The Science of Social Interaction
Even though we are the most digitally-connected generation to ever exist, many of us are left craving real connection and intimacy. The ability to edit and refine texts before we send them is a luxury, but the ramifications of this luxury are not always beneficial. In face-to-face conversation, you can’t blueprint all of your witty comebacks and responses before you say them, so it takes more effort to be present and internalize the subject matter. Instead of fearing and expecting the awkward moments that may come along in direct conversation, it is important to learn how to move through them rather than avoid them all together.
For example, I recently attended a renaissance festival with a close friend and I fell in love with the entire culture of the festival. I began brainstorming how fun it would be to work and travel with these kinds of folks, so I started asking people who worked there how they got their jobs with the festival. My friend, who is more on the introverted side, was dumbfounded by my effortless approach with talking to these strangers. “How do you do that?” she asked. “How do you just start a conversation with someone you don’t know? I would be so worried about annoying them or saying the wrong thing.”
I didn’t know how to respond. Those kinds of anxieties never occurred to me because I figured that the worst that could happen is the conversation ends and we return to our respective paths. You end up right back where you started from before the conversation began.
After this experience, I began to consider how complex social interaction may seem to some. The worry of making a bad impression is enough to prevent so many of us from ever initiating conversation. Think of how many friendships or relationships could have been if it weren’t for nerves coercing us to stay silent.
Communication is one of the most valuable components of social life and it has the power to connect individuals of all kinds. The simple act of initiating conversation can open the doors to friendship, romance, acquaintance and even business partnership.
To me, the thrill of navigating conversation is unmatched. Authentic conversation requires you to leave your rehearsed and premeditated points behind and be fully present to digest what the other person says. Good conversation takes many twists, turns and tangents to lead to a place where both parties genuinely connect with one another.
When it comes to approaching conversation, it is much more exciting to anticipate it with curiosity than with fear. What am I going to learn from this person? How do they respond to interaction with others? How does their personality shine through their expressions and words? What do we have in common? These observations will teach you so much more than inhibitory fear ever will.
Annie Sragner, contributing writer for ifiknew