What It Takes to Connect Face-to-Face (in the age of the Google brain…or in Paris!)

I’m back in Paris, on the prowl for a new set of consequential strangers–following my own advice about what it takes for a place to feel comfortable.

It’s not easy here (see this post about my last trip), and the challenge has made me think about what I have to do to connect in a city–this city.  New York is different for me, not only because I speak the language there, but also because  I know the unwritten social rules of the city–how to read the “body idiom” and do what Irving Goffman called the “face work.”   But one doesn’t have to be a sociologist to see that Parisians have a different social playbook than Americans–and I don’t have a copy!  Therefore, I keep reminding myself of the basics of face-to-face connection–skills  we don’t exercise in front of our computers. Continue Reading »

The Paradox of Fleeting Relationships in Small Spaces

New York Times reporter Ariel Kaminer is surprised that four minutes into a shared cab ride, she and her co-rider, a recent college graduate, “had already done money and politics, things people supposedly don’t discuss with strangers.  So I asked if she was a person of faith, and bingo, we hit the trifecta, all before the meter even registered $5.”

Kaminer’s piece, Taxicab Confessions, written after the second day of a new cab-sharing program in Manhattan brought to mind some fascinating research I uncovered when working on a chapter about how relationships unfold.  It helps explain what makes sharing a small space with a stranger so intimidating and, at the same time, why we sometimes break all the rules and let it rip with someone we just met, even in a very short period of time.  Continue Reading »