Sunday, April 27

In The Company Of Others

This month's question-to-be-discussed-with-friends was whether it's more comfortable to be in the company of many as opposed to meeting friends one-on-one.

So far the vast majority seems to prefer hanging out with one single other to them being in a group. I found this surprising, especially since I went the other way: I'm most definitely a group person. Of course exceptions did apply and we all could recall situations where a good time was had in either situation: this was more a stating of general preference than anything else and it was good to know that most could all kinda keep a conversation going where ever they happened to be.

But it may be worth discussing the reasons behind these preferences anyway. Personally I sometimes really struggle in a one-to-one situation, especially if there isn't a formal reason for the meeting. It's a problem that also manifests itself in the phone neurosis that I have (as some of you already know, I really don't know how to use a telephone; but more about that in a later post). I would go as far as saying that my exclusive company is a guarantee of long silences, awkward pauses and discussions about the weather.

I'm still not completely sure what my issue is, but I do have a few theories. For a start on a practical level there are literally more inputs and outputs to play with when you're in a larger group; with two people you can cover all opinions and routes of discussion pretty quickly (although that probably says more about my conversational skills than anything else).

A friend also raised the issue of trust, stating that you can go deeper into a personal conversation precisely because there aren't other people you have to worry about. On the other hand I think I respond to groups better precisely because there are more witnesses to what I'm saying. This in turn forces me to be more of a neutral, balanced and so real individual than the times when I'm alone - perhaps it's human nature to adapt and become the person your opposite wants you to be rather than yourself.

Of course it could just be my being a desperate attention-seeker always striving for a receptive audience. On the other hand a real attention-seeker would crave the focus that an individual conversation brings - but for others such a focus can be terrifying: you're less likely to make a fool of yourself in a group I reckon.

Regardless of their actual preference, everyone mostly agreed that its important to be able to talk to someone alone. You can't always guarantee that you'll be in a group after all (and it's probably more likely that you won't be), and for me it's quite disappointing when I find I can't talk to someone in private, even if I've known them for up to a decade. I've also come away from meeting people for the first time alone (be it in a potential rishta situation or something else) certain that I would have made a much better impression if they had met me in a group.

But more important than this is that we're obviously expected to talk or hang out with those we are in relationships with. It's not unreasonable either - in fact it's probably a requirement of a healthy partnership; and since it's wholly impractical to bring a group along whenever you want to talk to your other half, your one-on-one skills probably need to be looked at if you find yourself struggling with them. Mine certainly do!