Nerds are introspective creatures that are very passionate about their hobbies and their families. They throw themselves into everything they do and they go above and beyond the call of duty to protect those they love which may include the occasional collectible or fan memorabilia. It is not easy to break into their inner circle, and much less to understand them, but I guarantee you that these tips will help you reach out and become a part of their world.
Do not assume that their people skills mean they know or don’t know how to relate to people.
This one is a tough one to explain but the gist of it is that your nerd can have people skills or actually lack people skills but is still relatable. Take for example Dr. Sheldon Cooper who can barely manage to be nice and talk during parties with strangers but enjoys being the center of attention at home. Ask them what types of people and conversation they like and keep a few topics in mind to help them navigate the crowd. Like Sheldon’s friends, be prepared to steer the conversation into areas of expertise for your nerd and help them navigate away from comfort zones and into new territory without pushing them too hard or ridiculing them. If you know a particular subject is trending, let them know so they can prepare their arguments and practice ahead of schedule.
Do not ridicule their hobbies or skills.
The number one mistake people make when talking to nerds is ridiculing or dismissing their passions because they don’t make sense to them or are unknown. Live Action Role Playing (LARP), video games, role playing board games, technical literature, robotics, anime, cosplay or any of the activities associated with nerdom are usually not mainstream and most people don’t even know these exist! Be prepared to read up on these subjects and explain to people why the particular hobby is special to the person participating in them. If you make the mistake of ridiculing their interests apologize and actively look for information on the subject to show that you care.
Be patient, listen and ask questions.
The worst part of being a nerd is explaining for the thousandth time why lightsabers can have light handles without causing harm or injury to the wielder. (I can’t wait for Star Wars Episode VII!) It is hard to explain what we do and what we enjoy in words muggles will understand, so be patient. If you are in a conversation with a nerd and don’t have a clue about what they are talking or referring to, ask questions and check Google or other sources during the conversation to keep up. This one is very important for parents since dismissing your kids because you don’t understand them can lead to isolation and the next time they are euphoric about a subject they will bypass you and go to someone that can understand them with less hassle.
Honesty is the best policy.
Because of their introspective nature, nerds tend to over analyze everything and research intensively a subject, be it a consumer item or which superhero has the most strength and charisma. You may think that lying to them is a good idea but they will figure it out eventually. Since they are highly sensitive and smart creatures you should focus on explaining to them what you need or want from them. It saves time and a lot of bad feelings if you are upfront about your intentions. Worst case scenario they will harbor that resentment forever, due to their formidable memory, and will never ever consult you about the subject ever again.
Support their endeavors with an open mind and positive attitude.
So our super huge Hadron Collider look alike is taking up all of the garage space, no big deal! When we finally unify gravity and quantum physics you will thank us. It may seem far fetched to you or an inconvenience but to us it means the world that you give us room to explore what we like. Set boundaries and rules before your nerd starts their quest but do not alienate them during their journey. They will cut you out of their life faster than you can say you are sorry.
Don’t assume they have great leadership skills.
The most successful nerds in history were players on a team and didn’t get credit or renown because of their participation. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates are infamous for their success and leadership but their counterparts, Steve Wozniak and Paul Allen, quietly worked behind the scenes to help them build empires. Some nerds like the spotlight and others like privacy. If your nerd is a follower make sure they become the best follower possible; sometimes that means you will be their leader so make sure they don’t stray to far from the path.
Be concise and precise with your thoughts and arguments.
I’m still having issues with this one myself since all of my close friends are nerds of some kind, but I have learned that if I am concise and precise with my requests or comments we tend to get along better. A misplaced adjective or adverb can lead to hours of excitement over grammar and syntax but will totally and completely overtake whatever original subject we were talking about. This is the equivalent of trying to out expert the expert. Respect that they are connoisseurs of their craft and/or hobby and come well prepared to venture into their area of expertise. Don’t pretend to be an NFL fan because if they are, they will catch you. See #4.
Call them out on their BS.
Although nerds will never actively pretend they don’t know about what you are talking about to get out of an argument, they may try to dismiss the subject with arguments that the topic is frivolous or unimportant. When they try to convince you that knowing about the Kardashians shows a lack of sophistication and moral values call them out on their BS. Disliking a subject matter doesn’t give them permission to dismiss it. This is the reverse of #2. They are nerds but that doesn’t mean they know everything. Feel free to tell them to read a book about the subject before knocking it.
Don’t diss their family or friends, or their bow tie collection.
This one is self explanatory. They will unleash the wrath of Khan on you with Klingon precision if you manage to hurt or disrespect their friends and family. Revenge is a dish best served cold.
Affection is essential but ask before hugging them.
I’m guilty of this one, since every time my friends lean in for a hug I either mess it up or hang on for dear life. Nerds are affectionate and passionate, no doubt about it, and they grow up in all types of households. It is very hard to know just by looking at them if they are the hugging and kissing type, and even if they weren’t for years a recent event or experience may trigger their cuddly side. For example, one of my friends never had a girlfriend and when he finally secured one, which he is actually marrying, he was so happy he could hug strangers. I had never seen him touch a human being that wasn’t related to him with affection. Loving a nerd can unlock their mushy side.
I hope you can appreciate the humor and the thought that went into creating this post. After all, I can’t call myself a nerd whisperer if I don’t approach the subject. Not sure if it is my good looks or charm, but I have been very successful at attracting, loving and nurturing nerds, releasing them back into the wild a bit better than I found them. Most of what I know I owe to the nerds in my life, and we are forever grateful! (If you read that last line in the three eyed alien voice from Toy Story, you are one of my tribe!)