If I were the master of social etiquette, that would the standard introduction.
“Hello, my name is ____ and my biggest insecurity is ____.”
I don’t like small talk, or more specifically I dislike superficial conversations. I don’t keep up with the Kardashians, I didn’t see you drunk at “that one party,” I don’t care about your new $200 cardigan, and no, for the hundredth time, that outfit does not make you look fat.
Within ten minutes of meeting someone, I can gauge with surprising accuracy whether we’ll ever talk again. I can generally tell whether or not we’ll become friends. So, what’s the big secret?
In my experience, the biggest predictor of lasting friendship is openness. The best way to secure a friend is to ask the right questions, to be sincerely interested in their story, and to reveal yourself.
What are the “right” question? Ask someone about their interests, their passions, their dreams; ask what makes them come alive. People generally like to talk about these things, but we often don’t think to ask. It’s easier to play it safe and talk about popular culture and noncontroversial topics. But what’s there to gain from that?
If you’re asking the right questions, it’s easy to become truly interested in someone else’s story. Listen to what the other person is saying and respond to what they share; let them know that you’re paying attention and that you care. The most engaging conversations involve opinions, disagreement, discussion, and dreams. Don’t be afraid to go there.
Along with learning about someone else, it’s important to be open and reveal things about yourself. No one really cares what you favorite pizza topping is. When it comes down to it, people want to know how they can fit into your life. Are your beliefs regarding politics, spirituality, or knowledge compatible? Are you able to understand and accept one another’s’ beliefs? Just because you both like pepperoni and the color blue, that doesn’t mean that you’re soul mates. I think we need to take ownership of who we are. We need to accept our gifts and challenges and learn to wear them on our sleeves.
Lately I’ve had this strong inclination to share my fears and insecurities with people I’ve just met and those with whom I’ve had a more surface relationship in the past. Although I have yet to act on the urge, it’s a liberating feeling. Being able to not only associate with, but also reveal the darkest parts of yourself is huge.
Be vulnerable; be open; be yourself. If someone reciprocates and opens up to you, they’re a keeper. If they run for the hills, they probably wouldn’t be able to handle you anyways.
If someone doesn’t ask the right questions, make good conversation, or reveal themselves right away, how can you know they’re capable of doing so in the future? I’m a very private and reserved person, so I would expect this idea to push me way out of my comfort zone. However, ironically, I find the concept of openness to be strangely comforting. If I can’t be myself when I first meet someone than I won’t ever fully open up.
How different would relationships be if people were open and honest from the outset? What if people were comfortable reveling their fears, insecurities, and weaknesses? What would be gained if perfunctory conversations were replaced by honest and sincere interactions?
I think the quality of interpersonal relationships would improve drastically. I think meaningful interactions would also boost people’s self-esteem and encourage them to embrace and further develop their authentic selves. I believe sincerity and openness are the keys to a healthy and lasting relationship, and I believe that everyone has the power to bring that to the table, to improve the quality of each interaction and, subsequently, the relationship.