Social interaction

We all engage in countless behaviors during our daily lives. We cough, laugh, scratch our heads, grimace when we struggle to carry a heavy package or other routine behaviors. Other people sometimes see our behaviors and alter their own accordingly. In response to our cough, they turn away to avoid catching our cold; in response to our laugh, they smile; in response to our grimace, they offer help. Aware of the responses we have triggered in others, we, in turn, may adjust our behavior. This is social interaction—the process of people orienting themselves to others and acting in response to what others say and do. The word social implies that more than one person is involved, while interaction means that all parties are mutually influencing one another. Physical proximity is not necessary for social interaction to occur. People interact when they communicate via letter, phone or fax. Moreover, just being near others does not always mean that social interaction will take place. One could be hurrying through a crowded train station, surrounded by hundreds of people, and never even make eye contact with a single one.

Social interaction is purposive: People can react and act with each other in pursuing their objectives in life. In some social interactions, the participants can have different goals. For instance, an interviewer would like to finish her interview session and finish the job as quickly and as efficiently as possible, whereas the candidate wants to capture her interest and extend the interview so that he can impress her with his many qualifications. Different goals do not lead to conflicts, though. Sometimes, goals can be complementary. In some situations, participants can intentionally work together with a common aim.

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Whether social interaction is complementary or cooperative, competitive or coercive, it is always ordered by patterns of social structure and culture. When people get together, they generally fall into routinized schemes for expected behavior. Thus, even if one has never gone on a job interview, one knows a good deal about how to prepare for one and what to expect. Even at a party, there is order and predictability to interaction; it is never completely free form. The party-goer who sits on a couch reading, or keeps asking everyone to quiet down and get serious, will be thought distinctly odd. At parties, one is expected to be sociable and to have fun.

One approach to studying social interaction is to look at how people define the situation. A simple definition of a situation allows people to know so much about what is expected of them. The answer lies in the large stock of cultural knowledge about social life that we acquire through socialization. This knowledge is shared—we all have internalized it—and we can draw on it anytime. That is not to say that we explicitly did not say to the interviewer: “This is a job interview, you know, which means that you are in charge and I should be differential.” We do know however, implicitly keep such cultural knowledge in mind and let it help guide our actions.

The definition of a situation, however, is not always obvious. If a friend asks you to go with him or her to the library, is this a date or just an effort to get your help with an assignment? It is sometimes hard to say. In some cases, both parties are unclear about what is going on; in other cases, people have definite but different definitions of the situation. When different definitions exist, the participants can be thought of as inhabiting different social realities (Schutz and Luckmann, 1973).

In the light of this, W. I. Thomas sociologist states an important issue about this called after his name—Thomas theorem. This theorem says that once we define a situation, that definition determines not only some of our actions, but also of the consequences of what we do.

Most of the situations we encounter are ambiguous to some extent. As a result, we must constantly “test out” actions and modify them based on feedback as we strive toward a more precise, collective definition of what is going on. Thus, definitions of a situation are best seen as a form of negotiated order. Shared expectations impose limits (or social structure) on interactions, but these limits are not engraved in stone. There is always rooms for improvisations and negotiation. Negotiations, however, tend to create new rules that impose constraints on future interactions.

The processes of social interaction are the bases for creating social relationships—relatively enduring patterns of interaction between two or more people. Most people have many social relationships—relatively enduring patterns of interaction between making sure that many social relationships, from casual acquaintances, to intimate friendships and close family bonds.

In all these, it is helpful to recognize the different levels of role-taking which helps us to tailor our words and actions to those of other people. What good can a well-planned management program do when it is not at all communicated effectively in the team that is in-charge to manage the Company?  What good can communication do when communication process is distorted, manipulated, blocked off or otherwise broken hence causing misunderstanding, misinterpretation, dishonesty, and mistrust in the information generated by the system?  To illustrate, every organization must put importance to the security and risk management component in running the affairs of the business because a huge part of the success of the Company or Organization is determined by how strong it can withstand threats of risk and security in the business.  The more robust the security and risk management process is established, the greater the chance for the Company to succeed.  But then, this is no guarantee all the time.  Circumstances can vary. System reliability can be altered.  One has to be vigilant and well-equipped for any eventualities and through effective communication he is half-way towards achieving success. Good social interaction facilitates matters swiftly.

Most especially today, the advent of communication and information technology is right before everyone’s eyes and the demand for change is inevitable. Customers or users are becoming more diverse and a large portion of them depend on technological infrastructures availability and confidentiality. Hence, one has to keep up with competition by enhancing productivity in order to stay ahead of the rest or to stay on top of everything. Moreover, one has to sustain change to survive in the business. The ongoing challenges is a struggle and most often than not, such challenges are accompanied by increasing risks in existing systems such as “downtime, information inaccuracy and employee inefficiency” (Novak, 2004).

Nothing compares to having an open communication among individuals within the organization. It is always a common fact that many organizations and projects succeed because open communication eradicates misunderstanding between and among people from bringing about successful solutions to problems. “A free-flow of information not only reduces the risk of misunderstandings and wasted effort but also ensures that all team members can contribute to reducing uncertainties surrounding the project.” (Security Risk Management Guide, 2004).