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One of the most serious problems in our modern society is how to create opportunities for meeting new people. There are near infinite ways to meet people, but it seems difficult to bridge the gap between having access to others and actually forming a meaningful contact with them. In the distant past a person was limited to the people in one’s immediate surroundings, and for most that meant the people within walking distance of one’s home, and one automatically met one’s neighbors. That required considerable physical effort and people generally met only those within walking distance of their own village or farm. Nowadays, we have the potential of meeting anyone in the whole planet on the internet, and conversing with them personally via email, social media, blogs or Skype. The problem is no longer distance but how do we form meaningful contacts?

Things have changed radically recently and I have had to change my meeting-people strategy to accommodate our more potentially interactive world. An adaptation of only a few years ago was the habit of going up after a lecture or a concert and speaking with the performer. To make this meaningful to the presenter I spent a minute thinking about something which was relevant to what they had said or done that was a development of their ideas but that was too complex to bring up before a general audience. Usually there is a small group of people who come up after a lecture and ask a polite question, and then after hearing the answer they depart, but I had the habit of waiting until after the last one and then asking a challenging question, a question intended to perk the speaker’s interest and not just one of his opinion or of information, and then, horrors, I would argue with the speaker. These have developed into some of my most memorable moments, and I hope that can be said by those presenters too. It is surprising, to me, what eminent people have asked me for my business card after only a few minutes of this kind of conversation. Now that I think about it, perhaps it was to send their hit men after me.

That technique of meeting people still works, but the last couple of years I have been reviewing books and published articles on my blog and that has brought forth some comments from prominent authors and surprisingly famous people. Apparently, they search their own names on Google, or perhaps it’s easier for them to have a Google alert setting for their publication title or their name, so they are contacted automatically via email. Anyone could use this method of meeting new people, and those people will be interested in what you have to say, if you have said something that interests them, and they will respond. It is meaningful to them as well as to you when you are discussing a common problem in a substantive way.

However, when the comments are shallow or nasty as one often reads in the comments section located after news articles posted in online newspapers, it is surprising how disgusting some reviewers become. It is nonproductive of them to be offensive because what happens to a serious presenter of ideas, after a few of these events, is that he instantly stops reading that disgusting comment and moves on. Being nasty and unnecessarily abrasive just gets that person ignored and quickly forgotten. So to be listened to requires being sensitive to the recipient’s feelings as well as his thoughts; it’s usually referred to as politeness. The impolite, and excessively emotional presentations are simply ignored.

To meet people within a social setting you must be polite in their terms.