Meta Culture: The Unspoken Social Contract

Howdy all!

So today I’ve decided to explore the mystical world a bit, partly for my own benefit as putting thoughts to words has never been a strong point of mine, but partly due to that, for the first time ever, I have a feeling of certainty that I’m finally onto something regarding my confidence around other people. I just hope this all makes sense to you all!

It might seem a strange title, and trust me I’ve been forming this theory in my head since about a month ago and it still gives me headaches to try and put it into words. For a while now I’ve been trying to make a mental object of the difficulties I have understanding social interactions, as I do inevitably spend most my time fretting over interactions with others. For those who read my entry about vowing to be more confident in my interactions with others, I can say that since I did that it has been helpful, yet I don’t feel my understanding of others is good enough, and I want to improve.

To begin, I’d like to throw some situations into the ring where I feel this concept applies, from my own experiences but also a couple that I’ve had less experience with overall;

  • In a nightclub with friends, a guy starts bothering a female friend. I clearly hear her say no numerous times and see try to ignore him. I calmly intervene and encourage the guy to leave her be, only to later find out she felt able to handle it and I needn’t have done anything.
  • Knowing when its okay to suggest spending more time with a person after you’ve first met, and following on from that, how to know where you stand in other people’s hearts as to what kind of relationship they feel they have with you.
  • How well should you know a person if you offer a compliment, or if that’s not a factor as such, how does one know what is best to compliment about apart from it being genuinely intended?
  • In what way is it best to let people know you’re well intentioned, or I suppose more accurately, that you’re not intending to do wrong by them if they don’t know you well?
  • The touch barrier, when and how is it best to cross that line?
  • I’ll make this the last one, how to know when your interaction with a person is wanted, whatever that interaction may be?

All these situations, from my observations, seem to be things that people can do well at without actually explicitly having to raise them in conversation. I envy that hugely, especially when people can do it without knowing someone all that well. It leaves me feeling like there was a lesson my soul was supposed to have attended before I was born, must have slept through the entire thing!

So, why Meta Culture?

Meta basically means ‘Above and Beyond’ in simple terms. In more pronounced and topic appropriate terms, I’m essentially trying to describe the way we interact with and understand each other on an instinctive level, even if we’ve only met or known the person for a short period of time.

Culture I chose because I feel that a persons beliefs, feelings, personality and ideas almost ring of being a culture in their own right, which is going to be influenced by the environment you grew up in, or another culture. Also, the kind of interaction I’m describing is affected by the collective social expectations of everyone, so it only felt right, at least for now, to use the term culture.

So in order to be able to enjoy that instinctive interaction with others, its as if you need to have that understanding of the meta culture of both the individual and the wider world to be able to easily interact with others. It’s essentially my attempt to put into words what I’m struggling to understand.

Anyone getting the impression I spend too long thinking about things? I certainly didn’t call the site Raving Over Sweet Nothings for, well, nothing!

Why Does It Matter?

I’m sure for a lot of people this won’t cross their minds as something that is worth the kind of effort I put into it, and I understand that. As someone who has never found social interaction easy and is hell-bent on self-improvement, this sticks out as the biggest challenge I have, and others see different things to aim for in life. If I was to ever be in a position where I felt relaxed inside during the majority of social interactions instead of the minority, I’d call that a worthwhile outcome.

In this case, I initially had no real tangible idea of a collective term to describe the way in which we indirectly communicate and understand each other, when the direct ways such as writing, speech and years of knowing someone aren’t how an intention is communicated. Body language, facial expressions, the eyes and also an understanding of others beyond those with empathy, deeper initial understanding and being able to on a basic level, read what the other person is thinking. By making a tangible collective idea of this it made it easier to think about what this means to me.

The consistent way I’ve found of getting over a problem when pure effort alone isn’t enough has been to try to break it down in a logical manner to try and figure out what I’m missing. Once I’ve made a foundation in my mind of where the problem lies and it makes sense, I can acknowledge it and use that as a springboard to help find the solution.

… and have you found the solution?

Short answer, kind of. Writing all this down was a step towards that, by putting it all into words that make sense. I have so much going on in my head even trying to get my thoughts out in spoken words fairly frequently results in my tongue getting tied and having to take a moment to attempt to say it again. That’s the wonderful thing about computers, you can keep adjusting words until it rings right.

Anyway coming back off that slight tangent, one thing I’ve come to appreciate is that there isn’t really a definitive answer, and in some ways I’m glad because that would mean social interactions were predictable. Thing is, body language isn’t always a good indicator as some people use more than others, while I’m not convinced that just being confident and hoping for the best is the right approach either, as a friend said to me while I was writing this “The most confident people that are amazing with people are probably rejected and knocked down the most purely because they take so many chances” which rang a bell as it instantly reminded me of a few people who’d had that happen, so made me think confidence isn’t entirely the answer either.

One thought that has occurred to me while I was writing this however, is that maybe I need to be more honest with myself. Perhaps I’m just not as good at reading this meta cultural thing like others can, so maybe I should just be verbal, but more than I was expecting. It was one thing to be more confident about interacting with others in the first place, but maybe voicing more of what I’m thinking could be the way to interact in a way that works for me. So to make an example, instead of being able to tell someone needs a hug if it isn’t clear, ask if they need one.

So having written all that I’m feeling a couple of things. One, is that maybe I’ve tried to understand how others approach social situations with the assumption I’m doing something wrong, whereas really how one approaches a situation is more likely unique to their personality. Second, while I don’t doubt this unspoken way of interacting with others quite awesome if you can do that, it doesn’t need to be the be all and end all of social interaction.

On that note I’m going to leave it at that, so thank you for sticking with this, I appreciate it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea!

Have a great day all!


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