How do we describe the nature of an acquaintance? I use four measures:
2) breadth and level of interest,
3) level of trust,
4) And level of vulnerability.
By propinquity I mean proximity or distance. We are much more likely to be acquainted with those in close proximity to us than we are with those who are far away. One way to improve an acquaintance is to shorten the distance between you.
The more interests we share with a person, or the greater our intensity of interest in a shared passion, the more we will be attracted to that person. The more we cultivate those interests, the more we will have to talk about, and the more interesting will become our conversation.
Our level of trust in an acquaintance is indicative of our expectation of honesty and reliability from the other. For trust to grow our actions must be consistent with our conversation and commitments. We want to spend our time with people we trust.
Our level of vulnerability is the extent to which we are willing to reveal those parts of ourselves of which we are ashamed, or those parts which if injured in some way, could do us great harm. Vulnerability allows us to bring to light those parts of ourselves hidden in darkness. With a friend vulnerability can be transformative. But if that vulnerability is betrayed, it can be shattering. For vulnerability to grow between friends, what is shared in confidence must be treasured in the heart and protected from gossip.
A social practice then should seek to shorten distance between acquaintances, seek and cultivate those who share our interests, build trust, and encourage and protect our mutual vulnerability.
The most subtle and precious treasure in my life is the web of conversation spun over the course of years with my family and friends. So for the past several years I have meditated on ways to improve my methods of communication.
I find it much more effective and efficient to communicate with clusters rather than individuals. A cluster is a connected group of acquaintance, usually where each member of the cluster knows everyone else in the cluster, like a household.
If I want to communicate with everyone in a cluster about a particular topic, it will take much more time and effort to write or speak with each member individually than it will with the group as a whole.
The determining factors for me as to whether I can communicate with the cluster as a whole is whether I expect everyone in the cluster to be interested in the topic, whether I trust everyone with topic, and whether I am willing to make myself vulnerable to everyone in the group with the topic.
Weighed against this is the possibility of dividing the cluster if I communicate with some members of the group and not others about the topic. Generally speaking, no one likes to be left out of a conversation of a group of which they deem themselves a part. And they will often resent it if they are.
So if I don’t consider everyone in the group to be at nearly the same level of interest, trust, and intimacy the preferable alternative is to write at a level that is commensurate with the lowest level overall. But sometimes this simply isn’t possible; if I am trying to communicate with them on a sensitive topic, then I will likely feel compelled to communicate with each individually or none of them at all.
How do you deal with these issues?