I’m an introvert and sometimes I get shy in social situations. Other times I can be suave and charismatic. It’s my life purpose to figure out how the fuck to control this on command. Following is a proposed solution.
I glazed over a theory in the canon of Communication studies: Social Penetration Theory. From this name I derived my crass title because it exhibits some cute metaphors if you think about it. The gist is simple: closeness, or intimacy between people is achieved through self disclosure. Duh, but there are broad implications.
Consider how self disclosure occurs. Telling people personal information is the obvious, but supposing communication is incredibly multifaceted, this is barely the tip (innuendo; see “Social Fucking) of the iceberg. People express themselves in many, many ways at all times, and we are naturally attune to these nonverbal communications.
An example: I was in a group and we began to play a Wii dancing game. Self disclosure here is expressed through a body’s movement. Body movement is typically very inhibited, and so sharing something to this degree of intimacy is the main operation behind playing this sort of game. Dancing is fun in and of itself, but consider why this activity is uniquely a social enterprise, and is a totally different experience to do alone.
To suppose this is obvious, therein lies my point: To haphazardly dawdle through any social interaction is an incomplete experience. Unfortunately the introvert may be overwhelmed by the noise in viewing the dancing scenario as courting the group; while the extrovert just “has fun” dancing with friends. These are two entirely valid claims: Yes, you ARE being judged. But also yes, you ARE just having fun with friends. This demonstrates two types of perspective; introspective and extrospective. And the introspective, in its extreme, is confined by thinking too much, and the extrospective is confined by not thinking enough.
I think the latter view (“just having fun”) is the proto-norm of most of society in socializing. But I argue that it is moreso rewarding to build relationships than to do an activity. So in order to reconcile the introspective and extrospective, I propose to redirect from thinking about the ostensible activity, instead to think of the actual activity. You are in fact doing an activity, so the introspective noise should not be disruptive to whatever you are “supposed” to be thinking about. If you are aware that what you are actually doing is relating with people and not just doing things, you will find that social libido flows freer.
So as relating to Social Penetration Theory, how do we self disclose in a way conducive to the social codes, while advancing our ultimate motive towards achieving true relational intimacy? How do we silence the noise, self doubt, and anxiety, behave well, and still maintain our existential humanity?
Worry about what you mean, not what you say or do.
Behind your intentions, your actions will follow. And thus you will disclose your Self, not a Persona, as only you, yourself, can experience closeness and intimacy.
An analogy: You can typically tell a liar, because no matter how “good” they may be at it, they will never have full mastery of every possible channel of their expression.
Sometimes you are made uncomfortable in a group because of things that they say or do, or by their conduct of self expression/disclosure. If someone is rude, or if the group is hazing you for admission, carefully evaluate your goals. If it’s to your benefit to play the social dance, still: play by your own terms and not theirs. If you begin to adjust your self expression to match with theirs, you are forfeiting your own identity for the group identity. Is that what you wanted?
In all of this I’m assuming intimacy is universally good. To invite intimacy into your life, you must self disclose. In being mindful of your self disclosure such that it presents your true self, only thus can you achieve intimacy.
And in mindfully listening to the self disclosure of other people, you will better understand what your relationships consist of and what they do not.