I know the name”

I am, as many of you know, a whole-heart­ed embrac­er of social net­work­ing, or at least the ver­sion of it that hap­pens on spe­cial­ly-designed web­sites ded­i­cat­ed to some aspect of that pur­pose. Face­book, LinkedIn, Academia.edu, even Goodreads: I’m on them all. I am remark­ably dili­gent in scour­ing up per­sons from var­i­ous eras of my life, and most of the time, even after the pas­sage of years, I am appar­ent­ly remem­bered pos­i­tive­ly (or at least not neg­a­tive­ly) by a whole lot of peo­ple.

But there is a down­side to this. I spend so much time and, yes, ener­gy detail­ing an elec­tron­ic map of past con­tacts and rela­tion­ships (and, to be fair, main­tain­ing a good many cur­rent ones) that I have had even less prac­tice than usu­al of late in doing the thing I suck the worst at: meet­ing peo­ple I want to meet. This was a prob­lem all those years I thought girls might be inter­est­ing, and now it is a prob­lem when I think estab­lished pro­fes­sion­als in my cho­sen field might be both inter­est­ing and impor­tant to know.

Ear­li­er this week, I had one the most sig­nif­i­cant net­work­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties of my entire life just hap­pen to me, and I com­plete­ly blew it. If we are going to go sports anal­o­gy at this point in the post (and I think we should), then I was the bat­ter tap­ping his bat on the cor­ner of the plate and adjust­ing his, um, uni­form while a nine­ty-three-mile-an-hour fast­ball blows past him. All he can do is stare stu­pid­ly and think, “Why didn’t I have my bat up so I could take a swing at that?”

To make mat­ters worse (and to bela­bor the image) this was a total soft­ball, too. It was not as if I had to suck up enough gump­tion to sidle up to a lumi­nary at a crowd­ed cock­tail gath­er­ing and intro­duce myself like a des­per­ate pick-up artist at clos­ing time. No, I was sit­ting in the office of one of my pro­fes­sors, work­ing with him on a project for which he hand-picked me to assist him, when there was a knock on the door and in walked the pro­fes­sion­al canon­ist who, beyond all oth­ers, I have most wished I could meet some­day. She is one of the only authors still writ­ing on a top­ic that I find of the utmost inter­est, and to have such a per­son stand­ing sud­den­ly in front of me was under­stand­ably dis­com­bob­u­lat­ing.

When intro­duced, I did man­age to say, with prop­er empha­sis, “Yes, I know the name,” but then I left it there. It would have been per­fect­ly accept­able for me to con­tin­ue, sim­ply and sin­cere­ly: “I am very inter­est­ed in the top­ic of ____, and have read all your arti­cles on the sub­ject.” How hard would that have been?

I know very well that I am not any­thing remote­ly like a nat­ur­al schmooz­er. And I am sure I nev­er will be. But there are lim­its to what I can tol­er­ate of myself. Mine is not a very large dis­ci­pline. While I am at school it is not unheard of — clear­ly — for a rock-star canon­ist to walk with­out fan­fare into what­ev­er room I hap­pen to be in, at any moment. I want to be ready next time, and this week’s encounter empha­sized for me the truth that no amount of noodling about with my LinkedIn pro­file is going to help me put out a hand and intro­duce myself to a real live human per­son. I am going to have to be able to do that myself, and it shames me that I have for­got­ten that.

3 Comments

  1. Don’t be too hard on your­self. Peo­ple are usu­al­ly pret­ty for­giv­ing when it comes to a botched inter­ac­tion. Don’t for­get to speak from the heart — some­times, at the begin­ning of a con­ver­sa­tion, it real­ly helps to say, “I’m ner­vous to meet you!” and see what hap­pens next.

    Peo­ple are most­ly good. Take care of your­self.

  2. Thanks for the encour­ag­ing words. It actu­al­ly didn’t go so horribly—I did at least clear­ly empha­size that I knew who she was, which I would think implied I knew her work—so I real­ly shouldn’t beat myself up about it. But it has def­i­nite­ly been a very brac­ing reminder to me that I need to be pre­pared to move beyond my com­fort zone in order to inter­act on occa­sion.

  3. I have found the same prob­lem regard­ing too much social net­work­ing and have played with the idea that it may pre­vent me from start­ing new rela­tion­ships.…

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