Columns 9.6.2015 06:00 am

When social interactions become awkward

You probably consider yourself a socially integrated individual, as you can hold your own conversations in a crowd and you can mingle at acceptable levels. This used to be the case for me as well until I started having a real good look at some of our interactions.

Firstly, I never seem to know how to act around people who I have greeted for the day, as things get pretty awkward. I am sure you have also had that encounter with a colleague or boss that you are not quite buddy-buddy with, where you have already said hello for the day but you see each other in the passage. Do you say hi again? Do you quickly take your phone out and pretend to be on a call? Do you pretend like you don’t know each other?

For some reason, this has been happening lately to me and I find myself – and others – doing the nerdiest things. Last week, after we had exchanged salutations for the day, my colleague felt so out of place that he lifted his pen and said “cheers” while we crossed paths in the canteen. I was just as crazy the following day when I hastily took out my phone and pretended to answer a call, until it rang in my ear.

Then there is what most, if not all of us use, e-mail sign-off. I have just checked all three of my e-mail accounts and I see that I am one confused puppy. In one, I use “kind regards”, in another it is “best” and in one it is “sincerely”.

My issue with e-mail salutations is that there is not a single one that covers all conversations, and that must bother other people as well. For example, we all write a lot of snotty mails to people who have upset us and after subtly telling someone to go jump, can we really end it off with “kind regards”? It just does not gel at all.

I often send mails where there is not even a hint of gratitude in the body of the mail, and then all of a sudden, right at the end, I end it off with “Thanks”. What exactly am I thanking you for? You have just made a fool of me in a board meeting and I am thanking you? Surely that means I enjoyed it and I am asking you to do it again?

And what about those “we regret to inform you…” e-mails, where they start off by telling you that you were unsuccessful at what you applied for, then they end it off with “warmest regards”. Really now? You won’t give me a loan but you send me your warmest regards?

Can we please treat e-mails as if we are talking to the recipient in person? That will make everyone’s lives easier. You will soon realise that you have never said goodbye to someone, then followed it up with “yours sincerely”, “fondly” or “love”. There is no need for all that faux human connection as I get the message you conveyed in the body of the e-mail.

Kind regards,

Sbu

 

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