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How do I avoid hurting people's pride and feelings without thinking too much?
i find the most useful strategy is to let the words mostly wash over me and listen/respond to the wavelength instead. people often talk metaphorically although they don't always know that they're doing it. so it really irritates them when you respond literally because it interferes with their real internal story. whereas if you do a lot of reflective listening they tend to respond a lot better to that. i honestly don't have the energy or interest to participate as much as they do, so i just kind of let people talk, a lot of the time. so long as my expression and body language aren't expressing anything hostile, that's often good enough for a lot of people.

second thing is: turn off most of your own expectations, or at least get an idea straight in your head about what they are. if you're doing this for long-term strategic reasons such as your career, then that itself is what you're 'getting' from it. don't expect/demand that they also give you in-the-minute entertainment or involvement in the style of your real social interactions because that'll probably turn you cranky about the project pretty quickly. and then you'll have a 'mixed messages' legacy to deal with as well.

there's nothing wrong with being a 'quiet' person, in the big scheme of things. what's not cool with most people is being a snark-artist or a consistent negativist.
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