Opinion: What You Might Be Missing About Basic Interaction (I was)

joemoody

Sadly, It Took Me Decades to Realize This

Let’s start with 3 social scenarios gone wrong…

  1. Have you ever run into someone you haven't seen in a long time, and you overflowed with joy, but they were less than enthusiastic?
  2. Have you ever had a crush on someone so much that you dressed up and seized the moment to go introduce yourself to them, only to have them barely respond?
  3. Or maybe you simply wanted to impress a well-known person you admire, so you went out of your way to run into them, gushing with admiration and praise. But they seemed slightly repelled?

So, what’s going on here? Why are there moments when we most want to make an impact, that we’re the least likely to do just that?

This isn't an introvert versus extrovert situation, this is just what happens when one party becomes overly excited too fast.

The key phrase is “too fast” — as there's nothing wrong with being excited or feeling pure joy upon meeting someone. Likewise, seeing someone bubble over with excitement upon meeting us can be awesome.

What's the problem?

The long answer: We have to remember that human beings exist in a time-space paradigm. The time paradigm locks us into a dimension where the chronology and duration of things matter. There is also the emotional intensity levels, which usually require a bit of on-ramping before they reach the high state of pure joy.

The short answer: let people warm up to you before you drop your best stuff on them…

Good social interaction requires on-ramping. So let’s revisit the 3 examples cited at the start of this piece…

  1. You run into someone you haven’t seen in a long time. First, you stop with a slight smile like, “Is that really you?” Then, you pause and gaze gently into their eyes as you realize, “Yes!” Next, you slowly take a step toward them, your smile widens and you greet them accordingly. After some sharing, you realize the vibe is still there. Now, both of you are overflowing with joy.
  2. You like somebody romantically, so you adorn yourself and seize the moment to introduce yourself to them. However, you take care to approach them quietly with a touch of humility, not sure how they will respond to you. This delicate demeanor goes over way better than gushing on someone immediately. And who knows, after they get to know you, they might start gushing on you!
  3. You want to impress a well-known person you admire, so you go out of your way to run into them. However, you take care to give them “space” as you approach slowly. With a modest smile, you might say, “Hi there, I just wanted to say I’ve always admired your work.” Only someone not worth meeting would reject such an approach. In almost all cases, the person will be pleasantly engaged and you might make a friend.

The takeaway: approach people smooth and slow at first, just like a nice on-ramp. You’ll have a better chance at taking them to a higher level in your relationship.

It took me a long time to remember: just because we have strong emotions within us doesn't mean others are carrying that same intensity.

A fellow writer, Sean Kernan, once wrote that he assumes his typical reader is bored and cynical. That helps him write in a careful way to slowly on-ramp the reader, gently winning over someone who's already cynical. What great advice.

The same is true when we meet people out there in the world. It might help to assume that people are having a rough day, because you’ll approach them with extra care and attention.

Sometimes all it takes is a gentle on-ramp to a pleasant exchange to make your relationships more lasting and fruitful. 🙏

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