Good questions and thoughts are coming through. Let’s start with Charlie:
‘Isn’t it interesting how you can look at one person and immediately have a million things to say, and you can turn round and look at someone else and your mind goes dry, there is nothing there. You look at your drink, but it’s the same one you were drinking before so it can’t be that. How does one know instantly? … So here’s a question: do you think this synchronising of conversation – as two people start talking and get in harmony with each other, is that something you can learn? is that the skill? or are people either on your wavelength or not? Do you find you can suss out what wavelength people are on and move onto it? even the toughest nut? Being warm and asking people about themselves doesn’t always bring the warmth out of them if you don’t get that click, I’ve always found. But there’s a lot in one’s own mood too. I would be interested to hear your view.’
In my opinion, we can all tip the balance in our favour, by being attentive to the other person’s rhythm; that ebb and flow. Good moods are contagious, and so are modes of behaviour, and it’s worth bearing in mind how much our responses to individuals are filtered through perceptions of their tribal ‘style’. A study found, for instance, that an approach that struck a New Yorker as friendly (questioning, contradicting, engaging) struck a Californian as downright rude. Remember we express ourselves not just in a particular language or accent, but a conversational style. If that prevents us from seeing and hearing others, we can miss out.
So, if the other person doesn’t bombard with questions, but seems to savour the pause, then rocking back and matching that style, can help you get along. Mimicry is hard-wired in us human beans, it’s a question of alertness/rigidity, and mood. If we take a shy person’s reticence as an insult, we never get anywhere; and if we import our ill temper to an exchange with a stranger, it’s doomed.
But there are many fewer than six degrees of separation between most of us. So go out actively, seeking those points of connection, and you may click after a few minutes. Instant decisions — based on our prejudices, our history of past encounters — limit possibilities.