Monday, April 11, 2011

Do You Like Me?

I find it interesting that in all my interactions with people, I seek to leave them with a positive impression of their time with me. It is not something I actively work on, but something intuitive that compels me to create positive feedback from each person I come into contact with. It tends to make my life more pleasant in general because most people appreciate the effort and reciprocate. But it is a win some, lose some kind of game. Because not everybody shows the same deference to this civil mode of interaction. I am fascinated and slightly envious of people who do not have this compulsion though. John Tierney writes in the New York Times of a quote from Jeffrey Miller of the University of New Mexico. “We evolved as social primates who hardly ever encountered strangers in prehistory,” Dr. Miller says. “So we instinctively treat all strangers as if they’re potential mates or friends or enemies. But your happiness and survival today don’t depend on your relationships with strangers. It doesn’t matter whether you get a nanosecond of deference from a shopkeeper or a stranger in an airport.” It is true that it doesn't matter but somehow most of us intuitively act as if it does matter. I love the reference to the evolutionary imperative that lies beneath the behavior and the need for positive response from those we do not know. He calls this desire to impress strangers "a quirky evolutionary byproduct of a smaller social world."

It somehow makes this slightly compulsive behavior less toxic and more amusing than anything else. And it reduces the significance of the less than pleasant interactions.

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