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What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.
T.S. Eliot

Familiar new beginnings

Every single New Year’s Eve I can remember, someone has cracked a joke about “see you next year” or “I swear I won’t do the dishes for the rest of the year!” or something clever like that. More often than not, that someone has been me. 🙂

There is something very liberating about the thought of familiar endings and new beginnings. Familiar in the sense that you know there is nothing intrinsically different about the New Year that would force you out of your comfort zone.

There is, however, the same giddy feeling of transformation you get when standing at a railway station or an airport. The notion of literally being in the process* is appealing, either when going somewhere yourself or merely watching others.

*”Etymology: Middle English proces, from Anglo-French procés, from Latin processus, from procedere.” Merriam Webster Online

As my year of unfamiliar new beginnings drew to a close Wednesday night, I was contemplative more than anything. I was happy, of course, that a new year was about to begin, but somehow the giddiness was gone.

I guess my past year was so full of endings and beginnings, from the death of my sister to giving up two different long-term teaching gigs to taking up Shiva Nata to getting engaged and finishing my BA that, well, the end of a year just didn’t feel like a juicy new opportunity anymore.

As far as resolutions go, instead of planning a whole new me for 2009, I’ll try and get to know the person 2008 moulded me into. Should take a year or so. Between that and being open to the unforeseen possibilities the world has in store for me, I think I’m set.

Familiar vs. unfamiliar communication

By far the best part of my New Year’s Celebration was the chance to observe the dynamics between familiar and unfamiliar people. I especially loved the chance to watch nonverbal communication in interesting situations, although status transactions and communication strategies did intrigue me, too.

Background story: I attended a party hosted by a friend, and the guests included my friends, whose communication strategies I’m familiar with, as well as the hostess’s friends that I hadn’t met before.

Fascinating situation 1: watching, but not overhearing, two people have a conversation where one is visibly more eager than the other. Attack and defense, if you will. A step forwards by A, a step backwards by B. A touch on the arm by A, a crossing of arms by B. All during a seemingly friendly, smiling interaction.

The following act was, if possible, even more interesting. It included several people, both men and women, and the status competition was of World Series caliber.

Interestingly, some of the participants didn’t even seem to need to up the stakes, they did it without any self-consciousness or effort. Others, then, were visibly stressed by the fact that they were not the center of attention, and pulled out all the stops to regain their former glory.

There were also a situations where direct and indirect communication strategies intertwined, sometimes with a smooth transition, sometimes with a radical clash. This was especially the case later on during the night, when some participants had already inebriated the part of their brain that discerns between actual personal insults and friendly jabs. Pair that with the need to show compassion, and you’re set for a treat. Fortunately the situation calmed down before any real physical consequences.

So far, the greatest new skill I’ve gained from my drama teacher studies is the ability to watch people interact and be truly fascinated by them instead of getting annoyed or offended. This is something I’m really grateful for. The next step, then, is being able to explicate that experience into concrete elements that can be brought onstage or into language classes.

Thank you for stopping by and hanging out with me. As always, feel free to comment, and may the year 2009 turn out wonderful for catching your own insightings!

Love,

Sari

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