The Art and Science of Being Social

Being social is very much based on the science of human interaction. I'll be the first to admit that the art of being social is not something that I have personally mastered, the science behind being social is something that I've studied and a skill that I teach. I find this aspect of human development to be fascinating and I think this fascination comes about because I don't understand the art of being social.

I met Russ at a networking event a few weeks ago. He was being very social and networking effortlessly with the new members of the group. Me on the other hand, I was hosting the event and to be honest hosting is much easier for me than being social. I’d rather have to manage the venue, the timetable and the arrivals than find my place in the networking and social setting. After hearing this, you may be wondering why I feel qualified to give advice about being ‘Social’, when I meet very much feel that I'm still learning about the Art of Being Social. Well, we are all learning something at some stage and I truly believe that it's when you’re most invested in the learning process, that you have the most to give in a teaching sense.
So here it goes, The Art and Science of Being Social.

In my mind, ART is about practice, and refining techniques so you have an outcome that other people connect with. I believe SCIENCE is about facts and finding the key to help people understand and respect the art they see in front of them on a daily basis.

From what I've read and what I've observed, I believe there are three aspects that greatly influence the science of being social and in this post  I plan to explore each one and explore my learnings about the art of being social...

Number one is eye contact

Eye contact is hard wired into our brain stem. Steven Porges wrote that “when there is eye contact and connection and then a sudden break in the eye contact, the rupture immediately triggers a “separation distress response” in our brain stem”. We seek out eye contact within minutes of our birth and continue to seek it for emotional regulation and a sense of social connection throughout our life.

If you find eye contact difficult to maintain, it may be an indication that higher cortical regulation is disrupted (or may not have developed adequately) which places more emphasis on the amygdala (our fight/flight switch) to make decisions about threat levels that surround you. This is why many people look towards the mouth of others when trying to make a social connection - from our primal behaviours we look at other people’s mouths to check “am I going to be eaten?”...

The secure social connection that is achieved through eye contact is a wonderful experience when we can regulate through our higher cortical processing centres in the brain. It provides engagement, connection, acceptance and safety within social intelligence. When we are processing through the amygdala, this same attachment is overwhelming and therefore avoided. Once this overwhelming feeling is experienced this theory of eye contact and attachment suggests that we react from a brain stem level which “gets down to a shame based survival strategy [and] we look down or away, hiding from the other” Linda Graham...

Basically, all this Science Talk means is that if your brain is not ready to make eye contact, you’re not ready to use eye contact as part of the ART of Being Social. And focusing yourself to make eye contact when it’s uncomfortable, will actually prevent you from thinking clearly and concentrating on conversation.

There are several ways you can develop eye contact and neurological readiness for emotional connection, including -

  1. Improving smooth eye movements

  2. Increasing the responsivity of postural control reflexes

  3. Building pathways for sensory regulation


Number two is self-regulation

This concept is a big fancy word that basically means, “get your brain working”. We all have a preference for how much sensory information we need before the light globe in our brain will switch on. We also have a point where that light globe will blow from too much energy. The trick is knowing how much is too much or not enough for you. There is a Science to finding this level, but there is also an Art - how do you create an environment which provides just the right amount of information? Why not take the Quiz and find out…[]

For the vast majority of people, you need only ask yourself “do I feel like my brain is working?”, if not, just a few quick actions will get you ready - a shower, a short walk to the event, some food… There is likely to be a few people reading this Blog however, who have a sensory system that is highly defensive and easily distracted by new sensations which quickly blows up the brain’s “light globe”. If you, like me, think your sensory system is too quick to become distracted and you often feel ‘in the dark’, overwhelmed or agitated in seemingly harmless situations, then you can read more here [!My-Story-A-Craving-for-Silence/c1w4q/5636811c0cf23796cd883417]


Number three is communication skills

...Knowing the human body is the most complex “machine” on the planet, I’m now going to add that human-interaction is the most complex task these “machines are required to complete”. It is our ability to connect socially and emotionally with each other that will drive our civilisation forward.

The brain is a social organ, developed and changed in interactions with other brains” Linda Graham

Communication is 55% nonverbal, 38% tone of voice and only 7% about the words we say.

Knowing these facts it’s important to understand that communication is much more about the power of our eyes and our body posture than it is about the words we say and the topic of conversation we choose to lead with. Have you even met someone who just “exudes passion” and you’re drawn towards them to start a conversation? Have you ever been in a caught-up in a conversation that lasts for hours but when you think about it, seemed like just a few minutes have passed? Think about the relaxation you were experiencing in your body, the clarity in your mind and the joy your heart.

Posture is also important, remember that if eye contact is not comfortable for you, look towards the other person’s mouth (as explained in Number  One above). Posture is about staying tall through the tummy/chest as this will allow your diaphragm to work effectively to maintain your breathing rhythm (relaxation). Posture will also …??

My advice, do something that helps you to relax before you put yourself into a Social situation because a relaxed physical body is more easily able to feedback information to the brain. The Art of Being Social is knowing what helps your body to relax and stay relaxed when moving into a new situation.

Your Challenge to get Social...

As with each of my blog posts, I love to give my readers a challenge once they've read my thoughts. Your challenge today is to decided which SCIENCE you need to focus on to improve your skills; and second part, find someone just like The Social Collective, who can help you find the strength to practice the art of being social because there is nothing harder than trying to process well-intentioned critiques made by people who might just not be ready to experience your interpretation of The Art and Science of Being Social.