Engaging Behavior: In search of a more genuine connection
posted by Dora
A couple of weeks ago, a friend pseudo-accused me of flirting with him. He was partly right. And yet, when I got home and thought about it more, I realized that my viewpoint on flirting has changed drastically
Let me state that I am not a flirtatious person. I tend to be introverted and quiet around those I’m new to, especially when I’m physically attracted to said new person. And flirting has always felt alien. A college buddy once defined flirting as saying something you mean, in an opposing tone; and vice versa. Then again, he was also the one who offered to send us Valentine’s Day cards on February 15th, and stated that the inconvenience of breaking up with a girlfriend before winter break was outweighed by not having to buy her a Christmas present.
Anyway. Flirting has always felt strange and restrictive, like an obtrusively colored second skin that restricted me socially. My experience with flirting is that it seems a very shallow and silly way of interacting, based on sexual tension. And while I don’t want to downplay the excitement of sexual tension, I was hungry for a way to engage others on a more human basis.
So, it was with delight that I read Atul Gawande’s essay, “How to be a positive deviant,” which outlines his plan for how people (specifically physicians, but the essay is pretty broad) can find meaning and substance in what can sometimes feel like a mundane existence. His first suggestion, which he takes from a Paul Auster essay, is to “Ask an unscripted question.” Gawande writes that expanding his interaction level with others helps him not only be a better physician, but also to develop relationships with his coworkers and support staff. In my case, it’s more a question of talking with someone I would normally slide by, and really listening to their answers.
But it was only after reading Gawande’s essay that I’ve decided to branch out and make myself more accessible to people I’ve tended to be … brusque? curtailed? ahh, minimalist! … toward: non-friends from work, families of patients, strangers, etc.
So far, my experiences have been enlightening, engaging and genuine. I’ve talked with an El Salvadorean woman at a bus stop about the ridiculous state of Los Angeles metro transportation, several great men and women at the Mid-Singles’ conference in San Francisco, familiar faces around the Los Angeles WCS and lindy community, and many families at hospital I work at.
How do you engage the people that populate your world? Does it come naturally, or is it something you work at? If it comes easily, do you have any tips to share? If you have to work at forming connections, how have your experiences changed you? Share your positive experiences.