We’ve all had negative social experiences. Maybe you had a night where you kept trying to make jokes, but nobody laughed at them. Maybe you went to a school dance or the club and people kept rejecting your offers to dance with them.
In either case you probably felt pretty bad afterwards. Fortunately, while you can’t eliminate bad nights entirely you can greatly limit how often they occur. This is done by transcending the need for social validation (to the best of your ability). Here’s how I came to this conclusion.
I’d always been the type of person that was extremely inconsistent in my ability to be social. When I was on I could have an incredible amount of fun, control the environment, and ensure all those around me were enjoying themselves as well.
Unfortunately, when I was struggling socially I really struggled. I would be completely unable to have fun, and the same people that could have been enamored by me a few nights earlier would brush me off and criticize me for how weird I was being.
For a long time I thought that I was just a socially “streaky” person. I thought I was like the baseball player that could get a hit in 10 consecutive games and then go 5 games without a hit.
However, one day I made an interesting observation. It seemed that if I went to a social event and was immediately validated by someone I’d then be able to draw upon my reservoir of charisma. If someone laughed at the first joke I’d said I’d feel confident in telling more jokes, I’d become more present to the moment, and it became an upward spiral.
However, if someone was mean to me, or I felt out of place in the environment I would get stuck in my head. I would logically try to come up with funny things to say rather than letting them arise out of the moment.
Unfortunately, when you try too hard people can sense the desperation and as a result they would strip more validation from me by telling me how bad my jokes were or how weird I was being.
This led me to the conclusion that the central cause of my emotional roller coasters was the fact that in social situations I sought validation. In other words, I wanted people to laugh at my jokes, tell me how great I was and more importantly, feed my ego.
When people provides me with validation this addiction was fine. However, when they didn’t or I ran out of validation to leech off of I would experience what I call “state crashes”. Moments in which negative emotions and neediness take the place of positive emotions.
Fortunately, by changing my criteria of success I was able to greatly reduce the frequency of these state crashes.
I made the decision that a victory was no longer when someone laughed at my joke, but when I found my own joke funny. It no longer mattered whether I had chemistry with someone as long as I’d made an honest attempt at trying to vibe with them.
I decided that if I was going to experience negative emotions it was going to be because I failed to take action rather than because someone reacted negatively to me. This put more responsibility in my hands, however, it’s also provided me with much greater control of my own emotions.
I’m far from perfect in this regard, and it was difficult to articulate this concept, but I thought I’d share this post anyway because I still think value can be gleaned from it.
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