Day 39: Introductions
What’s at stake in our introductions?
You meet someone. You look in each other’s eyes. Give a 30 degree fake smile and half close your eyes. Then you reach out, somehow still simultaneously looking each other in the eyes and ensuring that your hands don’t flow past each other.
What is said with your name? Well, if we look at the example of Awais in Patna two days back, quite a lot. Which is why parents often times give it so much thought — especially in multicultural situations. Maintain the home culture, yet fit in with the dominant one. So you get children with Indian roots named Nikhil, who go by Nick.
We know we’ll be judged at the moment of our first interaction even by how we look, which we can’t fully change (though you can try if you have enough money). But a name is something that can be controlled, so there’s a lot riding in the balance.
But what comes beyond the name? “I’m a…” followed profession, “…at” insert name of company or university. What are reasons for introducing yourself as such?
Is it to establish your credentials, if you have them? Like, “I work at this fancy company, and therefore, I am worthy of your respect.
Or to explain why you are at this place to begin with? The silent line following “I’m an engineering student” being “hence why I’m at this tech conference.”
Or are you just being lazy? And asking the person to stereotype you and create an identity for you based on the boxes you check off?
What if you don’t have fancy credentials? Or if you’re not an engineering or computer science major, but you simply are interested in technology?
What are the consequences of a culture where such introductions exist? Does it breed more inclusivity or exclusivity? Does it raise the bar of social inertia that one needs to overcome or lower it? Does it facilitate cross pollination or a mono brew?
What if you’re “beyond titles?” Then what do you say? “I’m just a human being.” Where’s the conversation go from there? Does it invite further conversation? What’s the response? “Cool, same?”
Or if you add in a bit of masala and spice — ”I don’t believe in titles; I believe in human qualities. My main core value is humility.” What proof do you have that you’re humble? Does such a proclamation act as proof that you aren’t humble? And are, instead, arrogant? Or is it on the listener to simply listen without judgment and trust what the person says?
What about a mixture of both, according to the context — your profession in the “professional” setting and your core beliefs in a free spirited environment? Is that disingenuous? Does that mean you lack any real self or identity? Or is it simply human?
How much is the interaction shaped by the listener and the questions they ask? Is it simply a matter of asking better questions to begin with?
What about in digital interactions, where the nuance is removed by the machine?
Are these questions for everyone or only questions for privileged people? For people who have a choice?
If we have to introduce the concept of introductions, then how should we introduce it? How should we teach children to introduce themselves?
Can we expect to make any progress as a society if we don’t even know how to introduce ourselves? Or what’s at stake?