Strangers

The First Meeting with a Stranger

When meeting a new person for the first time there are just so many unknowns in the minds of each. Humans are cautious of the unknown which is an instinctual survival mechanism. Most have enough self-esteem in themselves to co-exist with strangers as societies tend to self-regulate as most people tend to act in a predictable range of behaviour. Those outside societal ranges still functional within instinctual ranges and their abnormal behaviour is likely the result of some form of abuse (including neglect) or complete isolation.

 

Crowded Room


At this point everything is relative to the experiences and knowledge of each individual NOT from some ideal absolute that every MUST follow. If you think everyone should act a certain way then you acting irrationally. You will get different outcomes from each and every individual met and it may even differ depending on the time of day, location, the weather, and what is going on in their mind at that point. Basically everything is a factor, but luckily most react in similar enough ways as that is our instinct, or to put another way, we don't act like snakes as that is not our instinct (mental programming).


What is important is the emotional outcome of a interaction. Anger is not a reaction that would functionally be sought as it is negative and potentially destructive. Seeking positive or neutral emotions in others is best as they help the other to see that you are not a threat.

Sizing Each Other Up

Upon meeting someone new we automatically go into analysis mode which is instinctual. We compare these new experiences with our experience to realise how to deal with each action as they happen. We observe the other person to recognise their level of;

 

We test and probe to confirm our assumptions. This is commonly done to see if the other person is potentially someone we want to be around. It also tells us how to act around that person as experience has taught us what works and doesn’t.


When an assessment of the person is arrived at it is either positive, neutral or negative. It is easy to see the outcome in the other person’s body language as we are instinctively great at reading body language because we used body language, as less evolved creatures, long before we learned speech and writing. Being ‘judged’ is typically the outcome of a negative assessment, either real or perceived. It makes us feel inferior if we let it get to us. It is best to show a neutral or positive outcome even if you think otherwise. Emotional memory plays a strong part of how that person will remember you and if you need support in future it will work against you if you upset them. More important than that is reputation. People share their opinions of others and these 'reports' can work very much against you as they form a group reputation of you. First impressions are very important, because once an opinion is formed of you it becomes very hard to change it. Why? Because people have formed an opinion of you and move onto newer things to analyse.


Acceptance allows others to relax and be themselves. They are more likely to grow as people if they are not consumed with self doubt and constantly self-analyse because they feel unworthy. We are all different in experience but similar in nature.

What is Tolerance?

When another person makes you feel uncomfortable it is because they remind you of your own limitations. It is not due to them directly. Have a look inside to see what you are too emotionally attached to and separate yourself from it. Accepting your own limitations (as an imperfect being) helps accept the differences around you, and thus you become tolerant.

Coping with the Unknown

Many a time conversations will move to things that you know nothing about. In social situations be honest and transparent and mention that you would like to learn more. Ask for advice or sources of information. Most are happy to help you but do guard their precious time (survival instinct), so make sure you do not ask too much of them and they will feel more comfortable around you.


Be cautious at work, especially if the topic is expected of your position. Privately note the topic and brush up around friends or in your own time. Do not fear the pressure of a lack of knowledge too much as some use knowledge to gain other-esteem and feel good about themselves and they use their assumed strength to dominate others. Often they do not know much more surface information. It is quite negative to burst their bubble and/or humiliate them in front of others. They will learn soon enough that the more we learn the less we know. Einstein himself once quoted exactly this.


Be kind to others that ask questions and suggest sources of information for their private research as they will only grow personally if they take self-responsibility to learn it themselves. There are those who are a drain on others as they get them to do the hard work of learning for them. A fair trade is acceptable instead of free-loading. An old statement comes to mind that people survive on their own when they are taught to fish instead of being given the fish as a handout. Always let them know they are valuable by threating them with respect and giving them something.

Personal Secrets

Personal Secrets

 

Everyone has secrets. They protect us from harm for when certain individuals discover our secret we believe they will use it against us, or judge us negatively. We must only share secrets with people that we mutually trust.


