There is a saying – “No man is an island, entire of itself”, which simply translates to the reality-based fact that no being is totally independent of inter-dependence – life works on the principle of leveraging inter-dependence; for example, flowers depend on the bees for their replication and the bees depend on the flowers for food. Our social relationships (including the intimate ones) serve several purposes for our growth as well as for entertainment, and thus form a part of the principle of inter-dependence. The more aware you become the more you realize the desire to connect more deeply with life, which translates into specific desires for better social involvement. In a physical environment there are various social dynamics that play out, which have light-natured and dark-natured aspects to them, and an awareness/understanding is required to navigate them smoothly – one cannot simply opt for a black-and-white technique, like “I will just be loving”, in a reality such as Earth which has various aspects of imbalance and balance present in it. To be “socially mature” is a growth path by itself, and involves an aware understanding of your own mind (along with evolving from the negativity in it) and the minds of other humans.
This post basically deals with discussing certain understandings relating to social dynamics which can be incorporated to have more enjoyable, and deeper, interactions. If you are dealing with a lot of emotional and mental momentum, which have been built up over your past unconsciousness, you would have work on going through a phase of release through the state of allowing (discussed in several posts of this blog, main ones being – release of suppressed energy, reducing mind momentum, the state of total allowing, healing the imbalance and faq on the state of allowing). The release of past “momentum”, of emotions and mind activity, is critical to incorporate new learning, or new perspectives, because when you are dealing with a load of past momentum there is very little freedom/energy in you to work with new ways of thinking. This phase of release (what I call phase 3) is a challenging journey by itself, however when you are done with a decent percentage of release (say about 60%) you are quite ready for a return of focus towards incorporating new life skills and developing the attitude of conscious choice (which can seem like a different mindset than the one needed for the phase of letting go or phase of release). The past two posts are more focused on the dynamics of living from this mindset of conscious choice, and this post discusses some understanding relating to social dynamics which you can use to work on a conscious choice towards improving your social life (if you so desire).
It’s important to realize that different people are on different journeys, and one shoe doesn’t fit all, so you have realize what feels like an inspiration for you at this moment in your personal path of growth. If improving your social behavior looks like a part of your “growth path” then you will need to develop more awareness in the area of inter-personal communication. A lot of social anxiety is out of a mis-understanding of social dynamics (not having a good understanding of human mind) which leads to several limiting ways of thinking about interactions – for example we are brought up with some fear-based inputs of “don’t talk to strangers” which may be beneficial advice to a child but the same child grows up as an adult and unconsciously starts making this thought into a fear-based attitude of being resistant towards new connections or interactions. You will be surprised at how many thought patterns are carried over from our childhood days into our adulthood without realizing that our reality has changed, that we are adults now. Very few of us use our own awareness to address the limiting behaviors, rather we simply keep adhering to the past conditioning, thus unconsciously holding on to patterns of thinking that no longer serve us.
The area of social interaction opens up potential for growth as well as for entertainment, through building new connections, going deeper with old relationships, developing new channels of co-operation-based productivity or simply enjoying the momentary pleasure of inter-relating. So if you wish to grow in this area you would require the attitude of openness, and an attitude of learning, because you will be exploring new waters which may be unfamiliar to your present conditioning – as they say, “one can’t find new oceans if one doesn’t have the courage to lose sight of the shore”.
The fear of interacting with strangers
Consider this simple truth that every friend that you have today was once a stranger to you. Strangers become “new” friends, if you keep blocking out your interactions with strangers, and keep holding on to your familiar circle, you will potentially block yourself from gaining new connections, new perspectives, new growth and new expressions. In some countries it’s normal for people to say “hi”, or give a smile, to complete strangers walking on the street, and these countries usually rate very high on the “happy planet” list (basically a list of countries which are voted on standards of human well-being). In some countries people can be more welcoming (sometimes in a servile way) to foreigners but can be cold with each other, basically out of associating low value with themselves and their compatriots – such countries usually rank low on “happy planet” index because there is no sense of comfort among the locals which causes them to feel “threatened” all the time. In some countries people hold a very strong suspicion towards foreigners and strangers, they are highly “private” in terms of holding on to their circle, they rank the lowest on this index.
