JournalismPakistan.com October 29, 2013
Then you have those people who when they don't remember your name say things like, oh I never forget a face, it's just that I am not too good with names. We are those people. Which is a cop out really because if you remember the face you should jolly well remember the name.
Fact is, name recall is a big thing in social up scaling and those of us who do not remember names are doomed to the middle rungs of the ladder, never to be on the centre table.
Naturally, since we have no desire to be rude we camouflage our inability to dredge out the right name at the right moment with diabolical canniness.
Here are some tips so that you might still aspire to rise a couple of steps higher in the social echelons. If you can't figure who that is sailing towards you at the next party quell the panic and move resolutely forward, breaking his stride. Grabbing the initiative, say, hello Chief, what a pleasant surprise, you are looking well, you have lost weight. Deflect, that's the name of the game.
Flattery is the best bet. If you don't want to say Chief, you have a clutch of choices: Boss, Tiger, Champion, Big Boss, Captain, Hero (declasse) Big Shot, Big Man, take your pick. The odds now favor you having even less of an idea what his wife's name is so use similar strategy.
Ask how is the memsahib, the better half (ouch) the Home Minister (double ouch) or with splendid elan, where is that lovely lady of yours. Of course if he doesn't have one or has just split with her you are in trouble but if you do drop that clanger you can delete the relationship for good anyway.
Now, you don't want him to know you haven't a clue who he is. So never commit yourself through specifics. Pretty silly you would look if you said, how's the textile business doing? And he said, how the heck should I know? I am in the electronics trade. You would never win back that lost territory.
Play it cool. Ask how ‘things’ are. ‘Things’ is a wonderful word, it is flexible, it is wide ranging and it covers up for rampant ignorance. It might even give you a hint who he is. If you want to be more with it, sort of hep, ask him how tricks are? Don't know what it means but it makes for great performance like Pavlova’s puppies. Another good one is, how's the world treating you? For some reason members of the human race love answering this question, their vanity reassuring them that you are fascinated by their equation with the world. They will tell you?
If you have to ask about the children but don't know if he has any, go vague. Ask him how the gang is, the clan, how's the family, that's safe. He'll tell you and all you have to do is keep punching him on the back and saying what a super chap he is...of such sad delicacy is social conversation made.
Having established a fair amount of goodwill in that he is disarmed by your interest and concern in his welfare you risk the chance of his staying on with you rather than moving on. It would not do to lose out after such a solid foundation.
So you must now build on it by making safe conversation. Ask him where he has been hiding himself. It is such a stupid question but adults love responding. Like they do to another question: been travelling? Amazing, isn't it, that articulate, intelligent people mumble such inanity?
The kill shot that never fails is to guilt the guy by saying something obtuse like, man, you are a VIP, why would you remember small folks like us? It is really revolting but you have knocked him out of the ring.
Finally, be careful of the tripwire. Your wife. Wives have an uncanny ability to suss out when husbands are faking it. And since they derive much pleasure from putting said husband on the spot when you hear wife say, ah there you are, aren't you going to introduce me to your friend, do the only thing you can.
Spill your cold drink and go into a profuse burst of apology. It might work. It might not.
(The writer is a Senior Editorial Advisor of Khaleej Times and the paper’s former Editor. He has also been the Editor of Gulf News, Gulf Today, Emirates Today and Bahrain Tribune)
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