John VanBerkum, Staff Writer
You know many, many people. You greet them as you cross the quad, stay up late chatting and are in constant communication through Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter. You keep up with your high school friends back home, and here at Notre Dame you make sure to spend enough time with teammates, roommates and classmates.
Do not get me wrong; this is how it should be and this is very commendable. Not everyone has the ability to go out and meet so many people and have enough time and willpower to stay in touch with them. So you have many friends and you enjoy their company, but do you know how much more there is to being sociable?
I am not the most sociable person ever, but as I was reading an article on Saint Thomas More, a sentence struck me and I began to reflect on it: “More used his brilliant gift for friendship in a special way with his children since he realized that this relationship was one of the most effective means available to him for their formation and education” (emphasis added). With most of our friends, we will not have a parent-child relationship, but by extension we can apply these words to our friendships.
As friends, we have the amazing opportunity to directly affect someone’s life; a chance to teach as well as to learn. This could come in the form of kind corrections or simply an attentive ear. When we are truly someone’s friend, we want him or her to be the best person he or she can be. We must make sacrifices and hard decisions because we truly love our friends. Now that we see that there needs to be a different dimension to friendship that surpasses simple interaction, we can ask ourselves this question: Do we maintain friendships or interactions with others at a superficial level, saying “hi” on the quad because we like the attention of a response and the façade of being popular, or do we actually care about our friends and these interactions deeply?
To stay on the topic of sociability rather than friendship, I think that it is worth mentioning that most people make a distinction between knowing someone and being friends—and rightly so. Being sociable is perhaps best characterized by one’s ability to interact well with many different people in different situations. Not every person with whom you talk is your friend, someone with whom you can interact on a deeply personal level. Nevertheless, as a sociable person, you have great potential to affect so many people. If you think you are sociable (or you really want to be), you should enter every conversation—whether seemingly frivolous or deep—with a focus on making some small impact. Your smile, eye contact, cheerfulness and sincerity go so much farther than you can imagine.
Entering every conversation with this mindset will not only show someone that you care about them as a person, but it will also help you to grow as a selfless person. Try it out. The true merits of sociability really shine forth among those people whom you know but would not consider close friends. Maybe it is the person you speak with in class but don’t hang out with on the weekends. Put your phone away and chat with the person next to you before class. Sociability comes into play as you give your attention to these people, engaged in conversation and sincerely interested in what they are telling you.
Now is your opportunity to concentrate on someone else in a society that requires you to call attention to yourself through résumés and competitive internships. Sure, you must brag a little about yourself to get the edge for a competitive position, but don’t let the culture of careerism consume you. Sociability is a perfect antidote. It would be easy to misconstrue the meaning of sociability to mean brown-nosing or sucking up, using your outgoing personality as a means for self-gain. We must keep in mind, however, the true purpose of sociability: self-gift through conversation.
So you think you are sociable? You probably are. Whether you have many friends or just a few, remember that what counts are the small things. Eye contact, cheerfulness, and sincerity help you flourish and fully develop your social nature as a human being. Never forget that you have so many opportunities in many small ways to forget about yourself for a while and make a conversation focused on someone else. Being sociable isn’t about your popularity or acceptance—it’s about the person on the other end.
John VanBerkum is a sophomore studying political science and philosophy living in O’Neill Hall. He doesn’t have anything very clever to say, but that’s alright, because bylines aren’t about popularity or acceptance. Contact him at email@example.com.