The Social Construction Series Part 8: The Social Construction of Interaction

A Cursory Overview of the Interaction Ritual

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Photo by Analise Benevides on Unsplash

I am often fond of saying something like, or more, exactly like, relationships are everything. Really. Everything we do is predicated on a relationship. Yes? I think so.

And, I’ve written many articles about relationships, because I do believe they are the basis for all social and cultural phenomena. Yep.

But, what does that really mean? Good question.

In this article we will explore the concept of the interaction ritual, termed and written about by Irving Goffman.

Yet, before we get to that part of our discussion, let’s define both interaction and ritual. Ready? Good. Here we go.


Pronunciation /ˌin(t)ərˈakSH(ə)n/ /ˌɪn(t)ərˈækʃ(ə)n/ 

See synonyms for interaction

Translate interaction into Spanish


Reciprocal action or influence. ongoing interaction between the two languages’

Communication or direct involvement with someone or something. ‘for a shy person, social interaction can be a stomach-churning, anxiety-filled experience’



Pronunciation /ˈriCH(o͞o)əl/ /ˈrɪtʃ(u)əl/ 

See synonyms for ritual

Translate ritual into Spanish


A religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order. ‘the role of ritual in religion’

The prescribed order of performing a ceremony, especially one characteristic of a particular religion or church. ‘she likes the High Church ritual’

A series of actions or types of behavior regularly and invariably followed by someone. ‘her visits to Joy became a ritual’


There we go, great. Here’s what we have thus far.

An interaction ritual, then, is a reciprocal series of actions, influence, or types of behaviour regularly and invariably followed by someone.

Pretty straight forward, yes? Good. Now, what about Goffman? Good question. Here is how Goffman defines interaction ritual.

“The subject matter [Interaction Ritual], however, can be identified. It is that class of events which occurs during the co-presence and by virtue of co-presence. The ultimate behavioral materials are the glances, gestures, positionings, and verbal statements that people continuously feed into the situation, whether intended or not. These are the external signs of orientation and involved-states of mind and body not ordinarily examined with respect to their social organization.” (Goffman, 1967).

Interaction Ritual: Essays in Face-to-Face Behavior

Well, that’s pretty powerful. Yet, what does it all really mean? Hm. Another good question. Let’s unpack this a little, shall we? Good. Here we go.

Let’s define a social construct one more time. Important.

social construct

Pronunciation /ˌsəʊʃl ˈkɒnstrʌkt/

See synonyms for social construct


A concept or perception of something based on the collective views developed and maintained within a society or social group; a social phenomenon or convention originating within and cultivated by society or a particular social group, as opposed to existing inherently or naturally.


There we go.

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Photo by Eliott Reyna on Unsplash

Interaction Ritual as a Social Construction

Now, what does it mean for the interaction ritual to be socially constructed? Good question. Here we go.

It means that all of the glances, gestures, positionings, and verbal statements we utilize in our interactions are maintained within a society or social group.

Meaning that the way we interact and the rules governing such behavior are merely ideas about how interactions are to take place. They are not inherent or natural. Nope.

Further, it means that the maintenance of the ideas we have about how we are to conduct ourselves in our interactions are ritualized

Simply meaning that the behaviors we display in our interactions become codified as mores and norms, and then are past down as truth to future generations through socialization. The issue? Sure.

Mores and norms are also social constructions. Watch.


Pronunciation /ˈmôrāz/ /ˈmɔreɪz/ 

See synonyms for mores

Translate mores into Spanish


The essential or characteristic customs and conventions of a community



Pronunciation /nôrm/ /nɔrm/ 

See synonyms for norm

Translate norm into Spanish


Something that is usual, typical, or standard.‘this system has been the norm in Germany for decades’

A standard or pattern, especially of social behavior, that is typical or expected of a group.‘the norms of good behavior in the Civil Service’

A required standard; a level to be complied with or reached.


Yep, helpful.

Now, we can see in these definitions that both mores and norms are also ideas that are constructed in language as customary or typical, which are then agreed upon within a particular social milieux.

Hence, they are also socially constructed. Meaning?

That mores and norms are not naturally occurring phenomena. Nope. They are ideas people have, and end up believing, about what should or should not happen in a society, or social setting. And, what, prey, happens in a social setting? Yep.

Lots and lots of interactions. That’s fun.

Alright, and? Let’s define the situation.

