As far as conditions for socialising go, being in hermit mode after a long tiring day is not a favourable one. Despite that–after being subjected to a dose of vigorous insistence–I found myself heading to a pub with a friend to spend a Saturday evening with her friends.
Sitting on one corner of a big square table, surrounded by unknown faces, I put on my confident, party face and made it through the night by sipping my drink, enjoying music, fidgeting with my phone, making small conversations and smiling occasionally.
The next day my friend told me the popular opinion of me was of a snob.
A few months later, I bumped into one of the faces from that table. We got talking and after 10 minutes of what can only be referred to as a very amicable conversation, I was told I definitely did not seem like a snob.
From a snob to not-a-snob
The label never bothered me but what really disturbed me was the fact that people were so quick to label a stranger they knew nothing about. That evening at the pub and the next evening when I bumped into the person were not all that different. But while I was the same person, his perception of me had changed–probably because my impression on him had changed.
This incident taught me that perceptions can be altered with impressions.
Judging is a natural impulse that takes over the moment people interact. And though it may not be ideal, it is human. What immediately ensues afterwards is acting on said judgements. Leaving an impression and forming a perception happen almost simultaneously.
It is only human to be affected by wrong perceptions of us. And so, to find more about the impressions that were being formed about me, I decided to delve into the things we do and how they are perceived.
Going back to the evening at the pub, I remember people talking but don’t recall what they were talking about. Lost in the music, I was in a world of my own. I never participated in the conversations. Even when I looked at somebody as they talked, I wasn’t really listening. And because I wasn’t listening, I wasn’t responding.
In hindsight, I realise that people enjoy the company of those who pay attention. We take an immediate liking to those who are genuinely interested in what we have to say.
Impressions and perceptions are being formed every second.
My mind that evening might have said socialising, but my body said ‘No’ loud and clear. My nose was buried in the phone. I sat slouched at the far corner of the table and never once did I get up to walk around.
A person with an open body language–straight posture, confident gait and an attentive manner–is more approachable than a slouchy person sitting in a corner looking self-absorbed. A little tweak in the disposition can change the impression one might leave behind.
The power of touch
The only person I was with that whole evening at the pub was my friend. I never left her side. I didn’t interact with anyone else. Even while being introduced, not once did I initiate a handshake.
I am told that establishing first contact through touch can do wonders. People automatically become more comfortable after a confident handshake, a high five or a gentle pat on the back. These are ice-breakers that don’t require much effort nor do they make others uncomfortable.
Leave the real impression
Impressions and perceptions are being formed every second. The aforementioned tale was just one incident. Others might have had different experiences. Some people are, by nature, self-conscious and distinctly uncomfortable in social settings, but they may be wrongly perceived as rude. On the other hand, some get labelled incorrectly because of hearsay.
I gathered we don’t need to change who we are to be perceived right. What we need is to be mindful. Interacting with others and learning a little something about their lives is a fulfilling experience–one that must be given a chance.