MK's and the missing social cues

Last week I finally got around to listening to a podcast that I downloaded months ago.  Recommended by a reader it was a radio show from the States called 'Boundless' (comes under 'Focus on the Family') and it included an interview with three adult MK's.

I enjoyed the podcast and plan to download others to listen to.   (

One of the aspects of the interview that stood out to me particularly was when one of the MK's said that she missed 'social cues' when she returned from the mission field as a 15 year old.

I remember this clearly as one of the aspects of returning home to Australia that I found particularly tricky.  I just didn't quite 'get' what everyone was talking about in conversations.  About 6 months after coming back I remember being at a 16th birthday party (at a friend's house that had been recently renovated - as an aside I genuinely couldn't understand why they needed the new pool when the house looked down on a beach) and ended up in a conversation about everyone's dream cars.  We never had a car when we lived o/s and the only cars I knew were the ones my grandparents owned - I didn't even know what they were called.  I was dreading that moment when the conversation came around to my turn ... and thankfully my memory is that the conversation petered out.

Years later I learned that one of the aspects I've always found hard about socialising - chitchat - is not an uncommon TCK trait.  Friendships between TCK's are often short lived and intense with the sharing of such a unique experience.  You just get into the deep and meaningful very fast.  It is quite normal to share your life experience, your family context, how you feel about it all - very early on in a relationship.  So the normal stuff you might find in a slower developing relationship just isn't there.

I am generally pretty open with people - even when I first meet them.  But what I've discovered is that the way I share life can end up being a bit disappointing for some people.  I seem to be sharing so much that is deep and personal very early on, that the other person thinks our relationship is very significant.  But it isn't always so significant to me.  It's just the way I initiate relationships.  And (understandably) this can be disappointing and people end up hoping for more than eventuates.

I've since learnt better skills in chit chat - I've sussed out that social cue and recognised it as a part of normal relating.  But in my heart it does feel a bit like a waste of time - I find it draining.  Give me a good conversation with some substance and significance and it is energising.

Btw, I don't think this is just a MK thing - my husband struggles in the same way.  But I do think for me I've had to really rethink and reflect on the way I grow and develop new friendships - so that I don't let people down in the long run.


Rachael said…
This was a really interesting post. I worry about one of my girls who seems to miss a lot of social cues here in Vanuatu. I wonder how she will cope back in Australia, not just because the social cues will be different but because she's not terribly good at picking them up anyway. We've recently realised that she is short-sighted and are working on getting her some glasses. I'm sure that doesn't help with picking up on facial expression, which is very important for communication here, but very subtle.
Jenny said…
Hi Rachael. It's tricky isn't it because you don't know how she would be if she had lived in Australia all her life. She may have still found it hard. I certainly found just not understanding what topics people were even talking about (and in my apparent 'home' country) difficult and that wasn't so much a social cue. I have to say that I do have a strong empathy for new migrants because we expect and assume so much without realizing how much information is unspoken.

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