You Know What They Say About Assuming
Are you the person who stands in the corner at parties, staring at your phone, waiting for the night to end? You probably told yourself at the beginning of the evening that the party was going to be lame, or you weren’t really in the mood to socialize. Then, being the prophet that you are, the night slowly turned to shit, so you head home and slip into your pajamas.
I think everyone feels this way sometimes, regardless of how sociable an individual is, but how much of our experience is predetermined?
A quick communication/psychology preface
In Communication and Psychology, the term framing, refers to the perceived risk or benefit of a scenario based on available information. A lot of studies on framing use risk-aversion scenarios to prime individuals, and then measure the influence of a stimulus on their behavior. Good studies will attempt to minimize competing variables, but real world scenarios are generally more complex, so the applicability of psychological studies is difficult to determine.
The best part of waking up is … waking up.
Problems at home or work are best left in their respective places, especially when socializing with new people. In addition to confiding in loved ones, you should have some activities that calm you down. Personally, I use reading, writing, meditation, fitness, and video games to relax. Regardless of your preferred methodology, you need to invest in habits that make you feel good. Your social life will suffer if you cannot muster the energy to engage in enjoyable conversation. The same can be said about work and intimate relationships. If you aren’t eating breakfast before work, and find yourself rushing around, you’re probably going to have a rough day. I’m not a fan of strict routines or regiments, but if you’re in a serious rut, maybe it’s time to plan a little “me” time. Try a new activity, or return to a hobby that you used to enjoy.
“Lots of dudes. Where are the boobies?” – Private Miller, “Pineapple Express”
Once you have worked on relaxing and putting yourself in the right state of mind, it’s time to prepare yourself for the environment. If it’s your first time at this venue, approach it without presumptions.
My friend in college would always get mad at me because I didn’t want to hang out at his sausage-fest gatherings. The typical evening at his place involved sitting around for a couple hours, until I got tired and headed home; feeling like I “wasted” my time. The same can be said for a lot of nights out in San Francisco (too many dudes). I enjoy kicking it with the boys, but if it’s a weekend in college or a night out in San Francisco, I want to dance and socialize (assuming I’m single).
The takeaway, set your expectations to non-existent, or extremely low. If you want to dance, dance; but don’t start your night expecting other people to facilitate your desired outcome.
Unless you’re Professor X, don’t try to read people’s mind
Now that you’re comfortably situated with your friends or co-workers, and you’ve started a conversation with someone new, allow the conversation to happen organically. I thoroughly enjoy people watching and studying body language, and this has made me a much better conversationalist. However, sometimes when I notice someone is having a bad time, I feel compelled to guess or probe for their problems. I am naturally curious, and this is amplified by closed-off people; I look at pissed-off people like Rubik’s cubes. I try to turn them and make them enjoy the moment, and I’m generally successful, but it takes a great deal of tact and practice.
For now, focus on the simple things. Don’t assume they are having a bad time because the music sucks, or the venue is dingy; you might have just added additional reasons for their melancholia. Instead, ask open-ended questions and let the conversation flow. Save your presumptions until the night is over, and then tell your friends how much of a b***h Becky was. Don’t spoil someone’s evening with unwarranted probing, or a debby-downer attitude. Be someone who people want to talk with, and allow your positive vibes to permeate through the room. Laugh, smile, joke, and dance.
If you want to grovel and glare, stay at home. A healthy social life requires a healthy intrapersonal relationship (your relationship with yourself). If you’re not happy, it will show on your face, attitude, and body language. If you decide to go out to a club or bar, you have an obligation to yourself and those whom you are sharing the space with to put your best face on. There will be plenty of time for Netflix and ice cream, but friend’s and family are fleeting.
The influence of presumptions in communication is poorly understood, and it will be a while until we have concrete heuristics. For now, hold your presumptions closely.
Also, take care of yourself and find activities that provide a means for release. Parents, significant others, friends, and coworkers can be a source of satisfaction and/or stress. Sometimes working on yourself is impossible if your social life is dragging you down. Spend time with the people who care about you, and cut ties with toxic individuals; life is too short to be weighed down by emotional baggage.