Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Afraid of Commitment

“She’s actually really nice once you get to know her.”
“He only acts like that around new people.” 

Common phrases you’re likely to hear after being verbally shat on by a friend of a friend whom you’d been asked to meet for the past 2 months. 

I’m convinced I was a sociology major in another life, because I too often catch myself brooding about the various aspects of interpersonal communication. My most recent epiphany concerns the two most loathed things in social interaction: cliques and initial unapproachability. I’ve deduced that both of these annoying occurrences arise from the prevalent pessimism and laziness associated with putting work into relationships or friendships that people are not 100% confident in. 

Cliques form because it is easier to seek out and hang out with similar-minded people than to extend one's attention to those one may not click with (ha) right off the bat. It’s natural to feel more comfortable and accepted around those that you’re sure will accept you. But where’s the fun in that? Those that form and interact only within their individual groups make the assumption that people with differing mentalities will be too hard to deal with, won’t benefit them as friends, and are therefore not worth the effort. They don’t want to make the effort to accommodate other personalities, because G-d forbid someone has a different opinion.

Others instead choose to put up social barriers and radiate initial un-approachability, that is, to act spunky and even b*tchy around new people. I believe this is done to initially weed out those that won’t deal with their attitude or those that don’t meet their ‘standards’, as well as to challenge their potential equals to face them and prove their ‘worthiness’. 
However, the flaw in this method is that it creates a dependence upon a confident, person unfazed by that individual’s attitude to overlook and attempt to break this barrier. As a girl, I’ve always been told to let guys approach me first, to never be the one to say the first word. This strategy leaves all the work to the guys and makes the assumption that they will be willing to do it. If everyone used the same technique of awaiting a knight in shining armor to rescue them from their own attitude, we would all be loners. I’m gonna go on a limb here and offend a good percentage of people by saying that I believe having an aloof attitude is the equivalent of have a neon sign with the words “I’m lazy, stuck up, and I’m gonna make you work for my attention” flashing above your head. Some believe this technique somehow lets them set higher standards for their potential friends, but I think it simply boils down to pure laziness. Also, this technique only works for those that have non-verbal appeal. Simply put, those that are hot and will be the targets of multiple solicitations without having to lift a finger.  

I’ve personally made it a policy to happily talk with anyone who feels up to it, and in all honesty, it gets hard sometimes. It often comes down to how well you can initially overlook minor disagreements and excuse possibly offensive passing comments. But let’s face it; very few people can make a perfect first impression. 
However, if you are able to get past the awkward first conversation, the benefits are plentiful. Befriending people from different backgrounds or differing opinions can teach us how to work with those that may not share our views, which we will encounter more often in school (and later, work) than not. Speaking of work, socializing with a wider variety of people can also potentially get you connected to various organizations and expose you to new opportunities, especially in college. Talking to a wider array of people can give us an insider’s look on different perspectives and introduce us to different topics we may have not thought about ourselves. 
This is why people fascinate me. Every person is the product of his or her life experiences and has a mountain of stories and advice to share. We can learn so much if we just listen.

Maybe I’m just way too forgiving of flaws that would stand out as red flags to most, but I never had the nerve to turn even the most annoying people away, because I know that they want to be heard and accepted just as much as I do. If nothing else, talking to more people and expanding your circle of friends can benefit us greatly in unpredictable ways.  Just the other day, a new friend of mine to whom I randomly started talking to in the dining hall offered me digital copies of 2 of my most expensive textbooks that I was yet to buy. I can now use the spare $300 to buy some overpriced UT merchandise. Yay!

So, dear reader, I challenge you to go out and expand your horizons. Start a conversation with a Starbucks barista. Say hi to that one shy kid at the back of the class. You never know, it may just change your life.


"On Wednesdays we wear pink." 

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