Welcome to One Geek to Another, an ongoing advice guide to the ethics and etiquette of the geek life. I'm your hostess, Jess Hartley, and I'll be bringing you One Geek each week.
Sometimes, the column will be me talking about whatever etiquette and ethics topic strikes my fancy or seems particularly appropriate at the time. Other times, I'll field questions from readers, offering my best suggestions on how to deal with questions about geek social interaction, professional situations or relationship challenges. (So, please send in your questions or comments, and they may make it into next week's article!)
All in all, however, each weekly guide will be a little snippet of "how to make your geek life better" from One Geek to Another...
Today's topic is introductions. I recently returned from GenCon, my fears were confirmed - introductions are becoming a lost art form. While the losing the restrictions and formalized taboos about members of one sex, race or social strata talking to another is a good thing, I'm afraid the art of making an introduction is all-too-quickly following in its path to obscurity. And that, my geeklings, is a bad thing.
Ideally, when a new person enters a conversational setting, or if there is a social setting where not everyone knows each other (such as a gaming group, party or even just a clump of folks gathered in the hall at a convention), someone who knows most or all of those involved will step forward and introduce each party to the rest. Whether it's a simple "Hey everyone, this is Joe, he's my brother/boss/neighbor. Joe, this is everyone" or a more detailed step by step introduction to each person in the group, introductions are an important and positive part of the social process.
Far too often, what happens instead is that a newcomer enters a conversational group (or two social circles meet in some fashion) and no introductions are made.
The individuals in each group who do know each other converse, and those who don't know each other stand awkwardly wondering if they should wander off and leave the others to their conversation. Sometimes it's possible to jump into a conversation mid-stream without an introduction, but it can be an uncomfortable situation, rife with the possibility for faux pas. And, unfortunately, it doesn't allow everyone in the conversation to make the most of the interaction, whether their goal is making new friends or social/professional networking.
At its heart, an introduction is a simple matter. It can be as casual as an announcement of identity or as in depth as a personal or professional reference, but it consists, at least, of one member of an existing group (even if the "group" only consists of two people) acknowledging the presence of a newcomer to the rest. And that's a good thing for everyone involved.
To the newcomer, an introduction not only provides their name to the rest of those gathered, opening the opportunity for conversation and ongoing interactions, but it also acknowledges their social right to be a part of the existing group. They've been welcomed in, and don't have to worry if their presence is welcome or not. Especially when entering new social circles (such as arriving at a party or event held by a a new social group, or entering a conversation with established friends or authority figures) this can be incredibly reassuring.
To the original members of the conversation, being introduced to a new person offers not only the opportunity to learn basic information about them, but also reiterates their place in the social structure. Their presence as a part of the group is reaffirmed, and they've been acknowledged as someone who matters enough to have newcomers brought to them.
And, for the person making the introduction, not only have they performed a social service for the group and individuals involved, they've gained a little social status themselves, as the person "in the know". Connecting one friend or peer to another is not only a way to strengthen the groups' social interconnectivity (or to merge two or more cliques into a more cohesive whole) but it also says something about the person doing the connection - they're a social maven, a person who "knows people" and (if the introduction is done well) a clever and charming conversation starter.
Introductions are, in short, a win-win situation for everyone involved. They reduce the chances of social faux pas, strengthen the social structure and offer a plethora of opportunities for conversation and networking opportunities. While the art of the introduction may be fading, it's not dead yet, and with a little effort it can be revived.
Have questions about how to handle a geeky situation? Need advice on social etiquette relating to games, movies, fan groups, conventions or other geek-ful settings? Send us an email and your question may get answered in one of our future "One Geek to Another" columns!
For more information about your One Geek to Another hostess, check out Jess' website at: www.JessHartley.com