooty by them? Because if I could join them in their gossip, these evenings would be more fun and more bearable for me.