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|Volume 11 |Issue| 15 | April 13, 2012 ||
‘There's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip'
Aasha Mehreen Amin
Social interaction, they say, is the most natural human instinct. In fact even non-humans are social – just look at birds during breakfast time – chirping, screeching and singing to each other – or dogs when they bark their thoughts out and howl in unison in the middle of the night. But one wonders if animals go through the anguish of an awkward moment during their shenanigans with others of their own species.
Say you are at a networking seminar where it is a prerequisite to mingle with total strangers, exchange visiting cards and start talking like high-school buddies. It's almost like speed dating where you are given three to five minutes to impress someone and hopefully get a connection that may even land you a partner for life. Thankfully, networking sessions at seminars do not have such lofty expectations but they do require that you have certain social skills that will ultimately lead to this amazing fraternity of cooperating individuals that will surely change the world. Sometimes, however, no matter how amicable a person you are, networking becomes quite a challenge.
For instance, you have just been introduced to someone whose credentials are so amazing that you would be happy just to get an autograph and run away. When such a person gives you his/her card that says CEO or Country Representative or even Ambassador and you rummage through your bag coming up with nothing every time, it is well, a little embarrassing. You may mentally kick yourself a hundred times for not taking a bunch of visiting cards from the boxes on your desk. But this will not shorten the awkward seconds when the other person is waiting expectantly for that rectangular piece of paper that gives you some legitimacy for being there. In the end you can scribble your name and email address on one of their spare cards or just promise you will email them and send them your details. By now the person has actually lost interest, or has become a bit suspicious and therefore ready to move on to the next fool. No, no you petulantly wail, again in your head, I am a real person, I do have visiting cards, I am an interesting individual. In reality getting all flustered you have just knocked over the glass of grape juice which is now trickling down the other person's clothes. No amount of apologies to the victim can take away this horrible moment of self-loathing that one experiences knowing that this stranger thinks you to be not only some dubious character out to get information to be used for some unsavoury reason, but that you are a certified slob.
They say organisational skills are the key to successful social interaction and hence, life. The problem is that not all of us have the time to acquire such talents. When you have back to back activities with no breaks in between something may fall between the cracks of frenzied busy-ness.
You have an article to write, clothes to sort out of the mountain of garments piled over the months in the corner, get ready in one go for a meeting at a fancy club, the workplace, a song recital where tasteful dressing in traditional garb is a must, and lastly, a dinner where everyone will look like a Bollywood star. Dressing for four occasions in a row maybe a piece of cake for the organised, expert micro-managers of this age. But not all of us are privileged enough to fall under this category. The results are bizarre but not totally unexpected. You may find for instance, that you have worn black shoes but from two different genres and with two different heights which explains the constant stumbling and swaying which you had attributed to sheer exhaustion. You will inevitably get names wrong or worse, ask about the wellbeing of a long deceased relative or nonexistent children. You may mistake a stranger for an aunt you haven't seen for years and hug her despite the look of utter bewilderment and totally ignore the real aunt whom you think is someone who kind of looks like your relative.
Thus while social interaction is an essential part of being in a community of fellow humans, there are many skills to be acquired before you can suavely breeze in and out unscathed from a social gathering.
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