Thursday, March 01, 2007

A Question of Chemistry

I've been thinking a lot about chemistry lately. And no, I don't mean titrations and moles and endothermic reactions and whatever other scientific mumbo jumbo I no longer retain from Chem I my Freshman year; no, I'm talking about how people interact, how people bond, how person A can get along with person B and person C while persons B and C loathe the sight of each other. In other words, what is that intangible factor that makes people (for want of a better term) "click?" How much is unconscious and out of hands, and how much is under our control? These are the sort of thoughts that have, on occasion, kept me up all night.

Out of curiosity* how many of you blog monkeys lurking out there have ever experienced that instant chemistry, where you meet someone for the first time and by the end of the encounter you feel like you have a new B.F.F.? I’m wondering how common such an occurrence is outside of works of fiction, since I’ve never had the pleasure. No, for me, the formation of chemistry is a more gradual process, since I usually put my guard up around new people, and it’s kind of hard to bond with someone when you’re hiding in your shell. Then, after a period of days or weeks or months or, yes, even years, some window of opportunity will present itself, the guard will drop, and the groundwork for a new friendship will be laid. For some friends there are certain moments burned into my brain forever which make me think “This is the moment when we clicked; this was the word/phrase/action that put us on the same wavelength.” Sadly enough, 9 times out of 10 these moments are of a "hey, they just caught the movie/TV/comic reference I just made" variety: Flunky joining in on "Downtown" from Little Shop of Horrors, Papa Lightbulb picking up on my quoting of Clue, The Cardinal's propensity for Weird Al related answers in Beyond Balderdash, etc. Of course, for other friends there is no such “Oh, in-X-s!” moment -- just a slow, gradual connection which sneaks up on you so that you’re never sure exactly when the bond solidified.

Which brings us back to the question of what exactly causes that feeling of good chemistry; what specific attributes are most integral to making two people click? I’m not foolish enough to think there’s only a single universal answer to the question; the human psyche is too wide and varied for that to be the case. In my experience, the biggest factor in fostering that bond is a compatible, if not necessarily comparable, sense of humor. While I might get along fine with someone I don’t find all that funny (or vice versa), without that ability to make each other laugh the odds of me developing anything other than a shallow acquaintance are slim. Sure, there are other factors interwoven with that; similar interests, similar backgrounds, shared experiences, etc. And for some people, one of those other factors might be the key factor in any friendship.

And then on the other end of the spectrum you have the chemistry killers, those personality traits that destroy any chance of a strong bond forming. These chemistry killers don’t have to be big things like racism, misogyny, untrustworthiness, or the like; as countless episodes of Seinfeld have taught us, it’s often the little things that act as stumbling blocks. I’m not saying that the little things are enough to make you write somebody off completely; however, they’re often enough to make you think that you’d much rather be out of a person’s presence rather than in it. I think these Chemistry killers are a big factor in cases of lopsided chemistry where person A is drawn to person B, but person B doesn’t give a flip about person A’s existence; never a fun thing.

Up until now I’ve mainly been thinking in terms of individual chemistry, the way two people interact with each other independent of any other influences. But no discussion about the mysteries of chemistry would be complete without talking about the ins and outs of group dynamics.

So, um, I guess this post isn’t complete. Maybe next time.

*A curiosity which will probably never be sated since the odds of people actually responding to questions embedded in my posts are only slightly better than the odds of PigPen making it a full day without mocking me.


Rocket said...

I really like this post. There are just a few times that I remember meeting a person and knowing right away that there was a bond. One of those was the good Doctor.

For most of the rest of our college friends, it is a blur. Unlike some, I do not have the capacity for retaining details from 13 years ago ;). There has been at least one person that I just had to force myself to like* - once I did, it completely worth it.

I haven't really met anyone I would consider a good friend (or good friend potential) in a while.

*not you, you are part of that blur.

Cap'n Neurotic said...

I really like this post

What, does that mean you don't like my other posts?

See what I did there? You thought I was going to zig (assume I'm the one you had to force yourself to like) and instead I zagged. I can find negativity in anything! ;)

It's cool that you and The Doc hit it off so quickly; makes a good story for the kiddies.

The idea of forcing yourself to like someone is interesting; I can think of a few people who rubbed me the wrong way initially, but who I wound up becoming friends with after I learned how to take them; this might be fodder for a follow-up post . . .