How to Judge Your Partner’s Behavior

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People tend to judge the meaning of an action from the outside, and often fail to see what’s inside of the person’s mind doing the act. Most romantic relationships fail because the jealous partner only sees the social meaning of the external act of the other but not the motive behind it.

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One girlfriend just broke up with her boyfriend when she saw him chatting with a beautiful girl from afar. She interpreted the animated conversation of the two as a form of romantic attraction. Without asking the boyfriend about the girl and what they were talking about, she immediately stopped texting and communicating with him. She eventually broke up with his boyfriend without clarifying with him of what actually happened during that animated encounter with another girl.


Max Weber, a German sociologist, has a very good advice for people who want to judge the meaning of people’s interaction. He called this approach as “verstehen” or “interpretive understanding”. This concept implies that a person must judge behavior from the actor’s point of view. If one really wants to understand the true meaning of the human action, he or she must put himself/herself into the shoes of the other.

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“Verstehen” implies understanding the social meaning of the person’s external act or the stereotype and the motive behind the act. It requires empathy.  Without learning the motive of the act, the observer would pass rash judgment and misjudge the true significance of the act. The girl could have investigated or probed further on what was really the motive why his boyfriend had an animated conversation with the other girl.


Many romantic partners and spouses separate because they pass rash judgment, they only know the meaning of their partners’ external acts but fail to understand the real intentions underneath them. Jealously and other forms of negative emotions can sometimes cloud their judgments and forget to probe what actually happened with their partners’ or spouses’  encounters with the significant other.


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Who are Prone to Depression: Asians or Westerners?

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Cultural differences between Western and Asian cultures in individualism-collectivism (I-C), a dimension of cultural variability, show a strong possibility that Asians are predisposed to more negative emotions than are Westerners.

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Individualistic cultures, most of which are Western, promote individual needs, wishes, desires, and values over group and collective ones (Matsumoto, 1990). Consequently, hierarchical differences in status or power are minimized while equality is emphasized (Matsumoto, 1990).

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In contrast, collective cultures, many of which are Asian, promote the opposite; they stress the needs of a group, individuals identify themselves as members of a group, and one’s social role is defined by an entrenched system of hierarchical differences and vertical relationships (Matsumoto, 1990).

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Members of individualistic cultures tend to display more negative emotions to ingroup members and more positive emotions to outgroup members. Conversely, members of collective cultures tend to display more positive emotions to members of ingroups and more negative emotions to those of outgroups (Matsumoto, 1990).

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These display rules should predispose Asians to more negative emotions, which may result in depression, at least in the social interactions with outgroups.

Emotion regulation norms for Asian and Western cultures also demonstrate a greater likelihood for depression among Asians than among Westerners. Since emotion regulation refers to the ability to manage and modify one’s emotional reactions in order to achieve a desirable outcome, it reflects the different ways that culture tries to achieve social order (Matsumoto, Yoo, & Nakagawa, 2005).

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Cultural display rules, social roles, and emotion regulation norms have effectively contributed to the predisposition of Asians to be more passive, non-assertive, and anxious in interpersonal situations than Westerners (Okazaki, Liu, & Minn, 2002). The results from a study that examined differences between Asian American and White American on a trait measure of social anxiety and self-reports of anxiety-related emotions during a 3-min social performance task indicated that Asian Americans reported more anxiety than White Americans (Okazaki et al., 2002).

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Has social media destroyed the very fabric of how society works?

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The growth of social media is part of the growing digitalization or “technologisation” of social life. Due to globalization and growth of the cyberspace, social interaction is now extended from the temporal or physical space to the cyberspace, from face-to-face interaction to digital interaction through chat, post, video chat, etc.

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Has social media destroyed the very fabric of society?

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Well, it depends on one’s perspective in judging the effects of social media to society. A conflict theory would probably see the birth of the social media as the “colonization” and— yes, the destruction of the current face-to-face or personal interaction. But a functionalist perspective may see it as playing a major function of integrating and connecting people into a small social network or global village.

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The social media can easily connect people from distant lands in a matter of seconds by using the Internet and online networks. This is not possible in the temporal or physical space. Moreover, the social media plays a crucial role in doing business and marketing of goods and services worldwide. Nowadays, business opportunities are done more and more in the cyberspace and social media rather than in the temporal space. Physical stores, for instance, are now gradually being replaced by the cost-efficient online stores. Hiring is also now being done online via the social media LinkedIn and other sites, rather than through the walk-in application process.

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The social media has also challenged the traditional media, such as the print, TV, and broadcast media, because of its interactive nature. Yes, the social media has radically altered the way people communicate and transact business around the globe. But has it destroyed how society works today?

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Well, I would rather see it as expanding and improving the very fabric of society rather than destroying it. Under this process, the old practices are gradually replaced by new ones, and in this sense social media can be considered “destructive”. But in every process of social change, one can’t avoid discarding the old methods by novel ones.

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As the Bible says: “And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins” (Mark 2:22).

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In what ways is society keeping us from our full potential?

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Before answering this question, let us bear in mind that there are different types of society and each one has its own culture and social structure that can actualize and hinder people’s potential and goal. It is really difficult to generalize to answer this question. Achieving one’s potential in primitive societies is different when done in urban and state societies. But we can assume here that we are dealing with the contemporary urban societies.

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First of all, society has an opportunity structure and social stratification. The opportunity structure determines how an individual can actualize his/her potential in whatever field s/he wishes to become. So there is some inequality here with regard to access to opportunities and societal benefits to achieve success and realize one’s dream.

