A conversation, a game of cards, a dinner party, making love -what do these activities have in common? They cannot be accomplished by only one person. All are examples of social interactions, in which one person’s action depends on the actions of the other, and vice versa. Social interaction is the result of mutual influence, not simply parallel or simultaneous activity.
Social interactions range from the most superficial contacts -strangers passing in the street or attending the same concert -to deep, long lasting, complex relationship, such as those between husband and wife or parent and child.


At the end of this unit, you should be able to:

  1.  describe social interactions 
  2.  understand the role of cultural script and ethnomethodology on social interactions 
  3.  understand the influence of social identities in social interactions 
  4.  describe how social interactions can be made positive. 


3.1 Meaning of Social Interactions

Social interaction is defined as the “interactions and relationships’ that exists between/or among people in everyday life. For example, when you are seated in a bus or train, you glance at the person next to you; take ‘– note of that person’s sex, age, and even clothing, and based on this you adjust your behaviour accordingly. If she is a young lady and you are a young man (unmarried), you might initiate a conversation with a comment on the weather, a remark about something the other person is reading or carrying. The young lady in the next seat may respond to an overture with a nod and then open her book, signaling that she is not interested in talking. If on the other hand, she continues the conversation, then the two of your would probably talk about your jobs or why you are both travelling to Lagos. With this, you would not discuss your sex lives, and you would probably avoid getting into deep political or religious debate. On this, your interactions are further limited by the physical layout of the luxurious bus and by the other people on the bus. All these are what we pass through in our daily lives and therefore, we cannot avoid them.


What do you understand by social interactions?

3.2 The Role of Cultural Scripts and Ethnomethodology on

Social Interactions The most important studies of every day social behaviour come from symbolic interactions. Symbolic interactionists stress the role of language and other symbols (such as fashion) in the social construction of identity and in the structure of relationships. It is a thing of interest to note that social expectations set the stage for interaction but do not dictate behaviour. Individuals do not perform their roles automatically the drama-turgical approach (i.e. analogy between the real life and the stage), on the stage, each person interprets a role in his or her own way. Some learn their parts well, while others continually bungle their lines. In some situations, there are strict rules governing interactions, and participants are expected to follow the script closely. Other situations are more improvisational, with participants making up the “story” as they go along.
In many cases, we are so accustomed to our culture’s script that we take expected role behaviour for granted. This now takes us to the issue of ethnomethodology which is coined to mean countless unspoken, often unconscious rules people use to maintain order and predictability in everyday social interaction.

3.3 Social Identities in Social Interactions

A social identity is “our sense of who and what we are. As our personal identity is based on our individual biography and idiosyncrasies; our social identity derives from the positions we occupy in society, as student, daughter, friend, poet, vegetarian, and the like. It includes roles to which we aspire as well as the positions we currently occupy. Our social identity depends in large degree on our perception of how others see us. Our private identity may include thoughts and experiences we never divulge to anyone; our social identity requires public validation. This is particularly true when we are taking on a new role or leaving an old one: entering college, starting a new job, becoming a parent, or becoming single again after divorce. In addition, each of us has various situational identities that become dominant in certain settings. A woman may be a professor in class, at faculty meeting, and at professional conferences; when she gets home, however, her identity as “Mummy” comes first.

Social identities are not simply day-dreams (or nightmares). They are a major source of plans for action (helping us to decide whether to do this or that); they provide the criteria for evaluating our actual performances making us feel good or bad in our daily lives (helping us interpret the situations, events and people we encounter).


What do you understand by social identities?

3.4 Making Social Interactions Positive (A Case Study of Children) 

Social interactions are the everyday give and take situations that occur. A social interaction may include saying “Hello” or asking an appropriate question such as “May I play with you?” Social interactions also include the activities that help children make friends. Social skills are the tools that are necessary in order to have positive social interactions. When one child hits another child, they are having a social interaction, but it is not a positive interaction. You may need to help structure these interactions so they are positive rather than negative. One way that a child care provider might structure interactions is to build games and activities into daily routines that will encourage children to work and play together. If a child yells out loud or grabs a toy from his peer, the caregiver might model a more appropriate way to say, “I want my way” or “I want that toy.” What may start out as a negative interaction can be turned into positive one.
While games and songs are often used to teach positive social skills, modelling appropriate social skills is still important. Turn-taking is a very vital social skill because it helps children interact with each other in a positive manner. It is also a functional skill that a child will use throughout his/her lift} time. When a child is first learning to take turns, he/she needs to learn about reciprocity. The provider can model this: rather than frequently telling the children to take turns, she can show them how to do things during games and activities designed to demonstrate reciprocity.

It is also important to help children feel good about themselves. Children who have positive self-esteem are usually less aggressive and more tolerant of others. One way to help children develop good self-esteem is to consistently give them messages that they are valued as part of the class. These messages can be verbal, such as “you work so hard” or “you chose such lovely colours for your picture”, but body language also conveys messages. Even when it is necessary to correct a child, do so at his/her eye level. A touch on the shoulder or a nod of the head also lets a child know you like what he/she is doing.


Daily social life takes place as a series of encounters with others in varying contexts and locations. Most of us meet and talk to a variety of others in the course of the average day. Social interaction involves numerous forms of non-verbal communication of the exchange of information and meaning through facial expressions, gestures or movements of the body. Non-verbal communication is sometimes referred to as ‘body language’, but this is misleading, because we characteristically use such non-verbal cues to eliminate, amplify or expand on what is being said in words.


In this unit, we have been able to describe what is meant by social interactions, the role of cultural scripts and ethnomethodology on social interactions, relationship between social identities and social interactions.
In this unit also, we have been able to describe social interactions which can be made positive using the children’s interactions as a case study.


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