Isn’t it wonderful being around people who are socially aware. Those who read social signals, and adapt their interactions based upon them.
For example, when someone’s talking to you, and they become aware you “don’t give a fuck”, and they move the conversation on quickly (or maybe even disengage).
Conversely isn’t it tough when someone can’t read the blank stare on your face and continues spewing their story or stream of consciousness.
For many people its something we “just get”. We take an interest in the other person, learn the things that interest them, and focus conversation around those topics. Perhaps we test the water with subjects from left afield occasionally, see how the topic is met, and then adjust accordingly. Maybe that topic can be discussed in future, maybe its off the table.
For most people that would be it.
But for me, growing up with a family member who’s particularly socially unaware, its something I’ve had to think about a bit. At stages I’ve definitely questioned how socially aware I am also.
So if I were to describe “how” to be socially aware to someone, this is what I’d say…
Each of us lives in our own little world, with ourselves at the centre and everyone else around them. Other people are like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, each with their own role. But conversely, its important to remember that for everyone else, we’re also just a small piece of their jigsaw puzzle. Perhaps to a colleague at work, that’s a business role. To a friend we’re someone to have a laugh with at the weekend. To the local shop assistant we’re the person who comes in regularly for bread and milk. This reminds me of the newly defined word sonder:
To a certain extent its important to respect those roles that we hold, and not step outside the boundaries unless it appears “ok” to do so.
And how do we work out if its “ok” to break beyond the social boundaries? There’s no hard and fast rule, but generally speaking it comes via reciprocation. If that person decides to share something a little outside of the norm (perhaps something personal), that can be a green light to test out something that you wouldn’t have, up until that point, shared.
Conversely, we can test the water with something personal or different, and see how the other person reacts.
But why is it important to respect others socially?
Try this metaphor. Imagine the other person is a sensitive plant, and your interactions represent the sun. The plant appreciates and is nourished by a small amount of sun, but should there be too much, the plant can dry up.
The reason for this, is that each social interaction we experience represents a piece of mind share. And mindshare takes up energy.
Whether we’re explicitly aware of it or not, when we interact with a person, we have to adjust our brain, and the neurons we use, in order to communicate optimally. Likewise they do.
We don’t “think” in the same way (for example) with our parents, as we do with our siblings.
That adjustment in thinking can be taxing when one has lots of things on their mind (which is _most_ of the time).
So the relationship we hold with people is a bit like an energy meter. The better our relationship, the more energy in the meter. And the more energy in that meter, the more we can afford to interact.
A good relationship will often mean that our conversation fires them up and feeds them with more energy. The stipulation to this is that we discuss with them something that is of mutual interest. Should we monopolise the conversation with our own topics of interest, then we run the risk of quickly depleting that energy meter.
And so to end this piece.
I would say that its really important to surround yourself with people that understand this. People that respect your space, and you do the same for. It sets a precedent for building a great relationship.