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4 Things That Would Make Meeting New People Less Awkward

Meeting new people can be scary. People are multifaceted and complex; there's a lot to learn. If you get a job in a new office or move to a new town, you're torn away from the people you're already familiar with and have to learn the ins and outs of a whole new set of people you will most likely come to hate.

We live in a high-tech world where everything gets refined and whittled down through brilliance and determination to be streamlined and exactly what it needs to be to function effortlessly. Why not bring that same level of engineering to social interaction?

This is why I propose that we make some slight alterations to the information we toss out when we meet new people. Giving out these bits of information will clear the air early on in a friendship to cut down the learning curve inherent in getting to know someone, and most importantly, it will make meeting people less of a waking nightmare for the socially awkward folks out there who view new people as terrorists dead set on suicide bombing their lives.

#4. Your Definition of "LOL"

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Hi! I'm Marlene! When I LOL at you, it means I didn't actually read your joke. When I HAHA, it means I thought your joke was trash.

Only on the rarest of occasions do people use "LOL" literally, to mean they're actually laughing out loud. Most of the time, it's used as a general acknowledgment of humor. You noticed that the person you're texting said something that registered in your brain as a joke, but it didn't draw any kind of physical response from you. From the outside, there's nothing but indifference. In response, you type "LOL." It's a digital doggie treat: "You made a valiant effort at being funny; here's a reward."

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"Now lick the peanut butter ..."

On the other hand, when someone texts you something that is genuinely funny and actually does get a physical response, the response that feels most appropriate is "LOL." Its usage is muddled by its rampant misuse.

If I'm meeting you for the first time and there's even a sliver of a chance that we will become close enough to communicate via text message, I want to know your primary definition of "LOL." I want to know if you're the kind of person who tosses it out with no regard for what that acronym can do to a person's ego. If we're texting and I say something somewhere in the area code of funny, are you going to throw me a "LOL" bone, or are you withholding your "LOL"s until I one day say something so goddamned hysterical that the only way to convey the level of nonstop hilarity you're in the midst of is by reducing the English language to base elements, hoping just three letters can encapsulate the euphoric laughter you're experiencing?

Or maybe you break it down into "LOL"s and "haha"s. Maybe "LOL" is generic and, as this trusty picture that's been floating on the Internet for years explains ...

... "haha"s are the true text-based signifier that actual laughter is going on on the other end of the phone, depending on how many "ha"s were included. Or maybe vice versa. Whatever. I want to know if you're actually laughing or if you're giving me the text equivalent of pity applause. It'll help me better understand your sense of humor. If I know what brings a genuine laugh out of you, I'll be more inclined to steer my sense of humor in that direction. If we're both working with the same definitions, we'll better understand each other, and you won't have to text me a pity "LOL" when I make a distasteful prison-rape joke that you're not too crazy about because you confused my brain by "LOL"ing my first 12 prison-rape jokes.

#3. Your Preferred Handshake

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Hi, I'm Jim. I'm traditionally a thumb-grab-into-fingertip-clench kind of guy. But if you're interested, we can choreograph a magnificent dance in celebration of our friendship. If you go for the latter, we should rent out a dance studio and buy breathable leggings.

You meet a new person, and they extend their hand to greet you. If you're lucky, your preferred handshake will sync perfectly with their preferred handshake. They went for a fist bump and your brain didn't seize, turning your hand into a confused claw that brushes against their hand like you're trying to rub a booger on them.

With so many styles out there, shaking someone's hand can be an impromptu game of Rock Paper Scissors with a nearly limitless combination of hand formations to be thrown and where the competitive aspect exists in the background instead of the foreground. Which hand-shape will win?

When we first meet someone new, we should establish some kind of handshake protocol specific to each other, or to one person's specific relation to a group. All handshake awkwardness can be avoided if we take a cue from professional basketball players, who seem to have so mastered the overly complicated handshake that it's become as natural of a hello as two dogs instinctively sniffing each other's butts.

I'm pretty sure LeBron James doesn't even know some of those teammates by name, but only as a series of hand gestures.

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"Who? Oh, you mean slap, slap, brush dirt off shoulder, flail wildly, forearm bump, ass jiggle? Oh, yeah! I know him!"

NBA players are shaking hands with rockets, while the rest of us are banging stones together, overjoyed when a spark flies out. It's as if from the moment they meet they already have a rough draft of an elaborately choreographed hand-ballet ready to go, and it only needs to be refined throughout the course of the season.

We need an NBA-style understanding of handshakes, not just for initial meetings and greetings, but for every interaction from there on out -- a set of hand maneuvers established early on to avoid confusion.

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