It is ALWAYS Appropriate to Be Social

by Eric Disco
Jul 30

I’ve started running again.

As I do my three-mile loop around my neighborhood, I notice other runners.

Sometimes I pass by on the same side of the road as them.

And I wonder, is it appropriate to say hi?

What if I wave and he or she doesn’t wave back?

In Anxiety Disorders and Phobias, Emory explains how the anxious person is acting needy by always looking to others whether it’s appropriate to be social.

He exaggerates the extent and significance of social acceptance and rejection. He overgeneralizes and homogenizes: that is, he sees everyone’s acceptance as essential and equally important. Acceptance by a mailman, a salesman, by all members of a social group, by a passer-by on the street, is as important as acceptance by people close to him.

Because other people’s opinions directly affect his self-esteem, he is highly dependent on feedback from others. He continually checks to see whether the other person is accepting him. If the other person appears to be accepting him, he becomes more confident and generally performs better.

If another person appears to reject him, his confidence goes down and his performance deteriorates. Because his self-esteem is sensitive to cues, especially when his performance is variable, he experiences an increase in inhibition. This indicates that his self-esteem is basically unstable–at least in this context. Part of his dependency is designed to authenticate whether “I am on the right track.” If he receives corrective signals that are friendly or interpreted as such, he can correct his performance without losing self-esteem.

One’s larger investement in being accepted leads to a pathological mode of scanning the social environment for signs of acceptance or rejection. The person is continuously vigilant to gratify, or protect others’ opinions of him. He has specifically incorporated an idiosyncratic set of rules for protecing his social images.

There are no rules except for the ones you make up in your head. Conferring to the other person to decide whether it’s socially acceptable to interact in a particular situation is to be a follower instead of a leader.

Along with social anxiety is the constant feeling that everyone else knows better than you do what is socially appropriate. Any one of us may be experts in any given field, in physics, in finance, in mountain biking.

But when it comes to social situations, it feels like everyone is the expert but us. Someone would have to make a grave injustice before we put our foot down and said “Now wait a minute!” We take our cues from everyone else.

We wait for others to say hi. We don’t speak unless we’re spoken to. And we would certainly never ever be so bold as to go up to a stranger and talk to them.

Wouldn’t want to impose.

But women wake up every morning hoping to meet the man of their dreams. You are that man.

If a gorgeous girl came up to you and talked to you, would you stop? What if you were in a rush? What if it were a really socially awkward moment?

Fuck yeah you’d stop.

You’d happily be five minutes late to meet your friend if you suddenly had a great opportunity to meet an amazing woman.

When you are a leader you take initiative. You don’t wonder if it’s okay to say hi to someone.

When you are at a deli buying something, or at a doctor’s office, or at a funeral, you don’t wonder if the situation is appropriate to say “Hi, how are you doing?”

The situation is always appropriate to be social because you are a social creature. That is who you are.

In cities a lot of times people are less social than in suburban or rural areas. Everyone is on top of each other and so everyone is protective of their own space.

Everyone is shy and socially phobic and keeps to themselves and it’s totally 100% okay not to talk to anyone.

Nobody will say shit.

Nobody is talking to anyone anywhere.

When I step onto the subway platform at 9AM in the morning, do you think anyone is talking to anybody? No way.

The subway train is dead quiet. Hundreds of people on their way to work, inches away from each other and nobody talks to one another. It’s perfectly acceptable.

But I’m different. I talk to people. I’m the leader. I take initiative. I take the risk. I say hi to people.

And I smile.

And that dreary look of apathy fades from their faces because they are grateful someone had the balls to break the silence. I do it with such confidence and open friendliness that they can’t not smile.

They can tell that no matter what they do, I won’t give a shit. If they give me a nasty look I’ll feel like shit for 1.8 seconds then be on my way. If they ignore me I’ll feel like shit for 0.6 seconds and then be on my way.

It didn’t use to be like that. I used to feel like shit for 1.6 days when someone ignored me. And that’s okay, I was learning to deal with my feelings.

All that matters is how you feel. You feel like it is socially unacceptable. That feeling will not change until you do this enough times. And then that feeling will no longer be in your mind.

You’ll have done it enough times, and it will have worked enough times, that you won’t feel like that anymore.


posted in Initiative and Inhibition

12 responses
Ben says:

Another great post, Eric. You describe New York, and especially the subways, really well.

Hell, I commute with a friend in the morning, and I feel obnoxious because she and I talk to each other. It’s so quiet down there, I feel like we’re violating some social code.

Nobody talks to strangers in this city. Ninety-nine percent of the time, the only people who open me are slightly crazy (if friendly) and basically run monologues about themselves.

When I talk to strangers and ask them about themselves – and it’s not nearly as often as I should, but I do it – I feel like I’m a pioneer. It’s a powerful feeling. I’m bringing people together, even if it’s just towards me, just for a moment. I’m making the world a smaller place.

Maybe that’s grandiose, but I think New York would be a better city if people opened each other on a regular basis.

