Friendships are not the only goal and perk of awkward initial interactions though. I stand facing another person, coming up with ways to remember the name they just told me while trying to hear about their job, what they did over the holiday, or whatever we have moved onto. I look for commonalities and ways to relate. Sometimes I mostly find differences, which leads to robust conversations and greater understanding of another perspective. Occasionally people seem to find me as someone they can trust or confide in, and I get to offer an ear, a head nod, and a pat on the shoulder. Conversations grow the necessary quality of empathy.
The awkward chatting shapes me. A former roommate said the following to me as I left for my first date with my now husband: