This article was originally written for the Core Collective blog, and reproduced on the Table For Two blog.
Friend /frɛnd/ (noun): one who listens; doesn’t judge and somehow makes everything all right.
In early June, we shared about Table For Two’s social experiment which invited a group of ladies and men to participate in a social experiment, “From Strangers to Friends”, a curated one-on-one virtual meeting. Participants were matched based on age groups and results from a short personality test.
The feedback that was gathered from the experiment revealed more than half of the group believed that through this experience, they made a new friend or found a potential friendship.
Circuit Breaker? No problem.
It’s heartening to know that Table For Two’s intention to create a safe online platform for individuals to meet was backed by the positive responses of the participants. Although the selection process was not as stringent as it would be in match making, those who participated were genuine and open to the experience of meeting new people. This shared intention has, inadvertently, created the desired space for this social experiment to happen in the best possible way. Moreover, knowing that a dating facilitator from Table For Two was “outside” the breakout room had given some of the female participants peace of mind.
As humans, it’s in our DNA to connect with others to varying degrees. On any given day, we would acknowledge a familiar face at our morning coffee stop on the way to work, or be introduced to someone by a friend at lunch. However, this very normal behaviour had been altered by the Circuit Breaker. This experiment made it possible, during the Circuit Breaker, for people to meet someone they might not have met in their day-to-day lives via a safe online platform.
On Being Vulnerable
Meeting someone is one thing but keeping a meaningful conversation going is another kettle of fish. Have you ever been in a conversation that fizzled out like a punctured balloon and finally laid limp and lifeless at your feet? Crickets. Or at the end of a date, you hardly know your date from a bar of soap? Hopefully, you’d have at least remembered his/her name.
Remember how we mentioned that participating couples would be given a surprise activity for the virtual date? This activity was to address these issues. Each paired couple was given a set of 12 questions to ask each other. The participants’ feedback suggested that these questions were great icebreakers and really helped to make good use of the time to get to know someone better.
More importantly, these 12 questions had given them the opportunity to reveal a little more about themselves. In other words, to be vulnerable. Being vulnerable has a bad rep of being weak. We fear rejection so we resist vulnerability. On the contrary, when we share honestly and openly about how we feel, asking for what we need, we actually draw people in. Researcher Brene Brown who has conducted thousands of interviews, concluded that vulnerability is the key to connection.
“There can be no intimacy—emotional intimacy, spiritual intimacy, physical intimacy— without vulnerability,”
– Brene Brown
Being vulnerable is a two way street. It also takes vulnerability to be present and fully listen to what’s being shared. Active listening is communication and it is often harder than we imagined. We are either stuck in our heads with our own inner dialogue or thinking of what to say next while the other person is talking. We are quick to fill the silence or to offer a solution. “The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence,” said Thich Nhat Hanh, Zen Buddhist Monk. How did you get really good at driving, or baking, or getting those enviable six pack? You practiced. And there were risks of failing, weren’t there? But you kept at it. Therefore, it’s never too late to start working on your vulnerability muscles and keep up the practice.
It All Begins with “ME”
The quality of our relationships depends on how vulnerable we choose to be with the people in our lives. However, the starting point is, scary as it may seem, the ability to acknowledge and accept our own feelings. We need to be in touch with our emotions and share ourselves authentically with others. When we engage in meaningful conversations, asking more soul searching and/or thought provoking questions, it becomes a journey of self knowing and genuine connections.
Perhaps when we realise that we share the basic need for love and happiness, we’ll begin to be more compassionate, open and accepting of others. Most of us come with a boxful of expectations and judgement of others. We have expectations on how a date should be; we judge people from their appearances, or make assumptions about their personalities by their jobs. This, too, is a two way street. If we could park our preconceived ideas and expectations aside, and choose to be curious about the person we’re with, we could be pleasantly surprised; not only by what we could learn about them but also by our own ability for self realisations and acceptance.
Table For Two’s Carita, was a regular plasma donor at the Blood Bank when she was living in Sydney. Being a familiar face, she and the staff would exchange pleasantries. As it’s usually busy, they would typically set her up and leave her till the process was over, however, on one of her visits, it was an unusually quiet day. The male nurse, who was attending to her, started chatting with her. He was an average looking guy in his 40’s, single, and had been at this same job for more than 10 years. When the conversation went from polite small talk to something more personal, he shared that he played the saxophone in a quartet at a Jazz bar every weekend. Who would have thought! It goes to show that behind every face there’s a story and more. If only we would take the time and ask the right questions.
The Proof Is In The Pudding
Where did the Social Experiment leave us? Well, one of the experiment’s pairings have started dating! Another, have become friends and gone for trail walks together. These couples are proof that when we have the courage to meet new people with an open mind, the curiosity to explore without expectations or judgements, and the willingness to be vulnerable – life can be so much richer.
Table For Two believes that a little connection made is a thread in a bigger web. They will continue to build our community of like minded individuals and strive to bring you more interesting and meaningful events and workshops. You’re invited to come as you are. Dress code: An open heart and mind. And remember, from the wisdom of Maya Angelou, “a friend may be waiting behind a stranger’s face.”
Between 13th August – 13th September, Table For Two has partnered with #PetExpoConnect in a fundraiser “Strangers to Friends – Virtual Dating for Animal Lovers.” For as little as $9 to register, animal loving singles stand a chance to be matched to go on a curated virtual date. All of the registration fees will be donated to 11 Animal Welfare Groups.
Sign up on the event site for this worthy cause of love. The first 100 sign ups will receive $30 worth of products and voucher from Royal Canin.