So some American pop songs do actually have kind of interesting lyrics. There is this song called “If you like Pina Coladas” which I had probably already heard a dozen times before I got the actual point of the song. It’s basically about a guy who is bored with his lady. He then finds a lonely heart advert saying:
'If you like Piña Coladas, getting caught in the rain
If you're not into yoga, if you have half a brain
If you like making love at midnight
in the dunes on the cape
I'm the love that you've looked for
write to me and escape'
He’s fascinated and decides to go on a blind date with the author of the ad. When he arrives at the agreed place, he realised that it’s his own lady who wrote the ad and they have all those cute things in common which they didn't even know about.
So in the bottom line the song talks about how we often fail to see all the different sides and interests of people – even people who are as close as friends or lovers. I have made quite similar experiences in my personal life. Let me give you an example: During my Masters studies in London, I used to go out quite a lot with friends who work in the financial sector. Usually we would go to nice cocktail bars or restaurants in the posher parts of town. At some point, I made a remark about backpacking, camping and trekking. One of my friends was extremely surprised and said something along the lines of “But you don’t actually travel that way, do you?”. He knew that I travel a lot, but just because he would generally see me in nice dresses and high heels, it never occurred to him that most of my trips are pretty basic backpacking trips - moving around by public transport and sleeping in hostels. He had pictured me in the pool of fancy hotels.
So where did this incomplete picture come from? Firstly, human beings tend to make a massive amount of inferences based on small pieces of information like clothes, age and ethnicity. In this example, going to nice bars in London directly translated into nice hotels on holiday. And it is at least a conclusion that is reasonable. Other stereotypes are much more extreme. When we see a football fan, we would never believe that he might be into Shakespeare, when we see a lawyer we wouldn't believe he is a DJ at nighttime, when we see an elderly lady, we wouldn't believe she's good at programming. The list goes on and on...
Secondly, the occasion determines what we share. In my case, those nights out in London were just not the place where it would have felt natural to talk about buying a new sleeping bag for my next trip for example. The discussions naturally focussed on other topics such as work, concerts, current affairs,… And that had nothing to do with hiding parts of my personality. It was just about acting out one aspect of my personality more than other aspects. A wine tasting creates a different environment for sharing as a mountain hike, a meeting with a professor creates a different environment than a Tinder date. All these situations shape what another person is able to learn about us.
But what can we do about these communication issues? How can we reveal more about ourselves without dropping a brick or being socially awkward? How can we truly get to know each other?
Maybe the answer lies not in telling more about oneself, but in making oneself aware of the fact that we probably know surprisingly little about friends, colleagues and even family members. I guess it’s worth asking people about their hobbies, dreams and attitudes as often as we find the opportunity! Every single person has such a unique personality and beautiful talents. Let's be more curious about each other :-)
Another interesting observation in relation to the same topic is this: Social media can help us to get to know each other better. Given that most of us share photos / links / comments with all of our social media friends or followers (instead of selected few), we often show our true colours to people who might not normally have seen them. I can remember many instances in which I had thoughts such as “wow, Kalifa is such a brilliant painter” or “I never knew that Kathleen is into yoga!”. There are obviously a lot of reasons why over-sharing can also go wrong, but at least in terms of getting to know more about others, open sharing on social media can be quite useful.
I’d be curious to hear your views on this topic! Any similar experiences? Which sides of yourself are often overlooked?
(Painting: Bauhaus Colour Circle)