It is too early to be giving or receiving secrets. Makes sure you have someone trustworthy in your life to share secrets with so that you don’t share them with strangers. Internet forums are also helpful because you can hide your identity behind an avatar and ask whatever you want.


It takes time to learn what not to share but read on as each layer of relationship may reveal new information. Ultimately it is your choice, these are just guidelines.

Positive and Negative Behaviour

Have a read of this section on positive and negative behaviour. It may highlight a few things for you to consider.

Givers and Takers

We all give and take, it’s called sharing. It is also called trading. We have natural rights to ownership of property and our own thoughts, and we protect our efforts, current and stored. When someone asks for something we have to give a little of ourselves away (time and/or resources). In small amounts we do not mind, in large amounts opinions vary. Some are attached to their resources and are highly protective, others are unattached and freely let it go to whomever asks. Most are somewhere in between on a sliding scale. It is your choice to decide.


Those that give resources, support and information are favourably remembered in another’s emotional memory. They are likely favoured in the future decisions of those they have connected with.
Those that take from others are viewed poorly and are ignored in future decisions. They tend to miss out and thus are forced to hoard more and be protective as a result. It is a situation that builds on itself. At the extreme end Takers steal from others leaving them vulnerable, which is why theft is socially unacceptable and made illegal by law.


Watch for Givers and Takers when dealing with others. A healthy balance is to trade for similar value as it is the fairest way and least likely to cause a drama. Give and take is also required in conversation and much of what someone says and can demonstrate provides a clue to their true character. Keep this in mind.

Pleasantness in Conversation

For the most part being pleasant is key but do not be overly kind as it often perceived as weakness and taken advantage of. The key here is not be too eager to help. Just be attentive, agreeable to a point, and act together instead of alone. Some people instinctively pick up on the submissive types and have them running around for them.  You are nobody’s door mat and remember that assertiveness is the key to success.

Listening is Important

Listening is key not only with strangers but in any form of communication. If you are talking and no one is listening then is anything being communicated? Many people have not been able to express themselves in the past for numerous reasons and are bursting with information to share. By listening you are giving them an outlet and this will cause them to warm to you as they will feel accepted. Be genuine or they will see right through you. Experiment with someone you trust.


Be weary of takers who talk too much and don’t listen in return. Make sure you let a talker know they are not listening. Reasonable people adjust, while irrational talkers get confused or insulted by this feedback. Some ignore you completely and just keep talking, that's abuse. Avoid the abusers like the plague, but be polite, and let them know you can’t talk to them. Hopefully they will think it though over time.


Most people have internal ‘rules’ on how to conduct themselves. Some like sentence for sentence, while others like a 30 minute window to talk and then reciprocate. It’s up to you to find a comfortable balance, and people of similar preferences tend to be attracted towards each other. “Birds of a feather flock together”.

Teasing Others

"Teasing a stranger can be fraught with danger"… hmm there’s a new saying. Seriously though, a stranger can interpret your teasing as irritating, insulting or just outright hostile, that is, see you as abusive. The consequences immediately or later can be huge. I’ve teased people I’ve barely known and it indirectly led to me being fired a few months later. Play it safe even if others are not.


It is common to tease gently when people get too off track, are too intense, or are socially awkward.  Teasing is best done amongst friends when trust has been established.

People Who Manipulate

Some try to exploit you by asking you to do things for them, or for them to get their own way. Simply they take away your ability to make your own choices. This type of behaviour is the result of neurosis, mostly from an abusive upbringing. It is necessary to know when you are being manipulated. Simply they can use words to create an insecurity in you that makes you want to assist. Make your own choices free of emotion. I suggest reading Assertiveness to put this in context.


Manipulation is a very common occurance (unfortunately) and even strangers (like a salesman) do it to each other. A Stranger-relationship is too early for others to be asking for anything more than simple, harmless information. They should be doing their tasks themself (self-responsibility) or offering a fair trade.


Manipulators typically hold back certain behaviours, promise things without delivering, or say things that create an emotion in you that compels you to do something which either directly or indirectly assists the manipulator. They are masters of deflection and rarely acknowledge their actions or they will justify it with all sorts of reasons.