I digress. Keep up the inspiring writings.

damon says:

i couldn’t agree with you more Eric. I never thought about how dead silent it is on the New York City subway during rush hour or most of the time. It is a fast paced city and most people try keep to themselves. I think because of the lifestyle in the city, people just generally accept it to be socially acceptable to not talk to each other. I have never fully realized this until now. It would be nice if people opened up more to each other, especially here in NY.

Neil says:

I set the tone, I choose the pace, I make the rules. Something I’ve tried to live by for a while, but this might be my new social mantra. :)

lordt78 says:

No one talks to anyone in NY because everyone thinks everyone else is crazy…which is crazy when you think about it. LOL

MichaelD! says:

I’m not sure how I came across your website, but I’m glad I did. Your blog is amazing… Incredible posts, and the images are a very classy and nice touch.

I like what you say about dealing with feelings. One thing I’ve come to analyze lately (ya, I still deal with being in my head. ;)) is that I’ve heard that approach is like working a muscle. The more you work it the better it gets.

What you say about dealing with feelings is alot like the soreness of a muscle after you use it. I work out every day. My muscles don’t get as sore as they used to, but they still feel a little pinged the day after.

Anyways, what you said really correlated to working out muscles. Maybe the “pain” we experience when we feel rejection or when someone ignores is the psychological equivalent of used muscles. There’s your semi-metaphysical thought for the day. :)

Keep up the great posts!

Zack says:

This is one of your all-time best posts. I particularly like the Emory citation as well as your social commentary when you say “but when it comes to social situations, it feels like everyone is the expert but us.” How ridiculous, right? Spot on man!


Marcello says:

“If a gorgeous girl came up to you and talked to you, would you stop? What if you were in a rush? What if it were a really socially awkward moment?”

Frankly the two situations are somewhat different. A woman has safety concerns that would not exist for a guy in the same situation, certainly several female aquaintances I have talked to fear going in many places in big cities for safety reasons.
Further a guy would stop because the average guy does not get hit up on by women like that. Chanches are he is also not getting sex, or as much of it as he wants or with a hot chick.
A cute girl with a normal social life on the other hand is usually already getting all the sex she wants with plenty more being offered to her. She may still dream of being swept off her feet by a daring man but clearly the risks/gains are very different from a guy.
I am not saying that it does not work, because I have begun recently doing things like stopping girls in the middle of the street and sometimes they actually stop and talk and are obviously pleased.
I can certainly see how a far more confident and experienced man than myself could get girls that way on a routine basis. But the bar for a guy is much higher.

Max says:

“If a gorgeous girl came up to you and talked to you, would you stop? What if you were in a rush? What if it were a really socially awkward moment?”

Marcello, it is true that the situation might be diffrent for you but haven’t you noticed how all of this shouldn’t even matter. I used to be a very rational social being…talking less and thinking and rationalizing a sitution a lot more and then walking away from it. As a human being, you tend to take compliments lightly and rejections very hard and I always thought of rejections a lot more whenever being outside of my comfort zone in a social situation. Lately, I have changed completely in the sense that I don’t care anymore and I can honestly tell you that I haven’t noticed a single change from the way the people react to you. If I am talking on the subway loudly and addressing strangers then those same eyes that I used to think were scanning me for my insecurity look at me with envy and the more I notice the more confident I get day after day. I consider myself a very optimistic person and take negative things as positive as I have a pretty darn good imagination and can find logical reasons as to why nothing should ever affect me. On top of that, I am a pretty good looking guy and have a leadership personality in every other aspects of my life which is why it only took me 1-2 years to comeplety immerse myself into this new lifestyle and trust me it was hard.

Long story short, who cares.. Just Do It ‘cuz you don’t want to be 70 and terminally ill and think about all the times you couldve done something and shouldve done something. Remember, all bad choices are past you by the time you realize they are bad so you learn to deal with them and move on but all the oppurtunities you missed are gone forever. I’d rather have it bad then not have it at all and die a loser with regrets.

Karma says:

Wooooooooooooow! Brilliant!!!

Doodle2 says:

this is my favourite article, so far. That’s awesome

Zhelyazko says:

Thank you for all the work you are putting in your website. The stuff in here is invaluable to me :)

Chris says:

This article is great and totally resonates with what I’ve discovered on my own recently…why the hell should you need validation from any of these strangers you pass through out your daily life? I have great friends, an amazing family, a promising career and I’m fit as hell. Despite all of this I’ve always had serious AA and was able to rationalize hundreds of reasons why I shouldn’t talk to strangers, ESPECIALLY attractive women.

With motivation and knowledge from this website however, that is all starting to change. I’ve realized that the only person I need to look to for validation is ME. What several of you guys are saying is so true…approaching someone at random is a great opportunity to bring just a little bit of joy and excitement into the day…for both you and them most likely! And as silly as it might sound, having a 30 second conversation with a hot babe usually makes me feel INCREDIBLY empowered for hours or even days afterward!

Anyway, I just want to say thanks Eric for all you’re doing. This website is awesome.