Many of us who have nerd interests have experienced a lack of understanding for our hobbies from others in our lives. Sometimes this judgement can come from friends, coworkers, or even from inside our own households. In some cases this disconnect can cause strife between you and your loved ones. If you are hoping to improve a relationship with someone important to you who does not get your nerd interests, I want to share with you what has worked for me.
What is it that your mother, coworker, or neighbor has against your hobby? Usually it falls into a short list of reasons.
“Why are you wasting money buying all those anime figures?” (Really now, who in any first world country is right to judge on personal indulgences?) Fashion, sports, cars, or other hobbies have similar expensive price tags. You might not own a huge wardrobe of designer labels but you’d personally rather spend that money elsewhere on something you are more interested in. Comic book collecting isn’t cheap, but neither is golfing.
“But, you are a nerd!” Social stigma is strong and it’s not something that will go away overnight. It is improvable, though! Relate your interest to more social normative activities. Finding a parallel between something your friend likes to do and what you enjoy can help illustrate similarities between widely socially accepted pastimes and your hobby. I like to explain anime and comic conventions as 'nerd mardi gras.’ We’ve put a nerdy spin on a concert event, holiday parade, or trade show. It’s a huge social event where people meet, enjoy entertainment, and party!
“Seems like a waste of time.” Talk about the skills you've acquired from it. It could be anything of value in your life. Maybe you’ve learned web design, sewing skills, money management, or even social skills through your interests. Maybe you met your significant other! There is a lot that can be gained from being involved in hobbies. I've personally learned a lot about marketing and social media through mine. I’ve worked with a number of companies thanks to cosplay. It helped me build my resume while I was in college. I use information I learned from it on a near daily basis at work. My acquired skills and experiences through cosplay have been instrumental in getting my foot in the door for several jobs now. It’s possible to learn from any life experience if you are willing.
Is your hobby a waste of time? In our high stress world is anything people derive enjoyment from a waste? Explain what about it interests you. Why do you enjoy it? A lot of people will come around if you take time to explain what makes something great in a simple way. Break it down for them!
“It just seems weird.” It is very easy to hate or fear something you don’t understand. Create an open dialogue and let them ask questions without feeling you'll be upset. It is a chance to help them understand your choices and interests better, so let them feel comfortable with asking you hard questions.
Keep in mind any relationship is a two way street where you should make an effort to be understandable. Try to have conversations without expectations, good or bad and don’t be pushy. It's a personal choice to have these interests and no one is obligated to accept your choices. You can't force it, and trying to may drive people further away.
If you make an honest effort to be understood, many people will come around. Every situation is different but the best advice I can give is to be relatable and positive- even with people who seem to have passed judgement on you already. Honey really does yield better results than vinegar!