Navigating the Social Aspects of Eclectic Groups
Wed, 11/05/2008 - 22:11 — Happy an Nice
I admittedly have little experience with role-playing forums so the reader would be wise to consider my thoughts within that context. I can expand that to say I have little experience in social online forums. Still further, I need to admit that while my social exposures are well varied, I do not thrive in them. While I may succeed at some more than others, I like to return to my solitude. (see MBTI thread).
My impression of E is that is it high on the social interaction scale for many sites of similar nature. This poses certain endemic difficulties when a spectrum of personalities interacts. Cover that with the veil of printed word without body language and tone, and the risk increases exponentially.
We bring different expectations and backgrounds into our conversations. Cultural variations in social decorum leave each of us with a different understanding of what is polite, hasty, expedient or rude. Differences as subtle as a rural upbringing rather than an urban one can lead to differences in cadence which can create the impression of impatience or for the urbanite who feels like their pulling teeth, being less than forthcoming.
Different perspectives lead us to inequalities in evaluation. You may say “you’re wrong” and feel right in doing so but hearing “you’re wrong” may still feel like an attack to you. Much depends upon whether you are speaking or hearing it. It’s just a fact. It’s easier to offer an opinion than to accept criticism.
Familial differences can lead to trouble. In my family, jumping in with your opinion is healthy and natural. Some families open topics with leading statements such as, “I don’t know if this is true but the other day I heard…” softening the comment. To me, getting to the point seems natural while the other sort of conversation feels like I’m swimming in cold molasses.
Finally, some of us are just hard-wired differently innately. (again, the MBTI). Research demonstrates that certain people (they tend to be more mathematically gifted than others) actually process information differently from the masses. They use the higher-level thinking portions of their brain to analyze subtle human interaction – a method that doesn’t serve them well (1). In a discussion, they often see the logic, miss the subtle interpersonal themes, and don’t spot emotions. This causes them to come off socially backwards. These people don’t understand why others become upset or emotional when they themselves see no need for it. These people are often described by their peers as abrupt, insensitive or even unaware. In contrast, they believe they speak directly and view others as illogical bundles of emotion. These people are hard to dissuade from the logic and patterns they have identified in social interactions.
How do we attenuate these differences? (Yes, there is a formula! Hallelujah. Everything can be calculated and evaluated, of course!)
The key, I believe, is in monitoring for signs of defensiveness, hurt feelings, or anger. (Yes, the horse may already be out of the barn, but maybe you can still shut the door and keep in the rest of the horses). Once signs of defensive language are seen, back off the rapid, short-hand talk. Begin statements tentatively. Look for the goals in the conversation rather than hoping to win. Find common purpose. (Even if it’s just that both want to get along). Leave opportunity for the other person to comfortably express their opinion and above all, listen at least as much as you speak. Epictetus said we have two ears and one mouth to listen twice as much as we speak. Sage wisdom.
1. De Young, Colin G. Higher-Order Factors of the Big Five in a Multi-Informant Sample. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology; Dec2006, Vol. 91 Issue 6, p1138-1151, 14p
personality social speech styles
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