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  • The idea of being a sociable person is nowadays heavily associated with finding enjoyment

  • in going to, and in all likelihood also in giving, parties. To be sociable means welcoming

  • the idea of being in a room replete with an above-average number of other guests, many

  • of whom will be unknown, most of whom will be holding a glass of alcohol, bantering,

  • with lights lower than they normally would be, and music somewhat higher than required

  • in order faithfully to catch the details of another's voice. Parties have become synonymous

  • with sociability because of certain underlying ideas about what true social connection might

  • require and entail. We assume that sociability naturally springs up when lots of people are

  • put together in a room, that it means speaking a lot and notably cheerfully about things

  • that have been happening in our lives, that it depends on a jokey manner andideally

  • on the possession of a few entertaining anecdotes, often involving striking coincidences.

  • But such assumptions sidestep two sizeable objections. Firstly, true sociabilitythat

  • is a real connection between two peopleis almost never built up via anything cheerful.

  • It is the result of making ourselves vulnerable before another person, by revealing some of

  • is broken, lost, confused, lonely and in pain within us. We build genuine connections when

  • we dare to exchange thoughts that might leave us open to humiliation and judgement; we make

  • real friends through sharing in an uncensored and frank way a little of the agony and confusion

  • of being alive. Secondly, true sociability requires a context. We are generally under

  • such pressure to appear normal, self-possessed and solid, we are understandably uninclined

  • spontaneously to disclose our true selves. Our default mode iswithout anything sinister

  • being meant by thisto lie about who we are and what is really going on in our lives.

  • This suggests that a genuinely social occasion might be rather different from what we typically

  • envisage. We think of a 'good host' as someone who makes sure there is enough wine

  • and, at a pinch, ensures people know each other's names. But in the profound sense,

  • a good host is someone who creates the conditions in which strangers can start to feel safe

  • about being sad and desperate together. Unfortunately, the modern world seems particularly resistant

  • to anything that seems artificial around parties, which threatens to evoke that most dreaded

  • of all social genres: the corporate get-together. The thought is simply to pack a room and leave

  • the rest to nature. But a commitment to deep sociability might lead us to recognise that

  • we depend on a little artful choreography to get us into the psychological zone in which

  • connections can unfold. We might need encouragementand even a helpful lanyardto share

  • a little of what is sad within us. We need help in networking, not in order to find new

  • investment opportunities but so as to identify shared regrets, humiliations and feelings

  • of despair. Parties as they are currently structured constitute a clever ruse by a sharp

  • minority, perhaps only ten per cent of humanity, to persuade the rest of us that we have been

  • provided with the social contact we crave. But, in truth, it takes a sharply insular

  • and misanthropic person to feel that what goes on in an average party really counts

  • as anything like the requisite encounter with one's fellow human animal. If we have a

  • lingering horror of parties, we should be generous towards our hunches. It doesn't

  • mean that we don't like other people, rather that we have too ambitious a conception of

  • social contact to put up with what is on offer at most parties. The mark of a truly sociable

  • person might, in many situations, simply be a strong desire to stay at home.

  • If you're interested in coming to San Francisco to meet us at the end of March, please click on the link on the screen now to find out more.

  • We hope to see you there.

The idea of being a sociable person is nowadays heavily associated with finding enjoyment

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