The Importance Of Little Common, Standardized Social Exchanges

This is a really short, simple article, but it covers an idea that may make a slight, but significant, difference in how you get along with people.

Social interactions are peppered with small standardized, expected exchanges. The exact ones will differ depending on where you live and what subcultures you hang out with. Here are a few common examples:

More socially inexperienced, awkward people can stumble on these little exchanges and seem that tiny bit more odd and out of touch. They may not do them at all, do them slightly wrong, or do them in an obviously blase, going-through-the-motions way. Like they may shake someone's hand, but seem distracted and not make eye contact. Either way, it can throw the other person off. They probably won't be highly offended, but notice you're not following the standard protocol. In some cases they may see you as slightly rude or dismissive, as in, "He couldn't even be bothered to give me a proper hug goodbye?"

Why can some people get these exchanges wrong?

Regarding feeling mini-social rituals have arbitrary guidelines, some of them do. Performing them properly isn't about what you're doing so much as being able to show you know how, and care enough, to do it. It shows you're aware of the rules, and willing to follow them for the sake of other people's comfort. It's not that important specifically how you greet someone, but if they expect one thing, and you don't do it, they can wonder what's wrong. Are you upset? Are you mad at them? Are you rude in general? (Of course, if you really aren't on board with a certain type of exchange you don't have to do anything, but there are consequences.)

Standard exchanges also let you convey what kind of person you are. Why miss that opportunity to make a good impression? You can shake someone's hand in a way that shows you're warm, friendly, and confident. Or you can change some details around and come across as disinterested and disconnected, or nervous and rushed, or arrogant and trying too hard.

From now on, when it's time to do a small, formalized social exchange, do your best to get it right. If you're not sure how some of the little rituals in your area work, make a point to observe them firsthand, or even research them or ask for help. Most of them are simple, so they won't be hard to learn once you make a point of doing it. That tweak alone won't transform your social life, but it's one less type of easily avoidable mistake you'll be making.