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Photo by Gian Cescon on Unsplash

Defining the Situation

In sociology there is another theoretical concept called the definition of the situation. Here is an excerpt.

“The definition of “the situation” is what people use to know what is expected of them and what is expected of others in any given situation. Through the definition of the situation, people obtain a sense of the statuses and roles of those involved in the situation so that they know how to behave. It is the agreed upon, subjective understanding of what will happen in a given situation or setting, and who will play which roles in the action. The concept refers to how our understanding of the social context of where we may be, like a movie theater, bank, library, or supermarket informs our expectations of what we will do, who we will interact with, and for what purpose. As such, the definition of the situation is a core aspect of social order — of a smoothly operating society.”


Very similar to what we’ve already discussed, yes? Yep.

Why Does the Interaction Ritual and the Definition of the Situation Matter?

Now, I think the definition of the situation is important in our discussion about interaction rituals, because the way a situation is defined is also socially constructed, which you can interpret just by reading the excerpt above. Meaning?

That, we are all, each of us, within our own cultural milieu, continuously affirming and confirming the socially agreed upon interaction ritual within the scope of a particularly defined situation, or defined context. Yep.

And, guess what?

We can change that, if we choose. Yep. How? Sure.

Create new denitions, or realities. I believe creating new realities is what all great leaders do. Yep.

They understand both the strengths and opportunities of the contexts they navigate, and take advantage of the strengths, while also creating possibilities within the opportunities. And?

We can all do this. You, me, everyone of us. Really.

If you look at how social change occurs, it is due to individual people, just like you and me, choosing to create a new reality, define a new context, and then act in that context in new ways, shifting what was known to a new known. Just like that. Beautiful.

#culturalmillieu, #interactionritual, #interationals, #mores, #norms, #philosphy, #rituals, #social-construction, #socialconstruct, #socialconstructionseries, #socialmillieu, #sociology

The Social Construction Series Part 4: The Social Construction of Reality

A Fluid Representation of Many Worlds

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

In the first installment of the Social Construction Series, we discussed why understanding social constructionism is important to our daily lives. How we interpret our world, think and feel about it; choices we make, and practices we keep, or let go of. Important.

In the second installment, we discussed the importance of understanding that all knowledge is socially constructed. All of it. And, how the production, distribution, and access, or lack thereof, to knowledge affects our lives. Also important.

In the third installment, we discussed the importance of understanding that our identities, every part of them, are also socially constructed. Giving us power and the freedom to create our identity as we want it to be, not as someone has said it should be.

In this fourth installment, we will discuss the social construction of reality; and, why considering a different way to think about reality as important to our lives, to your life. Important to the human being you are today, and the human being you want to be tomorrow. Ready? Let’s go.

Well, what exactly is reality? How does it function, and why do we understand our world as the reality it is? Hm. Let’s define reality, shall we. Here we go.


noun OPAL WOPAL S /riˈæləti/ /riˈæləti/(plural realities)Idiom

[uncountable] the true situation and the problems that actually exist in life, in contrast to how you would like life to be

Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries

Very good. Ah, I see. Reality is a true situation. Well, then what does truth mean. Let’s take a look. Stay with me.


noun  /truːθ/ /truːθ/(plural truths  /truːðz/  /truːðz/)Word FamilyIdioms

the truth [singular] the true facts about something, rather than the things that have been invented or guessed

Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries

Okay, here’s what we have so far.

Reality is a true, or factual account of a situation inherent with problems that exist in contrast to what you’d like your reality to be. Hm. Not sure about these definitions. How about you? Let’s look at a different way to think about reality.

Here you go.

“Human existence is, ab initio, an ongoing externalization. As man externalizes himself, he constructs the world into which he externalizes himself. In the process of externalization, he projects his own meanings into reality. Symbolic universes, which proclaim that all reality is humanly meaningful and call upon the entire cosmos to signify the validity of human existence, constitute the farthest reaches of this projection.80 b.”
― Peter L. Berger, 

The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge

Alright, so what do you read here? Okay. Well, let me tell you what I read.

That reality, all reality, is a projection of what it is that we think it is. That’s about it.

Reality is about a created truth, our factual account, of a situation inherent with problems, and possibilities, that is seen to exist.

And, who prey, creates it and sees it? Well, you do, I do.

Our realities, however, are different. Your reality is not the same as mine, which is why having general statements, as in the aforementioned definitions from Oxford, are problematic. They’re not inclusive enough, and leave people wanting, and, in some cases, confused.

