City Conversations: The Awkward Introduction

Have you ever been involved in that terribly awkward introduction or conversation? The one that seemed like an out of body experience and you couldn’t wait to wake up? On the other hand, have you ever eavesdropped and heard the most ludicrous exchange and to top it, you could not even crack a smile or roll your eyes as it degenerated?

Scenario 1

Woman 1: Good morning, I just moved into the flat on the second floor.

Woman 2: Good morning, so you’re our new tenant. Welcome.

Woman 1: My name is Janet. What’s yours?

Woman 2: My name is Mrs. Filasade

Woman 1: You’re Yoruba or married to one.

Woman 2: I’m married to one. So you can call me Mrs Filasade or mummy Precious.

Scenario 2

Woman 1: Good morning, my name is Jaiye and I just moved in.

Woman 2: Good morning, you’re welcome. My name is Mrs Soares.

Could this be a case of one-upmanship or putting the ‘new’ neighbour in her place? Is it possible she looked so young that she (woman 1) had to be given a lesson in ‘respect’? Or is it that the respective women (in both instances) had been so conditioned to use the label automatically?

Conditioning happens to everyone, in one form or the other and in certain instances it’s more glaring just how prejudiced it can be. Sadly it often spills over when we meet strangers and those that cannot be readily pigeonholed. This means we often step on toes and tick people off without even realising it, by the time we try damage control, it might be already too late.

Scenario 3

Woman 1: Hello, my name is Joy and I just started work today.

Woman 2: Hello, my name is Mrs. Jubal.

Woman 1: What’s your first name?

Woman 2: Morounkeji.

Woman 1: Keji, I prefer to use your first name actually.

This final scenario was narrated by a friend. The funny thing is that the exchange took place between colleagues, with one of the opinion that she was much older and should be accorded the ‘respect’ due her. Maybe the fact that the workplace is in the civil service also had something to do with it. After all, it’s commonplace to hear older co-workers addressed as Aunty something or the other.

Respect begets respect, we should all know to treat others well and if we forget, to remember that the way we treat others will eventually be meted out to us. Karma is cyclical and as a law in life often rears its head when we least expect. If we’re mindful of the golden rule, awkward situations like this should decrease over time despite the fact that people will continue to be themselves. I’m certain if woman 2 (in all cases) were questioned they would not see anything wrong in their utterances.

These awkward situations crop up with members of the opposite sex too and can be just as trying. However, I’m not sure I’ve experienced or heard a man introduce himself as Mr. So and so. Women are a peculiar bunch (I should know!) and we’re the only ones that know and understand why we do what we do, when and how we do so. It boils down to individuality, orientation, exposure, experience and the like. Since everyone has flaws, misunderstandings will arise and the grace with which both parties (perpetrator and victim) act is important to the outcome.

We must all learn to navigate social communications as best we can and be gracious to acknowledge and also apologise when things turn out less than ideal. Easier said than done, but in all it makes everybody better in the long run. What is the clumsiest conversation you’ve had lately?




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