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For instance, in the job market, not all people are qualified to apply and be accepted to the type of job they wish to work. Society through the corporate industry determines the qualifications and screens applicants when awarding job opportunities.

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Second, opportunity structure oftentimes is connected with the social stratification or classification of people in society which consists of social class and social status. The former refers to the classification of people based on the amount of wealth and property, while the latter refers to one’s marketable skills, credentials, and level of education.

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These 2 types of social classification of people in society are actually 2 major sources of power in the modern world which can greatly affect one’s access to opportunities in society. If one is rich or famous, s/he can easily use his/her resources and social connections to achieve what s/he wants in society.

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The poor and those with lower social status cannot just attain their potential in life because of social stratification. Studies show that the poverty does not only deprive people of material wealth but social options in society. Indeed power differentials in terms of wealth and social status can keep or allow people to achieve their full potential in society.

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Rumors and Fake News as “Improvised” News

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Rumors are often believed by people to flourish in an environment of news blackouts and information famines, and thus, assumed to them diminish in an era of information overload. But the opposite seems to be the case. In contemporary information society, rumors seem to arise not from lack of information, but from an information overload (Kimmel, 2004).

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In today’s globalization age characterized by liquidity and flows, information has become “liquid” and can swiftly penetrate the various domains of social life (Ritzer, 2010). Liquidity is a metaphor used by some globalists to explain the growing flexibility and mobility of things that is brought about by the current processes of globalization.

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Liquidity simply means that things, information and places are increasingly becoming light and thus easy to move from one location to another. Like water, “liquids” can easily “flow” to different locations with the capacity to change their form in order to adapt to the environment.

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With today’s globalization and technological innovation, almost all things have become so fluid and light that they travel in various spaces in blinding speed. In a similar manner, news, “fake news,” “alternative facts,” e-rumors, e-gossip, and other forms of content now mounted on digital and electronic platforms in the cyberspace flow like running water or liquid that penetrates dimensions almost all dimensions of social life. Corporate organizations are not spared from this tsunami of information that besieges the market and the workplace.

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As information is easily and freely created, traded, edited, and manipulated to suit one’s interests, the veracity of their content declines resulting in the difficulty to know which news are “real,” “fake,” or “improvised” such as rumors and gossip. With information overload and the constant bombardment of the mind with unverified information from the Internet, people are deprived of the luxury of time and immediate means to swiftly investigate whether the posts, news, or information they received from and passed on to other people are totally or partially true or false. This also happens during crisis or emergency situations when information is absent or lacking to ascertain the truth. Knowledge means control. In business settings, sufficient information is good for managers and the corporate organizations they handle to achieve higher productivity and profit.

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Rumors and gossip do not normally emerge in moments of certainty where the corporate organization runs smoothly, but usually during times of crisis and unexpected change in the day-to-day operations of the company. Thus, rumors usually abound when a business firm faces or experiences bankruptcy, leadership change, mergers, buyouts, financial losses, labor problems or restructuring.

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For instance, when Twitter faces a buyout by other firms, rumors spread like a wildfire. When news leaked that Twitter will be the takeover target of the giant companies in September 2016, whispers were immediately and spread in the cyberspace. News spread that the engine company Google (Google parent Alphabet (GOOGL, Tech30), would take over the company, pushing the stock value of Twitter to 20% rise. But since no immediate confirmation came from Google, more speculations arise.

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CNBC mentioned that the business software company might also be looking to buy Twitter, but no clarification what benefits Twitter would bring to this transaction. Later, other rumors surfaced that Verizon (VZ, Tech30) might be bidding for Twitter as well, but Verizon denied the speculation. Since no accurate information to rely on of who would buy Twitter, the rumors continued.

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The Media companies News Corp (NWSA) and 21st Century Fox (FOXA) — both controlled by Rupert Murdoch — have been cited as possible Twitter acquirers too. So has NBC parent company Comcast (CMCSA) as well as the Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal and former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer — who are two of Twitter’s largest shareholders — could team up to take the company private. Again, in the absence of certainty, more rumors surfaced saying that the influential Silicon Valley investors Marc Andreessen and Silver Lake Partners could team up to buy Twitter and so on (La Monica, 2016, 23 Sep).

This case of Twitter buyout shows that rumors can immediately spin and become uncontrollable if no convincing and reliable information is available.

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The sociologist Tomatsu Shibutani notes that rumors or other forms of unverified information or “fake news” arise from uncertainty, from the absence of context and concrete information by which those affected by a crisis may understand its significance:

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“When activity is interrupted for want of adequate information, frustrated [people] must piece together some kind of definition, and rumor is the collective transaction through which they try to fill this gap. Far from being pathological, rumor is part and parcel of the efforts of [people] to come to terms with the exigencies of life (Doorley & Garcia, 2007).”

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Thus, rumors  for Shibutani are “improvised news,” a tentative information created by people who are affected by uncertainty in order to gain control and to make sense of ambiguous situations or crises.

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About the Author:

Dr. Vivencio (Ven) O. Ballano is Associate Professor V of the Sociology Department of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) in Manila. In 2011, he obtained his doctoral degree in Sociology from the Ateneo de Manila University. He was chosen Post-Doctoral Research Fellow of the Southeast Asian Studies Research Exchange Program (SEASREP). He is the author of the book Sociological Perspectives on Media Piracy in the Philippines and Vietnam published by Springer Singapore in 2016. Dr. Ballano’s specialized areas of teaching and research include sociology of law, religion, disaster management, corporate organization, and the Catholic Social Teaching. His current projects and interests include writing monographs and articles on rumors and gossip in corporate settings and the Catholic Social Teaching, as well as doing sociological research on film piracy and illegal camcording in the Philippines.

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