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How do I make carpooling less awkward?

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Question - (12 September 2022) 7 Answers - (Newest, 17 September 2022)
A female United Kingdom age 22-25, anonymous writes:

I’m looking for some advice on an awkward situation. Basically I’ve started carpooling with one of my colleagues from work. He is a really nice guy but he’s also really shy so the journeys just always descend into silences. We both run out of things to say after a few minutes and then it’s just so uncomfortable for the rest of the journey. I don’t know why though because I can usually just talk to anyone about anything but with him I just go blank.

The thing is though, it was all my idea so I can’t exactly go back on it after barely a month. He had moved house recently and his new route to work went past my house. I was sick of getting up early to catch the bus to work which was never, ever on time so one day I grabbed him and suggested we car pool. I left it totally up to him of course but offered to give him some petrol money, whilst saving money myself on bus fare and getting an extra hour in bed every morning. So we both benefited and it seemed like a win-win situation. I’m hoping to buy myself a car with the money I’m saving from not paying for buses but it’s not going to happen overnight.

We had always gotten on as colleagues, I’m the receptionist and he works in the Sales Department in an office just a stone’s throw away from me so we crossed paths all the time during the day. And we’d chat as normal, each lunch together with others and even flirted a little bit from time to time. I thought I fancied him at one point but over time just saw him more as a friend. I honestly thought driving to and from work together would be fine but if anything he just seemed really anxious and seemed to agree to it through gritted teeth. I can sense how nervous he gets in the car every day and it makes me feel the same, to the point where we both just seem to close off and not say anything. Sometimes trying to make small talk just feels painful and cringeworthy.

I think it is all down to the fact that he’s just really shy and nervous when we’re alone together. When we’re at work and having lunch / coffee breaks together he seems fine and we have a laugh, which I think is because we’re around other people as well so the burden or pressure of making conversation doesn’t feel as much for him. I don’t bite though. I wish we could just talk about anything like its nothing. Any advice?

View related questions: at work, flirt, money, shy

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A male reader, anonymous, writes (17 September 2022):

I find it hard to believe someone in sales is an introvert.

Maybe he’s just not a morning person and doesn’t want to make conversation before he is fully awake.

Maybe he has a certain routine like a radio show or podcast he used to listen to and now you have interrupted that.

I would approach the situation by telling him that you noticed this carpool situation may not be working out too well and give him the chance to agree or disagree with that.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (16 September 2022):

Talk about the news, about work, about people you have in common... if you open up to him, he will probably open up in return. Ask open questions to give him a route into the conversation. You could turn the radio on, that way you won't be driving in awkward silence, or bring a magazine or crossword or something as a conversation starter. Perhaps you could halve your lift sharing so you only do it a couple of times a week too.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (14 September 2022):

To me it sounds as if he didn't really want to agree to it but might've felt under pressure to say yes. Double check with him he's still ok to this agreement. He might be quite introverted and not like making small talk like this. He might enjoy some quite time in the morning before he has to 'socalise' at work- I know I'm like this.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (14 September 2022):

You seem to be totally oblivious to how other people feel and think. He grits his teeth and goes all quiet because he is only doing it out of being polite and kind, he would much rather not do it at all. That is why. Nothing to do with being shy. Don't kid yourself. He felt cornered and did not want to be rude by saying no. Some people enjoy driving alone, some enjoy quiet, especially if things will get noisy for hours on end when they arrive at work. Some prefer to avoid people they do not like much. Get it?

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A reader, anonymous, writes (13 September 2022):

"...and even flirted a little bit from time to time."

What was originally business, turned into something else. He is a male co-worker; and in today's climate, a guy has to be careful how he communicates and what signals are sent to a female co-worker. Who may misconstrue the intent and message behind what he says or does. You shouldn't have included "flirting" in the mix. That added awkwardness. He may have said something unintended to be flirtations; but it may have been too ambiguous to tell. Next I guess you'll probably say he started it. If he did, apparently he has stopped. He may have realized it was inappropriate, or someone may have told him it is.

What's wrong with just being silent through the ride? How chatty are you on the bus? Just maybe, he doesn't want the conversation to lead to flirting; he just wants to give you a ride. Either go back to taking the bus, find a new ride, or just sit quietly through the ride. I just don't see how that's difficult to do?

No more flirting; or trying to use a ride for any other purpose, but to get to work! Easy-peasy!

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (13 September 2022):

You are overthinking this. You are riding with this guy to save some money and to sleep one hour more , period, not to entertain or to be entertained. As long as you pay him his gas money as agreed and are normally civil with him, if he does not talk because he is shy or because he is moody or because he is nervous or....etc.etc., that's really not your problem.

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A female reader, Honeypie United States + , writes (13 September 2022):

Honeypie agony auntBring a book or magazine. That way you don't have to talk the whole time.

Make sure you pay him for gas/petrol and you will be fine. You do NOT owe him entertainment for giving you a ride.

And If you feel so uncomfortable talk to him and tell him that if this arrangement is something he rather not do, to let you know, no hard feelings.

You share a ride, but that doesn't mean you HAVE to build a friendship.

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