One of the biggest contributions of the “internet” is the opportunity, it provided, for people to get global. Through avenues like the chat facilities, and social networking sites, people are able to connect a lot more freely. If you go on yahoo chat you may find that there are some “public chat rooms” who have people who’ve been regular in that room for years – it’s like a real community that they belong to. Online interaction is sometimes referred to as “virtual reality”, and is sometimes even condemned as taking away from real life interaction, however, such a perspective is quite inaccurate – for one, there is nothing virtual about online interaction because you are talking to real people, secondly, there is a better chance that people who are shy in real life may be able to open up (or be more exploring) online under the safety of their anonymity. Online interactions can be very useful in learning about human minds, because people can be far more open during an online communication than during a face-to-face communication. Of course, online communication has a draw back in that it does not allow for the experience of true intimacy, or deeper connection, which can only be possible when you are physically present with someone. As they say, verbal communication can only allow for a small percentage of input, majority of the input comes from non-verbal cues like through your eyes, through your body language and physical touch or closeness.
When you are online, you can log-in to a chat room, say hi to a stranger and possibily end up having a meaningful conversation. The same principle is valid in real life also, very few people would react negatively to you saying “hi” to them, and even if they do it doesn’t matter, it’s just an indication that they are not interested for their own reasons (or possibly have their protection shield on), you don’t have to make it personal. Sometimes we are afraid of “what to expect”, the mind may throw up fears about strangers (like “what if he/she is a creep”), basically you would need to use your logical sense of judgement, as an adult, to sense if there is any form of threat possible from a person. If your instinct tells you that a person is safe and your logical sense gives you the same indication, it’s a safe bet on all accounts, however if you sense that there is something “off” about a person just follow your instinct to make your exit – a lot of our fear of strangers comes from our “child identity”, as an adult we are well capable of handling our security and have a better sense of instinct. Sometimes we are just afraid of getting “buzzed off”, or coming off as “weird”, so we keep from saying hi to a stranger who we feel like interacting with. Your desire for interaction with a stranger can come for many reasons
- You may just feel an attraction for that person, because of the physical looks or they way they are dressed or their body language or just an inner impulse.
- You may be looking for some company to while away time (for example while waiting at the airport or travelling in general)
- You may just want to connect with a person at a friendly level
Whatever be the case, when you feel the desire to talk to a stranger and you over-ride it out of the fear of being buzzed-off, or just a “child-identity” based fear, you basically end up losing a possibility of an enjoyable experience, possibility of a friendship, possibility of an intimate relationship or at the very least an exciting memory of their reaction. It’s not easy to overcome this fear of talking to strangers and it can take some “experience” before your mind starts realizing that it’s not as fearful, that it can be fun and that people are not as “cold” as the exterior that they project – the most serious face has a playful interior also, don’t be fooled by an external seriousness, remember that “joy” is a dimension present in all minds. The very attitude of being open towards social interaction, with strangers, causes you to develop new skills in inter-personal communication – the brain automatically adapts to the requirement of a challenge.
Our interest, in strangers, would usually be with the opposite sex (or the same sex in the case of homosexuals), basically because it’s more interesting to the mind to contemplate the possibility of a romance, or because we are in the “searching for a mate” mode. However it’s important to not discount the possibility of a friendship, and possible new connections arising from that friendship (friends of friends deal), that can come from talking to the same sex also or rather not making this whole thing about “hooking up”. In terms of talking to strangers of same sex, women are far more comfortable launching conversations with another woman, guys have a strong “homo phobia” instinct, thanks to all the ways in which homosexuality has been “negatively” warped up in this society (where gay is used as an insult), which prevents them from having a causal conversation with another guy (the first thought that would pop up in a guy’s mind would be “Is he gay, or does he think I am gay”).
