A couple of days ago, a good friend of mine asked me this:
When you’re going about your daily life, would you say you ‘do what comes naturally’? Or is it more considered? I’m thinking especially in terms of interaction.
This question started a very interesting conversation that kept me thinking for quite a while. Between you and me, she’s extremely good at these kind of conversations and getting me to think; it never ceases to be a wonder to me. Now, I could simply transcribe the conversation we had, but as it was via text message (oh! the wonders of handy and imperfect communication!), it wouldn’t be a very good read. I’ll do my best to do it justice below.My initial reply was that yes, I do think that I tend to act naturally rather than in a more actively considered or planned way. Without going too deeply into the idea that I might be so taken in by psychosocial structures and considerations that my natural thought-process and form of interaction are inherently bound by the aforementioned considerations (a complicated idea that I might get into at another time, but not now), I do think that my actions and interactions are borne out of my own nature without too much thought.
However, lately I have found myself thinking retrospectively about these interactions much more than I have before. Whilst I would still consider my part in interactions to be natural rather than considered, I often find myself wondering why I said that, how I said that, and what they would think of that. Now that I’ve had some time to reflect, I suppose I could say that my thoughts could stem from Mikhail Bakhtin’s dialogic theory:
‘Everything anybody ever says always exists in response to things that have been said before and in anticipation of things that will be said in response. We never, in other words, speak in a vacuum. As a result, all language (and the ideas which language contains and communicates) is dynamic, relational and engaged in a process of endless redescriptions of the world‘. [source]
However, it is most likely that I was just feeling a little paranoid. Realising that the effectiveness of my attempts at communication depends largely on the other person’s interpretation got me thinking about the people that I interact with. Suddenly, it felt so strange even to think that I have friends. These friends are listed in my phone contacts, are confirmed on facebook, and, if they’re a ‘good’ friend, I’ll even have their email address. They are my friends, and I interact with them accordingly, taking the relationship for granted. I now feel that this is not good enough.
These are entirely individual beings, with histories and existences just as extensive as my own, and yet, despite the fact that on the scale of real-life I know next to nothing about them, our relationship is taken for granted. It seems that, without thinking, my interactions are based upon the shallow idea of ‘you are my friend, I know you well enough’. I can learn birthdays and hobbies and hopefully even a few personal traits, but I will know little of their inner processes. For example, I’ve got twenty years of experience in dealing with myself, and so I think I know myself pretty well. How could I expect someone to truly match that level of knowledge or experience? And if every person has as much knowledge of themselves as I do of myself, or more, even, then how can I expect myself to truly know that person?
Thankfully there are some people that I’ve gotten to know well, and there are some people that I’ve gotten to know extremely well. These are the people that I feel most secure in calling ‘friends’. I know how our interaction works, and I know enough about them to have some idea of what they will think, based not on assumption, but on experience. I’m hoping that my knowledge and understanding of these people will continue to grow. However, there will always be the finer nuances to them that I will have yet to learn. I believe this to be a good thing. Not only does it encourage me to, as my good friend put it, ‘see someone in loads of different situations and explore their memories’, but it’s pleasing to know that there will always be more for me to learn about those close to me, about that special person. There will always be more to discover, pleasant surprises to uncover.
I would like to thank my good friend Abby, the person who asked the question and helped me along with these thoughts, and add that I hope that getting to know my nuances is as delightful an experience as I have had in getting to know yours.