I often hear the phrase that we are “social creatures.”
Apparently, we’re also relatively intelligent. So why is it that we get social interaction so wrong?
If two dogs don’t like each other, they make it abundantly clear. They might snarl at each other, run away, walk past ignoring each other or even fight.
What they don’t do is waste time pretending to like each other.
When you see two dogs that like each other, they can pick each other out from opposite sides of a field. They greet each other, play together and enjoy each other’s company.
But yet, I don’t think that dogs have got it quite right.
Take these two for example.
The most unlikely duo you’ll ever see.
A bouncy, happy staffie puppy who tackles everything like a bull in a china shop. And an elderly, grumpy lurcher with a tendency to mope.
When they first met, they didn’t want much to do with one another. But thrown together as they were, they made the best of it and became best friends.
I wonder how many dogs miss out on meeting their soul mate because they didn’t want to waste any time on them?
Cats on the other hand, have no time for anyone. They generally have little to no interest in other cats.
They might have one good cat friend, but that’s against their better judgement.
And yet, they have learnt to co-exist, just by avoiding one another. How incredibly sensible.
They’re also not keen on dogs or people, with the odd exception.
If you are lucky enough to have a cat present in your house, consider yourself owned.
As a species, humans are not born able to interact socially. It’s a skill we acquire as we get older.
Or do we?
If you watch children interacting, it’s always on a very basic level, much like dogs.
They seek out the children who are similar to them. If a child does something they don’t like, they have a bit of a row about it.
Then they don’t play together for a while until it’s forgotten and they’re friends again.
Except that it isn’t forgotten. Because the adult of the species is less socially adept, and they have seen that their offspring has fallen out with the other child.
They have made a mental note of it, and will use it against that child – and their parents of course.
Which brings me neatly onto the transition period.
Where on earth do we go so wrong?
At what point between childhood and adulthood do we lose the ability to interact socially?
When do we start to think it’s acceptable to be rude to people, to make decisions out of spite and to control the people we love?
At what point does selfishness take over?
We are born narcissistic, of course we are. That’s self-preservation. But it seems that as children, we overcome that tendency to a degree, allowing us to socialise and interact.
As parents, we see ourselves as selfless, putting our children first.
But surely that’s just nature’s way of making sure that the species survives? Are we not just extending our narcissism to our children?
And what about our tendency to keep negative people in our lives just so that we can be negative about them?
What a shame we can’t accept that we can’t see eye to eye with everybody.
How much happier would we be if we could just tolerate everybody and form bonds with the select few people who we will form a meaningful relationship with?
Every day, I see, hear about or experience the inability of adults to behave reasonably towards each other.
And yet, we are regarded as a social species. We need other people for our own happiness and indeed our survival.
So why are we getting it so wrong?