Requirements for a comfortable social interaction
Understanding social dynamics is one thing and internalizing it is another; you can read about a lot of tips on improving social communication but unless you start learning/improving from your own experiences you can never internalize any of the understandings that you gain from reading. It will take time for you to internalize these understanding and to incorporate them into your natural behavior, it involves being aware of your old patterns and being aware of the changes required, letting go of identifying with the old patterns and aligning yourself towards living the new patterns as a conscious choice. Below is a list of a few requirements for allowing the possibility of a comfortable social interaction.
An open body language – Your mind reflects in your body language. It’s easy to read a person, like a book, if you read his/her body language – the body never lies. Even if you are “trying” to project a cool body language, while being fearful in your mind, it will show up as cues in your body language. A lot of people try to “project” a confident body language by rigidly trying to hold eye contact, holding a firm handshake, keeping their shoulders broad, wearing a never-dying (looking totally fake) smile etc, and such a projection usually comes off as being manipulated, and anyone with any iota of awareness can immediately sense the insecurity behind the show of confidence. The truth is that we are more comfortable around people who are aligned with their “humanness” rather than people who are trying to fake confidence – you will notice that you can sometimes have a deeper conversation with someone who is being shy than with someone who is trying to project a show of confidence. The deal is that a “confident body language” does not necessarily have to be an open body language, whereas even a shy person can have a real openness (a shy person can be open or be closed, whereas a person who is faking confidence is always closed). Below are a few pointers towards an open body language
- People always sense your “inner vibe”, so if your mind is holding thoughts of “how can I impress this person” or “how can I show my dominance”, it will get projected in your body even if you try to fake an external coolness. Just work from the thought of “I am interested in this person and I want to enjoy the interaction” and you can see how an open body language (that’s natural to you) comes up.
- Use your eyes to convey your interest rather than to show your confidence. There is a huge difference between both these approaches. When you try to show your confidence your mind will be “pre-occupied” with itself and have no real space to be genuinely interested in the other person. You can create a real connection by just looking into someone’s eyes from a place of interest (it could be sexual interest, romantic interest, curiosity-based interest etc).
- Keep your body relaxed (this can take some real awareness initially and it can also require you to release the momentum of your mind/emotional-accumulation so that you don’t get over-excited or anxious). Quick movements are always perceived as a sign of agitation and it will make the other person feel “nervous”, relaxed movements are always comforting. Especially with your eyes, you need to consciously let go of the habit of darting it around at a frantic pace. Your eyes are a direct indicator of the movement of your brain, so to have a conscious control over your eyes (which becomes natural with time) can also allow you to steady your thoughts while talking to someone.
- Don’t think too much (about the next thing to say) while interacting, allow the thoughts to happen, allow the conversation to take the shape that’s most natural at that point. What’s more important is to connect with the other person at a non-verbal level simply by conveying your interest through your eyes and your relaxed presence. Silences are totally okay in a face-to-face communication, in fact the moments of silence can be opportunities for an more intimate connection where you convey to the person “non verbally” that you don’t feel awkward in their presence. If you are constantly thinking about the next thing to say, to fill up the silence, you lose touch with the non-verbal connect.
- Don’t make the other person “extra-ordinary” in your mind. The moment you make someone extra-ordinary you stop being natural with that person, and then you can’t connect at a human level. You can see how people behave in the company of celebrities, with that sense of awe and the “servility”, which makes the interaction very hollow instead of bring in the “human” element. The same is true for any member of the opposite sex, or same sex, that you feel attracted to. Always remember that deep down everything/everyone is ordinary in every sense, extra-ordinariness is a delusion-based perception simply because everything in life has a light and dark nature aspect to it.
- Look at enjoying the interaction in that moment rather than worrying about what you can get out of it, or where it may lead. There are many interactions which would go nowhere outside the few minutes (or seconds) that you spent with that person, you may never see him/her ever again in your life, and yet every interaction is a memory and can serve to enhance your understanding of people, and of yourself.
