“Hi, how are you?”
“Fine, thank you.”
“Good! How’s work?”
“It’s good, it’s good.”
This gets boring and meaningless after a while, doesn’t it? It’s the dreaded script! AAAAAHHH!!! You know, those times when the conversation becomes so deafeningly predictable, when people might be saying a lot, but they’re really not saying anything at all?
The worst part is that sometimes you feel like an imbecile for wanting to say something more meaningful, like “work is a bit stressful. I sacrifice my lunch break to help complete projects on time, but nobody notices; I think one of my coworkers might be stalking me, and my boss has these horrible fights with their significant other on the phone during work, so things are kind of weird. But the avocado / orange / mayo sandwich at the cafe next door is awesome! I order there every day for lunch.” And you look at the person you’re talking to, and they’re like “oh, ok” as they wear that expression that says “damn, you’re a heavy one” on their face and look for a way to discreetly slip out of spending any more time interacting with you.
Kind of depressing to think about, perhaps? Maybe … but I have a more optimistic view of these things.
The key to getting out of scripted situations and into authentic ones is to become comfortable off the script – to become ok with quietly, gently expressing your truth. This also means, however, that you have to be accepting and to a certain extent comfortable with that truth of yours; if all you are thinking about are the bad things in your life, then yes, that will come out at other people. It’s fine to be honest about what hurts and annoys; just make sure you are honest, with yourself as well as others, about what you like and feel good about, too.
Not everything that sounds negative at first glance has to be negative, either. For example, if I’m tired, and somebody asks me how I’m doing, I will say, “I’m tired.” Often I will say it with a smile on my face, so that there is an implicit understanding that being tired is not a bad thing or something that requires an exorbitant amount of attention. Even if talking frankly about how you feel seems out of the ordinary to the person with whom you’re interacting, if you show that it is not out of the ordinary for you, that already put things more at ease. The lower the drama level around a subject, the more comfortable everyone tends to feel.
If you ever get annoyed by how often people can be superficial, just remember that people make small talk not to offend, but because they often want to engage others but don’t know what to say. So they say something they are comfortable saying, something that doesn’t feel “heavy” – something small-talky.
The lack of depth in what they say is often related to the lack of comfort they feel with talking about deep things with people that they do not know very well. When you quietly expand the realm of possibility for what counts as normal conversation, it can often have the effect of making somebody more comfortable to talk about such things with you specifically. Those around you that interact with you periodically will often subconsciously come to understand that they don’t have to be small-talky around you – you are a low-drama person that they can just be themself around. Thus, if they do have something that they care about on their mind, they are more likely to open up to you about it in the future. And they are more likely to listen to the things that you care about as well. This is a big piece of the social puzzle that is often missing for many people when it comes to interacting with others outside of their comfort zone. The world opens up when you break through this barrier.
If you are afraid of those times when somebody will reject you or look at you funny, think about this: those people that would look at you funny for being real with them will not be any more rewarding to interact with just because you play the game with them. What are you missing out on by being real? Let them have cake! They make their choice, independently of what you do, as to what they are ready to engage in. I have often found it to be the case that a person who could go either way very often is relieved, in fact, that somebody shows the desire to meet them on a less superficial level than is normally the case. You’ll have weird looks and moments of rejection, sure – but what admirable person that you have ever heard of does not at least occasionally inspire such a reaction in some people? Originality and authenticity are a lot more valuable than often thought.
It is not a mortal sin, every now and then, to stay within the script, especially in a situation in which you are forced to deal with somebody who is not very pleasant to deal with, with whom you would otherwise have no interaction. Even deplorable habits have good reasons for existing, sometimes. But in your day to day life, among all the strangers out there, with all the variables about what kind of connection you could have spinning around in the air, why stick to a mode of communication that shuts down so many wonderful possibilities? Human interaction, especially that kind of interaction that you do not pre-plan or approach with a cookie cutter, is the spice of life; it’s how we go from being simply among other people to loving and feeling loved. And any long-lived wise person will tell you – that’s incredibly important!
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