Some people are extremely logical. This trait, while not necessarily bad, can sometimes make it hard for such people to interact socially. Give them computers or mathematics and they’ll relish in the logical consistency of such system. Throw them into a social situation and they’ll start feeling uncomfortable because they can’t control anything.

I was one such extremely logical people. Fortunately, right now, I’m more emotionally and socially attuned to the people around me and I’m continuously trying to improve myself in that regard.

What I found myself doing when I still have bad social skill is that I’m preparing for the wrong things. I try to predict and control the process and outcome of any social interaction. I also try to know what is going on inside people’s head (What do they want? Why do they do what they do?). This creates a lot of anxieties in social situations, because, obviously, people are unpredictable and you can’t read minds.

Fortunately, I found a very useful heuristic: you don’t have to understand a complex system to be able to deal with it. You can respond to or operate inside a system without understanding the source code.

Once I understand this heuristics, I change my approach to social interaction. Instead of trying to control the uncontrollable whirlpool of social interaction, I just make sure that I can survive however crazy the whirlpool is. Instead of trying to predict and control things (or trying to know what’s inside people head), I prepare for my social interactions by finding out general principles and common patterns of social interaction.

By finding out the general principles I know that I can hold on to them and be fine in any social interaction even if I’m not in control. Knowing the common patterns of social interaction is actually optional since you’ll get used to them if you follow the right principles. But knowing them in advance by vicarious means will save you much effort.

Case in point: you ask a girl for a date over text.

The common patterns are:

  • She agree right away (what this means: “I want to date you”)
  • She tells you she is busy, and then propose for another time in the future (what this means: “I want to date you, but I’m busy right now”)
  • She tells you she is busy (what this means: “I don’t want to date you, but I don’t want to hurt your feeling. Please understand what I mean and back off, before I say things that will really hurt your feeling.”)

The general principles are:

  • Be a decent human being (don’t push people into doing what they don’t want)
  • Treat her as a human being (understand that she has a life)
  • Accept rejection graciously (why would you want a girl who doesn’t want you? Let her go)
  • Accept approval graciously (don’t become overexcited if she says yes)

There may be other common patterns and general principles that I don’t list above. But the point is: by knowing the general principles and common patterns of social interactions, you don’t have to follow a script or read anyone’s mind to survive any social interactions.