Right, well, what then?

Let’s take a look at 5 reasons why understanding the social construction of reality as a fluid representation of a world, nay many worlds (over 7 billion in fact), is important to your life. Ready? Here we go.

A Fluid Representation of Many Worlds

If we begin to consider reality as fluid, always shifting and moving, we release ourselves from the false notion that reality is in some way a static, or solid, representation of that which we see. Make sense?

Reality is influenced by several key factors. Here are a few.

  1. Our current state of mind
  2. Our emotional state
  3. Our past
  4. Our present situation
  5. Our future

Complex, yet simple. Another fun paradox.

Let’s look at each of these in more detail.

1. Our current state of mind

What we believe, we see. Yep. True. If we believe the world is full of bad people with hidden agendas, guess what we’ll see? Yep. A world full of bad people with hidden agendas.

Conversely, if we believe the world is full of good people with noble intentions, yes, that is what we will see.

Now, the world is not binary.

The world is full of both, that which we will find good and that which we will find bad. The point is that, what we expect to see, is what we will see; and, that then becomes our reality.

2. Our emotional state

Our emotions, like our mind, are powerful. How we feel, especially if we are sensitive to our emotions, like I am, influences how we see the world.

If we feel hopeful, we will see hope. If we feel despair, yep, we will see despair. It works that way. Again, complex, and yet quite simple.

Of course, we know that we have many emotions within us, and they come and go like waves in the ocean. Here, then gone, here again, then gone again.

The point is when we are unaware of our emotional state, we are not aware of how our emotions are influencing our perception of reality.

Photo by Ashkan Forouzani on Unsplash

3. Our past

When we focus on our past, especially when that past is full of things we label as a problem, we can literally bring those problems into our present reality. Really.

If we are focusing more on what happened yesterday, than the present context, we are creating a disruption in the reality right in front of us, and, in effect, replacing that reality with an alternative version from a past time.

However, when we are aware that our minds work this way, we can catch ourselves living in the past, and shift our attention back to the present moment, and let go of the past.

4. Our present situation

If we are not at peace with our present reality, we will continue to see issues and problems. In effect, creating even more issues and problems as possible.

When we fight against the reality we see, we make our current reality into a larger problem, and, at the same time, increase our own pain and suffering.

However, if we recognize this pattern, or habit, we can disrupt the habit and replace it with understanding and grace. We can change our reality into something that is more congruent with what we want to see. Finding more peace and harmony in the process.

5. Our future

When we are scared of the future, or feel like the future will only ever be a reproduction of the past, limited and painful, that is what our future will be. Simple. That which we put our attention on expands, and becomes our reality.

Yet, when we let go of our past, and remain open to our future being all that we want it to be, we can begin to shift our attention and create a reality that is quite different.

We can begin to create the future reality that we want to manifest. One that is full of possibility.

Photo by Hu Chen on Unsplash

Many worlds

Reality is fluid and dynamic, not stable and static. And, we have the power within us to create the reality we want to live into. We do.

There are over 7 billion worlds (realities) on this planet. One reality for each of us. Yep. The paradox?

Sure, here you go.

Though there are over 7 billion worlds on this one planet, there are certain things we agree on. Yep. Example? Sure, we all mostly agree that a tree is a tree, right? The sun is the sun, the stars are stars.

Yet, know that a tree, the sun, and the stars were not always called such. They weren’t. There was a time when they were called something else, and a time when they were called nothing at all. They just existed. That’s it.

Know that the reality you want to live into is available to you. Has been, is, and will always be available.

Reality is socially constructed by each of us every minute of every day. Next time you find yourself frustrated about your current reality, ask yourself why that’s so.

Here are a couple questions you can ask yourself.

  1. In my current state of mind, am I expecting to see frustration?
  2. Is my emotional state having an impact on how I am seeing my reality?
  3. Am I thinking about my past experiences, and bringing them into my present reality?
  4. Am I not at peace with my present situation?
  5. Am I thinking that the future will only ever be a reproduction of my past?

When you ask yourself these questions, see what you get back. And, shift your attention away from these thoughts and emotions, and to the present reality. And?

Begin to create the future you’ve been waiting for. Make that future your reality now, today. You are the only one that can do so.

Create well.

#emotionalintelligence, #humandevelopment, #philosphy, #psychology, #realityasmanyworlds, #selfdevelopment, #socialconstruction, #socialconstructionism, #sociology, #thesocialconstructionofreality