- Drop the formalities as much as you can. Be with that person the way you would be with a friend. This attitude completely changes the dynamics of the interaction. People respond to our attitude towards them, so if your attitude towards them is one of “I am interacting with a stranger” they respond in a similar manner, rather if your attitude is one of “I am interacting with a friend” they respond in the same manner. Also remember that we all have a “personal life” in which we know ourselves in our playful, romantic or sexual nature, and anyone who’s not being a hypocrite would respond positively to any playful communication on your part.
Everything new feels uncomfortable to your brain, initially; the idea of interacting with strangers, or being open to an intimate communication, can feel like a challenge to start with. However, if you feel that developing social maturity is your desired growth path then you will need to let go of identifying with the resistance from your brain (which will arise because the brain always has resistance to any new habit or behavior).
Overcoming limiting judgments – It’s true that it’s our nature to “judge” as a part of perceiving. It’s not possible for anyone to stop judging, it happens naturally as a part of our thinking process. The moment we interact with someone, a part of our mind works on judging the person, recording their body language, their intelligence (or lack of it), their personality etc, and it’s something that can’t be helped. We fear getting judged by others because we realize we judge others in our own mind. It’s important to start understanding that “judgment” is just natural form of thinking and it’s not something that gives a true picture, we’ve all judged people wrongly now and then, and every narrow judgment is false anyway because there are so many “shades of grey” to every person.
Also, the deeper truth is that we are the ones judging ourselves, and it’s our judgment of ourselves that causes us to feel offended by the outside reflection of it. So instead of fearing outside judgment you will need to work on letting go of your own judgment of yourself. You can’t be offended by something that you don’t judge yourself by – for example, a tall person (or a person comfortable with his height) would never get offended/hurt if someone calls him a “shorty”. You can thus use social interactions as a means to find out your own insecurities; no-one is perfect and there is always room for more growth.
Being comfortable with your sexuality – We are all sexual beings since sexuality is a natural dimension in our mind, it’s just that many of us have limiting/negative thoughts about our sexuality and hence are not totally comfortable with it. When you are comfortable with your own sexuality it’s easy to communicate your sexual interest (verbally or non-verbally) during an interaction – for example, flirting is a way of expressing sexual interest verbally while a seductive eye-contact (what’s called “bedroom eyes”) is a way of expressing sexual interest non-verbally. Communicating sexual interest does not mean that you will want to have sex with that person in “reality”, it can just be a playful way of interacting, a way to enjoy a conversation, or a tease. There is a difference between “being sexual” and “wanting to have sex in reality” – having sex with some person in reality can have many implications which we may not interested in dealing with, but we can use our sexual interest as a channel to have an enjoyable conversation. In fact there are many people who can come across as being very sexual (because they are comfortable with their sexual dimension) who don’t actually have a high sex drive in terms of desiring the actual act of sex.
A person who is not totally comfortable with his/her sexuality would always have some “awkwardness” during a social interaction. Being totally connected/comfortable with one’s sexuality is a powerful state of being and can go a long way in manifesting a naturally open body language. Ironically, though guys get labeled as the “sex mongers” it’s the women who are more comfortable with their sexuality and are adept at expressing their sexual interest non-verbally, while most guys lack a comfort/connection with their sexual dimension and feel awkward, in many ways, in the presence of someone towards whom they feel a sexual interest. In fact there are a plethora of books, like “The Game”, written by “pick-up artists” (guys who’ve mastered the art of seduction) to help guys with developing better body-language, sexual communication and eye-contact skills around women. Most skilled “pick-up artists” are highly aware individuals who enjoy the art of seduction and use their awareness to understand the social dynamics involving women.
In conclusion, it’s important to understand that when you enter into a new area of growth you have to be willing to be patient with yourself and know that there will be a lot of learning to be had before you reach a state of “natural comfort” with that area. If you get dejected by initial rejections, or goof ups on your part, instead of using them as an opportunity for calibrating your understanding, then you will impede your own growth, develop limiting thinking and be unrealistically critical of yourself. The area of social dynamics is vast since it defines the integral aspect of “relationships”, and for some of us the very purpose of our current lifetime may be to grow in this area and develop a balanced perspective around it.