Our society is based on certain implicit scripts that we are following consciously or not. We use these scripts as a safe way of navigating our social interactions. They vary from simple words to gestures, facial expressions, or even a simple eye contact. We have been doing this for so long that it goes beyond pure expectation. We cannot even imagine how our society would be like without these social norms. They are the very fabric of our civilization.
Sometimes, we feel that such scripts are not appropriate. We might be stressed or angry talking to someone, but, at the same time, we are expected to use positive social greetings. In such moments we feel a dissonance between the meaning of the greeting and the actual situation. We feel fake and we perceive the other person as fake. Such emotions are natural.
If we look at the symbolism of our social scripts, we can see that their main purpose is to show acceptance. We accept each other as humans and members of the same group and environment. It can be an institution, a city, a nation, a religion, etc. This acceptance represents the most basic structure of our society. We consider each other as equals from this point of view. Our social norms are the rituals that remind us of this unspoken agreement.
By understanding this fact, we can then explore the moments in which we want to be more than just accepted socially. We want to be understood not just logically, but also emotionally. We want to feel a connection with the other person and a harmony between greetings and situations. This desire is natural. First, we need to see them as two different goals. On one hand, we need to show acceptance as members of the same society. On the other hand, we need to create a real and genuine connection between us, as human beings. The order in which we consider these aspects is crucial. We need acceptance first, on a large scale, and then we can focus on improving specific interactions, but only if everyone involved desires this emotional closeness.
In the end, we might wonder: Do we really mean to greet each other, or are we indifferent, just following these social rules? We can question ourselves and those around us. Both our fear and mistrust of the intentions of others are understandable. But we should not let our lives be guided by such fears. We, as human beings, have an innate desire to be peaceful and create a better world for ourselves. The only question is how far we can expand our sense of self and our group. The wider our perspective is, the more peaceful and caring we are.
The fact is that people are good. Give people affection and security, and they will give affection and be secure in their feelings and their behavior.
— Abraham Maslow