Socially Awkward Guide to Meeting Someone New

There are about seven billion humans on the planet. Chances are you’ll have to meet someone once in awhile. If only the apes would hurry up and rise against us, thinning our numbers, maybe I could finally avoid encountering strangers ever again.

A guy can dream. I’ll take a tapir uprising if that’s all that’s available. Just get it done.

Anyway, until that happens, you’d best learn the right way to introduce yourself. Read on and be amazed. Or slightly impressed. Or confused. I’ll let you choose.

So, you’re meeting someone new. Maybe someone is introducing you to each other at a party you’ve been dragged to, or it’s a new face at work and you have managed to avoid them most of the day until a shared lunch break. What to do, what to do? Do this.

Keep your hands at your sides and hope the person doesn’t go in for a handshake.

It seems like the older I get, the more likely it is that the people I meet are the handshaking type. I’ll probably have to shake everyone’s hand once I’m a senior, even people I know. That’s going to suck. Maybe I can lose my hands before then and get them replaced with lobster claws like Dr. Zoidberg. Anyway, maybe you’ll get lucky and manage to avoid touching a stranger if you just don’t move your arms.

Dr. Zoidberg

Hey, as long as I’m modeling myself after this fine gentleman, maybe i should get an ink sac installed, as well. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Crap, they’re reaching out to you. The expectation. The pressure. Fine, shake the person’s hand, but make it as unpleasant for them as you can.

How can they expect a firm handshake when they come at you like that? A guy needs time to prepare! Just put your hand in his and let him do all the work. Don’t squeeze, don’t pump. Work up some defensive palm sweat. It will be over soon. Oh, and if they’re a “hugger,” throw down a smoke bomb and run. There’s something wrong with people who hug strangers.

When the awkward silence falls, and it will, keep it going as long as you can and ruin all attempts at small talk.

Don’t ask question. Don’t you dare. It’s your job to minimize chatter until you can escape. Aim for monosyllabic answers, grunts, and vague hand gestures. Forget anything interesting about yourself and share the boring and generic stuff. Don’t worry, it’s almost over. Light at the end of the tunnel and all that.

Forget the person’s name and face as soon as they are gone.

You’ll probably never see him again, so don’t waste brain power memorizing any of his details. Congratulate yourself on making it to the end of the ordeal. Treat yourself to a piece of cake. Oh, hell, have two, they’re small.

Encounter the person again in the future and make it obvious that you’re forgotten everything about him.

Crap.

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Socially Awkward Guide to Greeting Customers

I thought I could use another series of posts to keep me busy, and hopefully to keep readers entertained, so here’s the first of my guides for the Socially Awkward (capitalized because it is a prestigious title).

For those in the retail game, customers are as inevitable as dropping bread butter side down or tripping over a cat in the dark. The first step to handling them is the greeting. It is a first step that itself involves many, many more steps, and god help you if you mess up even one. Okay, calm down, breathe. Just do what I say and everything will be all right. Relatively speaking. I mean, the world will keep spinning, birds will keep singing, that sort of thing. Whether you will be all right is another matter entirely.

Just…just keep reading. Trust me.

1. Spot customer approaching.

As one of the Socially Awkward, you have an uncanny sense of someone approaching you. Kind of like how a spider feels a vibration in its web to let it know a fly is trapped, except in this case, it’s you who are trapped.

2. Pray they don’t come any closer.

Some save prayer for a last resort, the Hail Mary pass. But why save the big guns for later? You never know, it could work. Best to mutter aloud so people can overhear you and look at you funny.

3. Prayer fails, offer soul pacts to any nearby demons

You may need to play some Ozzy Osbourne backwards to get their attention. Don’t bother with “Crazy Train.” That just recites a shopping list. Fun fact: Ozzy needed eggs.

4. Give up on divine/infernal intervention. Prepare for (shudder) human interaction.

Entertain thoughts about how you’d rather deal with the demon. Then again, remind yourself that the it might have wanted to make small talk. Nothing worse than a chatty demon.

5. Ten-foot rule.

When a customer is within ten feet of you, that’s usually a good distance to greet them. If they try to get closer, you could always step back or poke them with your ten-foot pole. You brought your ten-foot pole, didn’t you? Come on, this is standard equipment! You’d better have one next time I see you.

6. Debate the meaning of “ten foot”.

What are you, a tape measure? It’s hard to judge distance accurately. If they’re nine feet away, you have plausible deniability.

7. Okay, okay, they’re close enough, damn it. How else can you stall for time?

There’s a display between you? Um, that breaks the imaginary ten-foot line between you, rendering it void. Yeah, that’s a good one. They’re talking to a friend or on the phone? It’s rude to interrupt. Manners give you lots of good excuses. Oh look, those items are crooked. You’ll say hello after you fix them.

8. Stalling can only go so far. Time to do this. Say “hello.”

While a more complicated greeting gives you more opportunity for screwing up and looking like a doofus (stuttering is a classic), don’t underestimate what you can accomplish with something short and sweet. Try “hello.” Now, you have to say it right. Try this: draw out the second syllable much too long. Also, make the “o” sound more like “ew.” Helleeeewww. Nailed it. You’ll know you did it right if the customer pauses before returning your greeting, as if uncertain he heard you correctly.

9. Mission accomplished. Make just enough conversation to cover up your shame, then get the hell out of there.

Pretend you have an earpiece and you’re receiving instructions to go elsewhere. Run. Don’t look back. Don’t stop if anyone calls out for you, just run, you fool! Find one of the hiding places you’ve discovered around the store (if you haven’t found them yet, or made them if you’re an advanced student of the Awkward Art, you need to check your priorities, friend) and hunker down for awhile until your disgrace becomes bearable. If you see the customer again, pretend you don’t.