Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Encounter.

I am a quite person by nature. As a child I was painfully shy, and I struggled to find confidence in social situations. I was often 'that kid' who sat on the outskirts of social circles, feeling empty and alone, as most of the other kids playfully mingled and became acquainted. The thought of introducing myself to someone new, or God-forbid a group of strangers, inflicted a fear that was practically paralyzing. Sure I had friends and very good friends at that, but these were kids that I had grown up with...

Friends since Birth <3
My best friend and I were introduced at birth, literally. Our moms had met during a maternity exercise class at the YMCA. Their friendship continued to grow with the birth of a 'playgroup' following the  births of their sweet little bundles of joy( that would be us!)  We grew up together and new not life without the other. Together we enjoyed the joys of elementary school cliques and endured the torments of stinky grade school boys. We would spend the entirety of our eight hour school day side-by-side only to call each other, immediately, upon completing our homework in order to coordinate the next day’s outfit and lunch selection. 

I think most of us can relate to having experienced the freedom of such innocence- portrayed in the bliss of friendship. The simplicity of meeting someone and becoming instantly connected based on some minute detail, often served as the foundation of our childhood (best)friendships. As children, we are so innocent and simple minded. Our thoughts are not clogged by  the burdens of social norms, expectations, and judgment.  And the means by which we approach relationships are effortless and not at all 'over thought'. Best friends might meet on the first day of kindergarten when reaching for the same crayon only to discover that they share a favorite color. Unfortunately, not all relationships are this simple and progress with such ease.

As we grow older and mature our means of dealing with socialization become more and more complex. Our individual priorities often evolve and become skewed by exposure to social norms, expectations, and roles.  When I was a young child, though painfully shy and in-confident, I seldom dealt with the fear of peer judgment. My struggles and self-doubt were my own. Today that is different.

Let me start by saying that I believe, while still a quiet person by nature, I have managed to tame some of the ‘shyness’ and branch out a bit, since childhood. Life has taught me some unsympathetic lessons about both the struggles and consequences of silence. (but that is another topic/post altogether) That being said, the anxiety that I associate with being thrown into unfamiliar social settings has not died. In fact, I would not be surprised if the social anxiety has become a greater concern since childhood. That is in large part due to the fact that today I fear judgment.

The Encounter is a term traditionally applied to socialization in the workplace. It is defined by the point at which an ‘employee’ joins an ‘organization’. Because this term, by definition, also deals with the uncertainty that exists when strangers meet, I think it can be applied to most aspects of social interaction (both within and outside the workplace). The encounter describes the uncertainty introduced when we are trying to figure out how to approach this new situation both independently (tasks/abilities) and socially (employee interaction). This is that pivotal moment when you are supposed to make a good first impression. This is the moment I fear. It is the point at which self-doubt begins to creep in and insecurities run wild.

There are three types of uncertainty, as discussed in this weeks lecture.  The first is Referent. It deals with uncertainty that is associated with performing tasks.  My personal struggles deal with the other two, as follows: Appraisal uncertainty, which is related to our abilities. I lack confidence and experience self doubt. And, Relational Uncertainty- defined by how we negotiate relationships. Hello social anxiety!

I wish that I could talk more about managing this uncertainty and correcting these flaws, but I am still trying to figure it out, myself. Sure I have the lecture notes on “Managing Uncertainty,” and while I am confident that it offers sound advice, I must take the necessary time to discover how it can be applied to my personal life. I do not have answers. Rather than end abruptly Id like to take a moment to go back to the example I used previously- that elementary best friendship that has continued to grow and evolve, through trial and tribute, into a special friendship. I am truly blessed.
Our friendship survived the shock and devastation that accompanied my removal from Sacred Heart Elementary School, and my parents decision to home school.  It lasted the entirety of high school, despite the fact that we roamed different social circles and explored different interests. No matter what happened I knew that I always had a best friend in her and I found comfort in that. Our friendship was comfortable. It was safe. It was all that I needed. To this day I treasure this friendship with my whole heart, and I know that we will be friends for life. She is one of the few people on this planet whom I feel completely comfortable with and confident in myself as a person. When I am with my friend I can be whoever and whatever I want to be, because I know that there is no judgment.  

Love You MB