There is not much you can do except ignore them and shift your attention elsewhere. Politely let them know you do not approve of their manipulations. Some may not know what they are doing as it could be learned behaviour, while some know exactly what they are doing. They are neurotically dependent on their manipulations to survive as this is how they were treated in the past.


Do not enter into their mind games, and if everyone ignored their manipulations they would become powerless and would have to become more functional. Be aware that it can get tougher before it gets better. For example if your boss is a manipulator you could be penalised for not "doing as your are told". Work harder within reason but if the boss always makes it difficult then it is best to walk away from people like this, quit. If everyone quits this on bosses like this then the boss's superiors will notice and take action - the boss loses their power. If the boss is the owner then their business suffers - simple cause and effect. Show them a better way if they are interested, but they must choose to do so.

Complainers

Complainer

 

These are people who have a victim mentality, that is, they try to draw you into their negative and destructive emotional state. It is natural for people to share feelings and this is ok when positive and constructive. Importantly the positive feelings must be free for individuals to accept.


Recognise and understand the difference between empathy and sympathy. Let a complainer know you understand their issue and ask if they want constructive support. If they ignore functional dialog then they are just wanting to stay in their emotional state. Beyond providing simple advice which allows a complainer to help themself, it is difficult to be of much benefit to a stranger. Unless it is your profession to help strangers then the conversation might be best deferred to another time and when a level of trust has been created. The main issue for you is to avoid being pulled into the complainers world and feeling their emotions and thus overwhelming your own decision making process.


This is a difficult balance to maintain between constructive advice and keeping an emotional distance while still showing your supportive nature without guilt. Do you do know enough about this person to get too personal until more trust can be established? Dumping advice which was not asked for is potentially abuse.

Groups of People

Groups of people can be quite challenging for the unprepared as they are unpredictable, the more people in a group the more unpredictable it becomes. I would practice on individuals first free from interruptions. Start with smaller groups of two plus you to begin with and work your way up as you become more comfortable. It may take time and it is much easier if you concentrate on growing your self-esteem at the same time.


People naturally form groups within groups based on spheres of influence, friends and acquaintances, common interests, current activities, etc. What do you do when you enter a room full of people? I look for people I know and like then I join them. Some groups protect themselves from outsiders, in my opinion they are a little irrational as how can privacy cannot be found in a public room?


Most are moving around looking to share their experiences and their mood with. They will jump from group to group finding people who will listen and share similar feelings and thoughts. This may create a personal connection and later deeper bonds.


There are a number of techniques to functionally join a group in a room. I’m sure there are more but these work for me;

I find that barging in to a group causes irritation and even offence as you were not invited. Just asking first makes all the difference. Let others know are valued by respecting their time and presence.
Negative people show their colours quickly so if they refuse you entry to a group then you are one step closer to positive people.

Next Steps

If you enjoyed the encounter then say so. Let the other person know you would like to meet again and if mutually agreed without pressure then exchange details, or if more appropriate then organise a time place to 'bump' into each again. Timing is important, be too quick to ask and you may be perceived as needy, while waiting too long could be perceived as a lack of interest. It is our instinct to feel important and most get their feeling of importance from external sources (other-esteem). Practice well away from your normal social circles as poor outcomes may filter back to your home group and give you a negative reputation.


Fear is the primary emotion and most are very wary others and actively avoid confronting and demanding people. An easy going nature which allows choice is the most effective method to make a positive impression. Needy, demanding or manipulative people are instinctively avoided, and if people do not recognise these types of people consciously, they will most likely recognise it sub-consciously. If you find people shy away from you, it may be due to their own insecurities, but it may also be due in part to your behaviour that you are unaware of. Have a read of the Being Content topic to recognise healthy and unhealthy behaviour. A functional person has a higher chance of a positive outcome when dealing with others, but it is not guaranteed.


Mismatch

 

Please recognise that you cannot please everyone. We are all different and thus you can liken yourself to a missing jigsaw puzzle piece. You only fit in where the shape of your personality fits. It is just as the saying goes, "Birds of a feather flock together", which means that similar types of people naturally interact with each other.